The writer
The writer

Alcohol-based bitters, not cure for scrotal hernia

In most communities in Ghana, men with scrotal or inguinal hernia consume alcohol-based bitters as a treatment for the condition. They recommend same to others with hernia.

You would usually hear some say bitters is good for hernia while others say they need bitters to control their hernia. Having found this practice strange and its possible negative ramifications for health due to excessive alcohol consumption, I have decided to write about it, with the ardent hope that the piece may save a soul.



Wikipedia defines bitters as a traditionally alcoholic preparation flavoured with botanical matter for a bitter or bittersweet taste.

Worldwide, numerous bitters brands were originally developed as patent medicines. In contemporary Ghana, most bitters are developed, marketed in the media with the caveat that the Food and Drugs Authority approved them, and they are sold to unsuspecting individuals.

Most men believe that some of these bitters are aphrodisiacs while others think that such bitters are a cure or treatment for inguinal hernia.

The stark reality is that bitters or alcohol consumption to treat hernia will over time lead to excessive alcohol consumption, causing high blood pressure, stroke, liver disease, digestive problems, weakening of immune system, depression and many more.

Hernia Types

The most common types of hernia are inguinal (inner groin), incisional (resulting from an incision), femoral (outer groin), umbilical (belly button), and hiatal (upper stomach).

Clinical evidence suggests that more men than women have hernias. Empirical evidence also shows that the lifetime risk of developing an inguinal hernia is 27 per cent for men and three per cent for women.

The main types of hernias that can develop in women are – indirect inguinal hernias, femoral hernias, and umbilical hernias. Hernias in women can cause chronic pelvic pain.

An inguinal hernia occurs if a small part of the intestine drops into the scrotum with the testes. The intestine can form a lump in the scrotum.

An inguinal hernia patient

There are two kinds of inguinal hernia (indirect and direct). Indirect inguinal hernias (most common) occur in about one in 100 baby boys and the rate is higher in premature infants. Direct hernias are caused by weakening of the abdominal muscles over time hence it is more likely among adults.

In men, an inguinal hernia may extend down into the scrotum and enlarge scrotum. Small hernias may slide back and forth through the opening in the abdomen and not cause any symptoms.

The larger hernias may be massaged back into the abdomen. Inguinal hernias occur when part of the membrane lining the abdominal cavity (omentum) or intestine protrudes through a weak spot in the abdomen — often along the inguinal canal, which carries the spermatic cord in men.

Risk factors

Clinical research points to the reality that the risk factors for developing a primary inguinal hernia are male gender, old age, systematic connective tissue disorders, family history, chronic cough, chronic constipation, and low body mass index.

However, some inguinal hernias have no apparent cause whereas others result from increased pressure within the abdominal wall and strenuous activity.

In some people, weak abdominal wall occurs from birth and later leads to inguinal hernia on account of the abdominal wall not closing properly.

Some people who did not have abdominal weakness from birth can develop it much later in life due to an injury or abdominal surgery. Among men, the weak spot mostly develops in the inguinal canal, where the spermatic cord enters the scrotum.

Just like any other disease or medical condition, inguinal hernia has signs and symptoms which may include but limited to a bulge in the area on either side of the pubic bone, a burning or aching sensation at the bulge, pain or discomfort in the groin, especially when bending over, coughing or lifting, weakness or pressure in the groin as well as swelling around the testicles when the protruding intestine descends into the scrotum.

A hernia is described as strangulated when its contents are ischemic. An ischemia is inadequate blood supply to an organ or body part.

As such, strangulated hernia mostly occurs when there is a small opening in the muscles and a significant quantity of contents within the hernia itself.

When hernia becomes strangulated, it may lead to nausea, bowel incontinence, fever, a reddish, purple, or dark hernia bulge and sudden pain that swiftly intensifies, with the hernia contents entrapped or incarcerated in the abdominal wall.


If not treated, a strangulated hernia can be life-threatening. Any hernia can become strangulated and that makes it a surgical emergency.


It is a clinical fact that hernia does not heal itself and bitters does not treat it either. The most effective treatment for hernia is surgery, even though hernia can recur even after surgery.

Some small hernias do not need surgery. The surgical procedure for removing a hernia is called herniorrhaphy, during which the surgeon pushes the incarcerated tissue back into its original place and corrects the hernia defects by suturing.


To draw the curtain, hernia is a medical condition which is effectively repaired or treated surgically and not alcoholically.


Much as I concede that taking bitters may temporarily relieve pains that emanate from hernia, bitters are never a treatment for hernia.

To this end, therefore, people who have hernia are hereby discouraged from taking bitters because continuous taking of bitters to ease hernia pains will eventually lead to excessive alcohol consumption with its attendant health problems already cited in this article.

Such people should rather seek for medical or surgical care in a health facility.

Advisedly, one must see a doctor when a painful or noticeable bulge appears in the groin on either side of the pubic bone.


This bulge is apparently more noticeable when the person is standing and it can be felt with the hands.

Also, a strangulated hernia usually requires a surgical intervention. Alcohol or bitters does not provide the required remedy in this regard.

The writer is a health service administrator Email: [email protected]

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