Natural remedies for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a complex endocrine disorder mainly characterized by ovaries with small cysts, chronic anovulation and hyperandrogenism that leads to irregular menstrual cycles, hirsutism, acne and infertility.

Evidence-based medical treatment suggests a multidisciplinary approach to this pathology since conventional pharmacological treatment that takes individual symptoms into account, may be contraindicated: it is not free from side effects and, at times, even ineffective.

In addition, women with PCOS have a strong desire for alternative treatments.

For this reason, I have decided to read the following article: “Herbal Medicine in the Treatment of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome” of Kashani and Akhondzadeh.

The polycystic ovarian syndrome, as we said, is a very complex syndrome that includes problems of menstrual cycle (duration, intensity), fertility, hormonal levels, physical appearance (chin and cheeks excessive hair growth, acne, weight gain and baldness).

Ovaries with PCOS usually contain small cysts that rarely exceed 0.5 cm.

The symptoms of PCOS can vary from one woman to another and, as often happens in other diseases, some women suffer more than others.

The most common symptoms may include:

• infertility due to the lack of ovulation (PCOS is the most common cause of infertility)
• anxiety/depression
• irregularity or absence of the menstrual cycle
• heavy menstruation (especially in case of delay)
• painful menstruation or pain during ovulation, bleeding in the middle of a cycle
• pelvic pain (distension, heaviness, penetrating pain)
• physical changes (which often occur later, but not always): increased hair growth on face, chest, belly, back, thumbs or toes, weight gain, difficulty to lose weight despite physical exercise; acne, dandruff, thinning hair (such as male baldness)
• multiple cysts in the ovaries diagnosed by ultrasound

The conventional treatment for PCOS includes the use of:

• contraceptive pills: often recommended for women who do not want to become pregnant (this approach is not a cure for PCOS: it simply masks symptoms and protect fertility if the woman wants to have children in the future)

• medicines for diabetes: metformin, which is used to treat type 2 diabetes, is an excellent medication to combat the symptoms of PCOS. We have to underline that its use for this disease has not been approved by the Ministry of health yet

• fertility medications (clomiphene-clomide, serophen, gonadotropin injections) for women seeking pregnancy. The problems of infertility in women with PCOS are due to the lack of ovulation. the use of these medicines helps to restore ovulation

The authors of the study show that PCOS is caused by hormonal imbalances.

The most important cause of polycystic ovary is hyperandrogenism. It is responsible for hirsutism and, indirectly, anovulation and cycle disorders.

The excess of androgens is due to a series of hormonal alterations that characterize the PCOS and that are an increase in the levels of LH and the great production of estrogens and androgens by the ovary. In particular, it is precisely the irregular secretion of LH that “hyperstimulates” the ovary to produce these hormones in abundance.

The concentrations of FSH produced by the pituitary gland are reduced. The secretory changes between LH and FSH linked to an ovulatory menstrual cycle are eliminated.

In case of PCOS, the concentration of FSH produced by the pituitary gland is reduced and the secretory changes between LH and FSH linked to an ovulatory menstrual cycle, are inhibited.

In about 30% of patients with PCOS there is an increase in prolactin with  almost doubled values compared to healthy women.

This study shows how the use of natural products taken with constancy can return hormonal values to normal and, consequently, regularize the ovulatory cycle. This happens especially in case of irregular cycles. It is more difficult to return within limits in the presence of amenorrhea.

What are the “friendly” products for people with polycystic ovarian syndrome?

Evening primrose: it acts on hormonal imbalances, regularizing them. It has been shown that the use of primrose oil, extracted from this herb, balance the levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body. This is useful because women with PCOS tend to have higher levels of estrogen and find it difficult to get pregnant. Evening primrose oil contains fatty acids that not only help to balance hormones, but also help the body, creating a favorable environment for pregnancy.

Serenoa repens: it is very effective to balance hormones. This plant extracts are used to regularize the levels of estrogen in the female body. Very high levels of estrogen are one of the characteristics of this syndrome. In addition to restore the normal balance of estrogen-testosterone in the blood, this herbal remedy also facilitates weight loss and increases libido. Serenoa contains a high concentration of fatty acids and phytosterols with antiandrogenic activity. It is endowed with the inhibitory activity of the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, responsible of phenomena such as hirsutism, alopecia and seborrheic dermatitis in women and of androgenetic alopecia and benign prostatic hypertrophy in men. It is also indicated for the drainage of bodily fluids and for the function of the urinary tract.

Grifola frondosa (fungus): PCOS is also associated with insulin resistance. It is known that the extract of this fungus can reduce insulin resistance, helping to maintain blood sugar levels at normal levels. It also brings other beneficial effects such as the restoration of glucose and lipid metabolism and the subsequent promotion and control of health and body weight.

White peony: used in the form of tea, this plant is helps to regulate the levels of another hormone that is essential for fertility: progesterone (women whit PCOS generally have low levels of progesterone). However, to be effective, peony tea should be taken daily. Other benefits of this food supplement are the regulation of estrogen and the secretion of prolactin.

Dandelion root or tarasacco: it is known as an excellent tonic for the liver. Its extract reduces the symptoms of PCOS, helping the body to eliminate excess hormones accumulated in the liver. It also removes toxins from the body, helping women with menstrual disorders and fertility problems.

Cinnamon: it is considered a very effective remedy for PCOS and its symptoms. It helps to normalize the menstrual cycle and can also control the feeling of sudden hunger due to its high fiber content. Widely used as a spice, ity has numerous beneficial effects on the body; the increase of insulin sensitivity is the main characteristic in the treatment of PCOS. It helps to control blood sugar levels and facilitates weight loss.

Soy isoflavones: women with PCOS often suffer from infertility due to anovulation. Soy isoflavones have similar effects to Clomid, a widely used  drug for the treatment of ovulation disorders.

Agnocasto (vitex agnus-castus):  it inhibits the synthesis of prolactin and increases the levels of progesterone, restoring the balance of the two important hormones involved in the menstrual cycle. Low levels of progesterone are very common during puberty and are known to contribute to the formation of ovarian cysts.

Many women have found enormous benefits in the use of a formulation with Medicago sativa, Serenoa repens and Equisetum arvense to counteract alopecia of various nature, premature hair loss and to stop hirsutism.

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