Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) – What is it? Can herbs help? New 2014 research

What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)?

PCOS is a complex endocrine and metabolic condition affecting between 6 and 15% of women. Cysts develop in the ovaries, there is an excess of testosterone, and often no ovulation.

There is also a condition known as PCO which means a woman has cysts that develop in her ovaries but she does not exhibit the other symptoms of PCOS. She may go on to develop the syndrome at a later stage.

What are the symptoms of PCOS?

  • Increased hair growth
  • Infertility
  • Irregular or no periods
  • Obesity
  • Acne
  • Anxiety and depression
Liquorice (Glycyrriza glabra)
Liquorice (Glycyrriza glabra)

What are the long term health problems associated with PCOS?

  • High risk of developing diabetes
  • High risk of developing metabolic syndrome
  • Obesity
  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Infertility
What are the current medical treatments for PCOS?
  • The contraceptive pill – helps with period regulation and excess hair growth but not suitable for women wanting to conceive and it does not address the metabolic aspects of the syndrome.
  • Progestins – help with hair growth and uterine bleeding but side effects include weight gain, liver problems and depression.
  • Anti-androgens – help with hair growth but not suitable for women wanting to conceive.
  • Insulin sensitising drugs – help with metabolic consequences but not weight gain, or cholesterol problems and side effects include gastrointestinal problems and kidney impairment.
  • Lifestyle changes – “Some patients with PCOS can resume menstrual cycles and ovulation after having reduced only 5% of their body weight.” Rooney et al (2014)

 

Herbal Medicine as an alternative for PCOS treatment

spearmintA recent study by Rooney et al (2014) found that Cinnamon, Liquorice, Spearmint and White Peony were beneficial in the treatment of PCOS. In the review of research studies on herbal medicine and PCOS they found that all symptoms of the syndrome were addressed and reduced. They concluded that herbal medicine is a viable first line treatment option for PCOS.

Rooney et al also found that when surveying medical herbalists who had treated women with PCOS the following problems were improved.

  • Improved menstruation
  • Reduced hair growth
  • Reduced acne
  • Reduced weight gain
  • Improved fertility
  • Improved energy
  • Improved mood

For more information on PCOS visit the NHS website.

To view the research paper “Phytotherapy for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: A review of the literature and evaluation of practitioners’ exerpience” by Rooney et al (2014), click here.

To speak to Sara Rooney about her research and how herbal medicine can help with PCOS, visit her website http://www.sararooneyherbalist.com/

If you suffer from PCOS and are considering herbal medicine as a treatment option it is important to see professional help from a medical herbalist. To find a medical herbalist in your area visit www.nimh.org.uk