Endometriosis Natural Treatment

Case Studies

| September/October 2003

  • Vitex is a hormone-balancing herb that may reduce estrogen levels.
    By Christopher Hobbs
  • Gotu kola helps reduce inflammation and heal wounds.
    Christopher Hobbs
  • Vitex is a hormone-balancing herb that may reduce estrogen levels.

I had been expecting the call from Andrea regarding her pelvic pain and excessive menstrual bleeding. Her doctor had called earlier in the day, saying Andrea had tried every endometriosis treatment available except surgery to help reduce her symptoms, with little success. Andrea wanted to try natural medicines and herbal treatments before taking the next step of surgery.

Difficult Diagnosis and Treatment

Medical science has a long way to go before understanding the causes of endometriosis, an understanding that could lead to gentle, safe, effective treatments. Endometriosis involves the tissue that lines the uterus, the endometrium. This tissue responds especially to estrogen, because estrogen is one of the main hormones that readies the uterus for implantation of the fertilized egg, leading to pregnancy. In some women, this endometrial tissue can start growing outside the uterus, especially in the pelvic area. With changing hormone levels during the menstrual cycle, this rogue tissue can begin bleeding, increasing the risk of inflammation, pain and infection.

Endometriosis is difficult to diagnose and treat. Andrea told me that over the last few years she had taken Danazol, a testosterone derivative that has major side effects, such as unwanted hair growth, weight gain, fatigue and lowered sex drive. She also took a gonadotropin-releasing hormone derivative that stopped her period and produced hot flashes. Both drugs gave some relief, but Andrea felt the results were not worth the side effects.

The use of laparoscopic surgery, where a small incision is made in the abdominal wall and a tiny scope inserted, provides an accurate diagnosis and, with the aid of a laser or surgical tools attached to the instrument, more complete and focused removal of the problem tissue. One study showed that after a year, 90 percent of the women receiving this surgery were still relatively pain-free. The problem is that over several years, the tissue can often regrow and symptoms return. Plus, general anesthesia is required for the operation, which is not risk-free. Sometimes the abnormal endometrial tissue growth is widespread in the body, even in such sites as the lungs, and these areas can be difficult to remove.

The Traditional Chinese Medicine Approach

Andrea’s doctor thought about sending Andrea to see me after a conversation we had about the herb vitex (Vitex agnus-castus). Her doctor became interested in this ancient herb, for which a number of good clinical trials have shown effectiveness for relieving breast tenderness and other symptoms associated with PMS.

In the clinic, I felt Andrea’s pulse, checked her tongue, performed abdominal diagnosis and asked her a number of questions about her health habits, family life and work. Herbalists try to look at the whole picture of a person’s life to determine some of the important factors that might play a role in producing internal imbalances acting to produce “dis-ease,” the “absence of ease.”

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