Try these natural remedies for polycystic ovaries, includes Q and A with leading natural health experts.
Natural remedies for polycystic ovaries includes saw palmetto berry (Serenoa repens), used to treat polycystic ovarian syndrome in women.
Photo by Steven Foster
Natural remedies for polycystic ovaries include the use of saw palmetto berry and black cohosh.
Read more about natural remedies for a healthy bladder: Natural Remedies for a Healthy Bladder.
I was recently diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome. Are there any supplements or herbs I should be taking?
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Willard responds: The exact cause of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is not known, but there is a growing body of evidence that Syndrome X (or insulin resistance) is dramatically linked. PCOS is becoming an increasingly common problem, affecting an estimated 6 to 10 percent of women of reproductive age. This percentage seems to have kept pace with increases in the overall population’s issues with sugar metabolism.
PCOS symptoms are varied and include menstrual irregularities, infertility, increased male pattern hair growth, male pattern baldness or thinning hair, acne, oily skin, dandruff, pelvic pain, weight gain, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, skin tags, sleep apnea, snoring and darkened skin patches.
From a holistic point of view, treating PCOS is a combination of several therapies. These include addressing several aspects: the underlying hormonal imbalance; Syndrome X’s insulin resistance; usually an associated imbalance in essential fatty acids; and often a candida yeast problem.
A tincture that can be used as a “female restorative” contains 3 parts dong quai (Angelica sinensis), 2 parts Chinese peony root (Paeonia lactiflora), 1 part false unicorn root (Chamaelirium luteum), 1 part black cohosh and 1 part wild yam; 30 drops twice daily. Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus) also may be used to stimulate ovulation, taken every day first thing in the morning either as 2 powder capsules or 30 drops of tincture.
To address Syndrome X, I recommend a formula that combines fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum), which aids control of insulin production; alpha lipoic acid, to help burn glucose and convert it into energy; bitter melon (Momordica charantia), used for centuries in Asia to lower blood glucose levels in diabetics by improving the utilization of glucose; and gymnema (Gymnema sylvestre), which also has been used for centuries to reduce blood sugar levels. The normal dosage is 3 capsules, three times daily. For PCOS, a diet low in carbohydrates or of low glycemic index foods can be helpful.
Essential fatty acids are almost always out of balance in women with PCOS. I suggest an omega-3 oil, such as krill (1,500 mg daily) or deep sea fish oil (6,000 mg daily), and an omega-6 oil, such as black currant oil (2,000 mg daily).
Khalsa responds: In traditional medicine, virtually all herbs had multiple uses. Saw palmetto, for example, has anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and anti-androgenic properties. Nineteenth-century physicians used it for a variety of conditions, including anorexia, bronchitis, asthma, reduced libido, infertility, cystitis and lung conditions.
Recently, it has become well known for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a common condition in men older than 50. It is also the preferred herb to treat PCOS.
Saw palmetto has androgen-modulating effects beneficial for PCOS, a condition associated with excess androgens. The herb also reduces androgenic side effects, such as hair growth, weight gain and acne, and saw palmetto even might stimulate suppressed ovulation. Take saw palmetto berry in capsules at a dose of 3,000 mg per day. Higher daily amounts may be recommended by a health practitioner in more serious cases.
Asian medicine recognizes castor oil as a wonderful panacea for a large number of health concerns. In the West, it is known as Palma Christi (hand of Christ). Castor oil is the “arnica of Ayurveda” and treats traumatized, damaged structural and connective tissue. Castor oil is used in Ayurveda to reduce benign masses and swellings, including ovarian cysts, breast cysts, varicose veins, swollen lymph glands, enlarged liver or spleen and lipomas. Apply castor oil to large areas of nerve involvement or organ dysfunction, as an abdominal pack for ovarian cysts, an affected liver, menstrual pain, constipation or general abdominal discomfort.
Castor oil is pretty messy. Traditionally, it is applied as a moist pack. A castor oil ointment is available as a water-soluble gel. It penetrates completely, leaving no residue.
Apply the ointment directly to the abdomen, over the cysts. If you’d rather make a pack, apply a thick layer of oil to your abdomen. Cover with dressing, such as a plastic sheet. Allow to remain on skin, covered, for several hours or overnight. Some people like to place a hot water bottle or heating pad over the affected area. Castor oil is suitable for repeated short-term use.
Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa has more than 25 years of experience with medicinal herbs. He is a licensed dietitian/nutritionist, massage therapist and board member of the American Herbalists Guild. Khalsa’s book Body Balance is available on our Bookshelf, page 58.
Terry Willard is a clinical herbalist, president of the Canadian Association of Herbal Practitioners and founder of the Wild Rose College of Natural Healing in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He is the author of eight books and a CD-ROM, Interactive Herbal.
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The information offered in “Q & A” is not intended to be a substitute for advice from your health care provider.
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