Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS is thought to effect upwards of 10% of women. That’s a lot of PCOS ladies! Being one myself, I’m always on the lookout for the BEST remedies around. I also have a major passion for herbal medicine, and have seen time and time again the benefit herbs can provide for women with this condition.
Below I’m sharing what I believe are the 6 BEST medicinal herbs for PCOS.
6 BEST Medicinal Herbs for PCOS
#1 White Peony aka Paeonia lactiflora
A very popular herb for women with PCOS, Traditional Chinese Medicine is likely the originator of using this medicinal plant. Like Vitex below, white peony has been shown to help increase low progesterone, reduce elevated androgens (like testosterone) and help regulate both estrogen and prolactin levels.
What all of this means is that peony may be helpful in regulating menstrual cycles, as it supports healthy follicle (egg) development in the ovaries via the Aromatase enzyme. This enzyme is also helpful in regulating LH:FSH hormone ratios, which out of balance delay ovulation and can interfere with healthy fertility
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, peony is often combined with licorice for maximum benefit, and I happen to agree which is why licorice is also on this list.
#2 Dong Quai
Dong Quai is another herb used quite a lot in Traditional Chinese Medicine to promote blood flow in the pelvis, which could be helpful for stimulating irregular menstruation or helping with scanty periods. Dong Quai is also rich in iron, which is good news for your energy, especially when Aunt Flo comes to town. Dong Quai is simply a fabulous tonic for most hormonal issues, as the circulation and blood flow it provides releases stagnation in the reproductive organs.
Get all the herbs listed here in my PCOS Tea!
Note that Vitex is not suitable for women using hormonal birth control, like the Pill.
#3 Licorice aka Glycyrrhiza
Licorice is a fabulous medicinal herb for so many reasons. It works really well on its own, but many women with PCOS also use a medication called Spironolactone for their high-androgen symptoms (acne, hair growth), and licorice may actually boost these effects when combined with the medication.
Licorice is also well-known for balancing blood sugar, and insulin resistance is a major part of PCOS- even lean women with PCOS often have nearly undetectably insulin resistance.
Licorice also helps with estrogen balance in the body, which can be beneficial for regulating ovulation. Lastly licorice is anti-inflammatory, supportive to the immune system and works as an adaptogen to help with the stress response.
Note that Licorice is not suitable is you experience hypertension aka high blood pressure.
Cinnamon’s uses extend beyond flavoring your delicious eats. It could actually be beneficial for PCOS!
There’s two main reasons for this that have been studied and noted clinically, and I’m outlining them here. Take a look, and think about whether cinnamon might be a good option for you as part of your PCOS management lifestyle.
Reason #1: Blood Sugar Control
As you may be aware, blood sugar and insulin control is extremely important for managing PCOS and a healthy way. Your doctor may have prescribed a drug called Metformin, which is supposed to help in this area. Of course being a holistic nutritionist, I’m all about using nature first before resorting to drugs, and cinnamon could be the answer!
Cinnamon has quite a history of regulating blood sugar response in the body. In one 2007 study of 15 women with PCOS, significant reductions in insulin resistance were seen after taking cinnamon for just 8 weeks!
Reducing insulin resistance is super helpful for regulating menstrual cycles which are often unpredictable or absent in women with PCOS. A 2014 study suggests that using cinnamon improves menstrual cyclicity. This study used 1.5g of a cinnamon supplement per day for 6 months. Finding a product and using a similar dosage to the one in the study could be a good place to start in using cinnamon for PCOS.
Reason #2: Progesterone Management
Low progesterone is most definitely not uncommon in women with PCOS, as our bodies tend to produce more estrogen, testosterone, DHEAS and cortisol instead. Progesterone gets pushed down to the end of the hormone production line, because all the base parts are used for the other hormones! Sometimes this is known as the progesterone steal, and can create a number of symptoms.
Some symptoms of progesterone deficiency include:
- long, irregular cycles
- short luteal phase (the phase right before your period comes)
- mid-cycle spotting
- menstrual cramps
- anxiety and depression
- foggy thinking
- slow metabolism
So how can cinnamon possibly help with this myriad of symptoms?
One study has outlined that cinnamon can help to increase progesterone production in our adrenal glands, while also reducing the amount of testosterone our adrenals produce- double win! This is through the action of cinnamaldehyde, a comonenet of the cassia type of cinnamon
Like peony, licorice and cinnamon, studies have been done to test the efficacy of spearmint for PCOS. Spearmint is shown helpful for reducing androgen hormones like testosterone after only one month of use! When androgens hormones are regulated, it becomes easier to regulate the menstrual cycle. Acne, hair loss and excess body hair growth (hirsutism) may also reduce when androgens are regulated, as the “bad” form of testosterone, DHT, is often the culprit for these issues.
Beyond androgens, the study showed that spearmint also influences ratios of LH and FSH, two pituitary hormones that regulate activity in the menstrual cycle, including follicle (egg) development and ovulation.
Get all the herbs listed here in my PCOS Tea!
This article does not intend to treat or diagnose disease it is meant to generate awareness and promote health education and prevention.
UPDATE FEB 25 2019: While Vitex was originally on this list and featured in my PCOS Tea formula, it has since been removed from this article and PCOS Tea for reasons stated here.