Polycystic ovarian syndrome

This is a disruption of the endocrine system in women which can lead to a variety of hormonal issues.  Women with PCOS produce more male hormones (androgens) than usual which impact on their oestrogen and progesterone levels.  An increased body mass in such individuals potentiates the situation as fat cells produce androgens.  The androgen, oestrone, competes with oestrodiol in the ovaries leading to many follicles being produced but unable to mature eggs, hence the name ‘poly-cystic’ meaning ‘many cysts’ or ‘many follicles’.  As one follicle does not become dominant as in a normal cycle, ovulation is less likely and fertility can be an issue.  Without a correctly functioning dominant follicle oestrodiol and progesterone levels are inadequate for normal cycles.  This can lead to a variety of problems such as missed periods and irregular cycles.  Increased andogen levels are responsible for increased hair growth, particularly on the face, and a higher incidence of acne.

Insulin resistance is a key factor in PCOS.  Metformin, a diabetic drug, is commonly being prescribed by doctors to address this.  Keeping blood sugar levels balanced is very important- eat three low-GI meals a day and have healthy snacks such as oatcakes or humous and vegetable crudités.  Herbs can be used to balance blood sugars by supporting the pancreas.  Drinking cinnamon tea and adding it to food can also be useful.

Herbal considerations

Balance blood sugar and decrease insulin resistance: Cinnamon, Goat’s rue, Artichoke, Dandelion root, Bilberry, Fringe tree, Nettle leaf.

Improve liver and pancreatic function (help balance hormones by increasing sex-hormone binding globulin and balance insulin): Fringe tree, Dandelion root, Artichoke, Burdock, Milk thistle, Oregon grape root, Blue flag.

Hormonal normalisers: Agnus castus, Sarsaparilla, Saw palmetto, Black cohosh, Hops, Licorice, Peony.

Improve adrenal gland function (reduce effects of stress): Borage, Gotu kola, Ashwagandha, Schisandra, Astragalus, Licorice, Siberian ginseng.

Reduce anxiety, tension, improve mood: Skullcap, Wood betony, Vervain, St John’s wort, Damiana, Lavender, Oatstraw, Rose, Valerian, Pulsatilla, Passionflower, Chamomile.

Due to the complex interplay of hormones this condition is best addressed in clinic by a herbalist.