3 Medicinal Herbs for PCOS Symptoms
Guest Post by Robyn Srigley, Holistic Nutritionist.
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.
Navigating herbs and how to use them can be super confusing. My hope today is that this article will help you decide if herbs are right for you and your PCOS symptoms.
Below I’m going to outline 3 of my favourite medicinal herbs for PCOS, and we’ll also talk about how to use them for maximum benefits.
The 3 Medicinal Herbs
#1: White Peony Root aka Paeonia Lactiflora
A very popular herb for women with PCOS, Traditional Chinese Medicine is likely the originator of using this medicinal plant. 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: Licorice Root 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 component of the cassia type of cinnamon.
How to Use Herbs
There are several different methods of using medicinal herbs. My personal favourite is tincture, as I find them to be quite strong and more quickly effective than capsules, in my clinical experience.
However, I always tell my clients- get the form you’ll actually use consistently. If it’s easier to remember capsules, then do that. If tea or infusions are better, go for that.
Technically, “tea” can only be made from the camellia sinensis plant, where black, green and white teas come from.
In herbal medicine, these hot beverages are known as infusions and decoctions. Infusions are like making regular tea- adding hot water to herbs and steeping. Decoctions on the other hand are made when you boil herbs in water for a longer period of time.
Infusions are typically used for leafy and flowery herbs like chamomile. Decoctions are used for harder herbs, in the form of roots and bark, like with peony, licorice and cinnamon mentioned above.
To decoct these herbs, add loose herb to a pot of water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and simmer covered for anywhere from 15-30 minutes, depending on the herb.
Infusions and decoctions can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days if you make a big batch. I often use decoctions as liquid bases for smoothies and soups to get more medicine in.
Tincture are concentrated herbal extracts. Typically, dried or fresh herbs and put in a base of alcohol so several weeks, in which time the medicinal properties of the plants are transferred into the alcohol.
We then take drops of tincture as the medicine.
Tinctures can also be made with glycerin, and they may also have water added to them.
When using tinctures, be careful to follow your practitioners instructions or follow the instructions on the bottle.
Capsules are pretty self explanatory! Dried herbs are added to capsules, which are then swallowed.
Like tinctures, be sure to follow your practitioner’s or bottle instructions.
Dried Powdered Herb:
In some cases, herbs can be powdered and used medicinally. For example, you may add some dried, powdered herbs to smoothies as a booster.
Cinnamon powder, which you probably already have in your kitchen, is a great example of this.
Hey there! I am Despina Pavlou, founder of PCOS Oracle and online coach. I want to share with you the diet and lifestyle changes I made to naturally reverse my PCOS and achieve hormonal balance. I believe using my holistic approach you too can take back control from PCOS.
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Robyn Srigley, The Hormone Diva
Robyn Srigley is The Hormone Diva, Holistic Nutritionist and Women’s Health and Nutrition Coach. Robyn’s own journey with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) jumpstarted her passion for helping women replace their anxieties with joy to open possibility in their lives and break free of hormonal imbalance. Robyn runs a successful meal plan and group program practice where she uses diet, movement, botanicals and a self-love lifestyle to transform the lives of women with PCOS, Endometriosis, PMS, Painful Periods and much more. You can find out more about her work at www.thehormonediva.com
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