Those with PCOS are dissatisfied with the orthodox treatment available. Metformin, an insulin-sensitising drug, is associated with unpleasant gastro-intestinal side effects. Other options such as the contraceptive pill, synthetic progestin and anti-androgens are also associated with unwanted side effects so many look for alternative forms of treatment.
The key to treatment of PCOS is a change in diet and increase in regular exercise to promote weight loss. This reduces insulin resistance. The diet should have a low glycaemic index with a reduction in refined sugar and increase in vegetable intake.
Successful results have been obtained for the use of herbal medicine in the treatment of PCOS (1). The approach of a Medical Herbalist is to select a mix of herbs tailored to each individual to give an integrated and holistic approach to treatment. The herb actions selected will help decrease insulin resistance, decrease androgen production, balance ovarian hormone production, promote liver function, reduce cystic growth and support the nervous system.
PCOS is often associated with low thyroid function. Herbs may therefore be given to promote thyroid function which may help to balance metabolism and improve weight loss.
PCOS is a complex condition with a wide variation in the symptoms experienced by each individual. The tailored multi-target approach of herbal medicine when combined with diet and lifestyle changes offers an effective treatment option.
- Rooney, S., Pendry, B. (2014) Phytotherapy for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: a review of the literature and evaluation of practitioners’ experiences. Journal of Herbal Medicine 4: 159-171.