Herbal Formula for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Licorice can help PCOS.

Herbal combination including Licorice (shown here) can treat PCOS. Photo by Herbolario Allium.

Up to one out of ten women suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and conventional medicine offers no curative treatment. A 2017 clinical study has found that a combination of herbs used for centuries for endocrine disorders can provide significant relief for those with PCOS.

The herbal treatment resulted in many improvements among the women tested, including improvements in conception and hormone levels, reduced PCOS symptoms, and a lowering of anxiety and depression.

What is polycystic ovary syndrome?

PCOS is a condition where a woman’s body will produce the wrong balance of hormones. This means more androgens than estrogens are produced by the ovaries and/or adrenal glands.

Related to this hormone imbalance, cysts will often form on the ovaries. The cysts are sacs filled with fluid.

Major symptoms of PCOS include infertility, inconsistent menstruation and pain in the pelvic region. Other symptoms can often occur, including acne, skin discoloration, excess hair growth in some places and moodiness.

In addition to these symptoms, many women gain weight and show greater levels of anxiety, depression and stress.

So far, conventional medicine offers no real treatment for the disorder. Hormone treatments and in vitro fertilization are often measures taken for women who want to have children.

Large Australian study on PCOS

The 2017 clinical study comes from Australia’s National Institute of Complementary Medicine and Western Sydney University. The researchers tested 122 women who had been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome.

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The researchers divided the women into two groups. One group was treated with lifestyle intervention (dietary changes plus a guided exercise regimen). The other group was also treated with the lifestyle regimen in addition to a combination of herbal extracts daily for three months.

The researchers tested each patient for symptoms, and many women also received blood tests before and after the study. The researchers also tested hormone levels for each patient and examined each patient for infertility, menstrual issues, body hair, emotions, anxiety, depression and stress.

After three months of receiving the herbal treatment or lifestyle intervention only, the researchers found the herbal combination resulted in numerous benefits.

Hormones and PCOS symptoms improved

The herbal combination resulted in a significant boost in estrogen production among the women. This was especially true with respect to follicular phase estradiol. This is the estrogen production that occurs around the fertility cycle, which directly impacts fertility.

The researchers found that follicular phase estradiol levels went up by an average of 68.9 pmol/Liter – a significant increase.

The researchers also found that luteinizing hormone levels dropped, by an average of 1.82 IU/L.

The herbal combination also produced 31 percent higher scores in the PCOSQ index compared to the diet and exercise therapy alone. The PCOSQ is an index that measures PCOS symptoms and quality of life parameters.

Those taking the herbal combination also had improvements in body hair, infertility, menstruation, emotions, depression, anxiety and stress. In the last three categories, average scores were around half of those not taking the herbs.

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Other improvements included better fasting insulin levels and weight loss.

Infertility significantly improved by the herbs

One of the most important improvements among the women taking the herbal combination was the improvements in conception.

The researchers found that conception was improved by nearly 300 percent (3.9 times). This was taken from 70 women who were wanting to conceive.

What is this herbal combination?

The herbal combination consisted of:

Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Peony root (Paeonia lactiflora)
Cinnamon bark (Cinnamomum verum)
St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum)
• Tribulus terrestris

The formula contained extracts of each of these herbs. The extracts of the first four herbs above were equivalent to 750 milligrams of the each raw herb three times per day. On the Tribulus, the extract was equivalent to 4500 milligrams of raw herb three times per day.

This means, basically, one part each of the first four herbs, of 750 milligrams of raw herb equivalent each, and 6 parts Tribulus (4500 milligrams raw herb equivalent.)

This is typical of herbal medicines. Raw herbs are converted to extracts, often standardized to one of the central constituents. For example, the Tribulus was standardized to furostanol saponins at 110 milligrams per tablet.

Each patient was given two tablets three times a day. One tablet contained the first four herbal extracts above. The second tablet contained the Tribulus extract.

The herbal combination was developed by naturopaths associated with the study. They utilized traditional documentation in addition to previous research on these herbs.

Other research confirms effectiveness of herbs

For example, research has found that licorice and peony significantly reduces androgen levels, and other research has found that cinnamon helps encourage regular menstruation.

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A 2007 study from Italy’s University of Padua studied licorice with 32 women diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome. The researchers gave each patient 3.5 grams of licorice per day in addition to conventional care. The researchers found that aldosterone levels were lower among those taking the licorice.

And a 2014 study of cinnamon tested 45 women with PCOS for six months. The researchers found those who took 1.5 grams per day of cinnamon had improved menstruation consistency compared to the placebo group.

Other studies have confirmed the actions of the other herbs in this formula.

The clinical study from Australia found the herbal formulation produced very few adverse effects. However, the herbal formula did produce a number of positive side effects. These included better blood sugar control, better weight control and other metabolic improvements.

What else would we expect from nature? Nature, after all, is smart.

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Arentz S, Smith CA, Abbott J, Fahey P, Cheema BS, Bensoussan A. Combined Lifestyle and Herbal Medicine in Overweight Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): A Randomized Controlled Trial. Phytother Res. 2017 Sep;31(9):1330-1340. doi: 10.1002/ptr.5858.

Armanini D, Castello R, Scaroni C, Bonanni G, Faccini G, Pellati D, Bertoldo A, Fiore C, Moghetti P. Treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome with spironolactone plus licorice. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2007 Mar;131(1):61-7.

Kort DH, Lobo RA. 2014. Preliminary evidence that cinnamon improves menstrual cyclicity in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized controlled trial. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 211(5): 487. e481–487. e486.

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