Polycystic ovary syndrome is a common condition related to a hormonal imbalance in women of reproductive age. It is characterized by high levels of androgens (male hormones) in the body.
Researchers have also linked insulin to PCOS because many women with this condition also have too much insulin in their bodies. High levels of insulin cause the ovaries to produce more male hormones.
Women with PCOS have also been found to have low-grade inflammation, contributing to insulin resistance. The exact cause of PCOS, however, is still unknown. Yet, genetics is considered an important factor as PCOS seems to run in families.
The condition leads to issues like changes in the menstrual cycle, cysts on the ovaries and problems getting pregnant.
It can cause symptoms like infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods, excessive facial and body hair growth, weight gain, acne, oily skin, thinning hair or male-pattern baldness, and pelvic pain. The signs and symptoms tend to vary from one individual to another.
This endocrine disorder is also associated with an increased risk for developing insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease. Thus, early diagnosis of PCOS is extremely important.
Although there is no cure for this problem yet, it can be controlled. Some simple natural remedies, medications and lifestyle changes can help manage the symptoms and reduce complications.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Also, consult your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Researchers from Columbia University have found that cinnamon supplementation can help improve menstrual cyclicity in women with PCOS. Plus, a pilot study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility indicates that this herb can help reduce insulin resistance in women with PCOS.
- Add one teaspoon of cinnamon powder to a glass of hot water. Drink it daily for a few months or until you are satisfied with the results.
- Alternatively, you can take this herb in supplement form after consulting your doctor. It is usually suggested to take one capsule (1,000 mg) three times a day.
- You can also include this spice in your diet by sprinkling cinnamon powder on your cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, cottage cheese, peanut butter sandwich and on other foods.
Note: You need not take more than two teaspoons of this spice per day. If you are taking this herb to combat insulin resistance, consult your doctor first as it may lower your blood sugar level.
Flaxseed can also be used to combat PCOS as it helps decrease androgen levels. It contains lignans that increase the production of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) that binds testosterone in the blood, thereby preventing it from wreaking havoc in the body.
Plus, being high in fiber, flaxseed helps slow down glucose metabolism and lower cholesterol levels. The omega-3 fatty acids in this superfood also reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease.
- Mix one or two tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseeds in a glass of water. Drink it daily for a few months or until you are satisfied with the results.
- Also include ground flaxseeds in your diet regularly by adding it to your smoothies, soups and salads.
3. Spearmint Tea
Spearmint tea can also help deal with PCOS due to its anti-androgenic properties. A study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research found that drinking spearmint tea can help reduce hirsutism, or excess body hair, by reducing free and total testosterone levels and increasing luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels.
- Boil one cup of water in a pan.
- Add one teaspoon of dried spearmint leaves.
- Let it simmer for five to 10 minutes.
- Strain and drink this tea twice daily for a few weeks.
4. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is also beneficial for dealing with PCOS because it helps control blood sugar and keeps your body from producing too much insulin. Less insulin means less testosterone. Plus, it will help you lose weight and improve your overall health.
- Mix two teaspoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar in a glass of water.
- Drink it daily in the morning and before meals. Continue for several weeks or until you see improvement.
You can gradually increase the dosage of apple cider vinegar to up to two tablespoons per glass, two or three times a day. If the taste is too strong for you, mix the apple cider vinegar with orange or any other fruit juice.
Fenugreek promotes glucose metabolism in the body and improves insulin resistance. This in turn helps balance your hormones. It may also help lower cholesterol, aid weight loss and promote healthy heart functioning.
- Soak three teaspoons of fenugreek seeds in water for six to eight hours. Take one teaspoon of the soaked seeds along with some honey in the morning on an empty stomach. Also take one teaspoon of the seeds about 10 minutes prior to lunch and one teaspoon prior to dinner. Continue this treatment daily for a few weeks or until you see improvement.
- You can also include fenugreek seeds and leaves in your regular diet.
6. Saw Palmetto
This herb acts as an anti-androgen, blocks 5-alpha-reductase activityand reduces the conversion of the testosterone into a more active form called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This in turn may help prevent hirsutism or excessive hairiness in women with PCOS. It also helps thinning hair grow back.
Naturopaths often suggest this herb for the treatment of PCOS because it helps correct the hormonal imbalance.
Take 320 mg of standardized saw palmetto extract daily for a few months. If you are taking a liquid extract, take one teaspoon per day.
Note: Make sure to consult a licensed naturopathic physician before taking this or any other herbal remedy for PCOS to ensure safe and effective use of the herbs.
Chasteberry, also called vitex, is another popular herb for relieving the symptoms of PCOS and treating infertility due to a hormonal imbalance. It is a great hormone-balancing herb and is also used as a remedy for menstrual problems.
- Boil a cup of water and add one teaspoon of fresh or dried chasteberries. Let it steep for about 10 minutes. Strain and drink this tea daily for a few weeks or months, until you see improvement. Discontinue its use once you are satisfied with the results.
- Alternatively, you can take this herb in supplement form. For proper dosage and suitability, consult your doctor.
8. Fish Oil
Being loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil helps reduce androgen and improve insulin sensitivity. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicates that omega-3 fatty acids can improve the symptoms of PCOS by balancing androgen levels.
Plus, including fatty fish in your diet or taking fish oil supplements can help decrease inflammation, reduce body fat and fight against chronic diseases.
There is no standard daily dosage for fish oil supplements. You can take one to three capsules two or three times a day or as suggested by your physician.
Italian researchers have found that licorice root can help reduce serum testosterone in women with PCOS. The researchers believe that the glycyrrhizin in this herb inhibits an enzyme that is required for testosterone production. Licorice can also be used as an adjuvant therapy for hirsutism.
Plus, licorice root promotes ovulation and aids liver detoxification. The liver removes toxins and excess hormones and thus helps with hormonal balance.
- Add one teaspoon of dried licorice root to a cup of boiling water. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes and then strain it. Drink this tea two or three times daily for a few weeks.
- Alternatively, you can take this herb in supplement form. You can take one-quarter to one-half teaspoon of licorice tincture two or three times a day for a few weeks. Make sure to consult your doctor to find out the proper dosage for your case.
Note: Licorice root may not be suitable for those suffering from high blood pressure or heart, kidney or liver disease. It may also have an effect on blood glucose levels.
10. Holy Basil
Holy basil, also known as tulsi, can help reduce the symptoms of PCOS due to its anti-androgenic properties. It will help manage insulin levels and aid in weight loss. Basil is also an excellent stress reliever, and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Consume eight to 12 holy basil leaves daily in the morning.
- Another option is to drink basil tea a few times daily or take this herb in supplement form. For proper dosage, consult your doctor.
Follow either of these remedies for a few months.
Note: Holy basil tends to lower blood glucose levels, so take this herb carefully if you are taking diabetic medications. The herb may also slow blood clotting and interact with anticoagulant drugs.
When taking herbal remedies for the natural treatment of PCOS, it is essential to consult a licensed naturopathic physician because most herbs that work by lowering testosterone levels tend to cause an increase in estrogen levels due to androgens being converted into estrogens.
Naturopaths help combat these issues by suggesting ways to support estrogen metabolism and improve estrogen clearance. For instance, increasing fiber intake in your diet helps promote estrogen clearance.
- Keep your weight in check as it will help reduce the level of male hormones in your body. Losing just 10 percent of your body weight can help bring your periods back to normal.
- Engage in regular exercise to help control your weight and also regulate insulin.
- Incorporate more fiber-rich foods like whole-grain products in your diet.
- Increase your dietary intake of B vitamins, especially vitamins B2, B3, B5 and B6, to help reduce PCOS symptoms.
- Quit smoking; women who smoke have been found to have higher androgen levels.
- Avoid the use of plastics in food consumption, preparation and storage.
- Do not drink water from a plastic container.
- Take prescribed birth control pills after consulting a gynecologist.
- Acupuncture therapy has also been found to be beneficial for improving hormone levels.
Expert Answers (Q&A)
- de Groot PCM, Dekkers OM, Romijn JA, Dieben SWM, Helmerhorst FM. PCOS, coronary heart disease, stroke and the influence of obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Human reproduction update. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21335359. Published 2011.
- Jacewicz-Święcka M, Kowalska I. Polycystic ovary syndrome and the risk of cardiometabolic complications in longitudinal studies. Diabetes/metabolism research and reviews. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30089337. Published November 2018.
- Ramezani Tehrani F, Amiri M, Behboudi-Gandevani S, Bidhendi-Yarandi R, Carmina E. Cardiovascular events among reproductive and menopausal age women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Gynecological endocrinology : the official journal of the International Society of Gynecological Endocrinology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31385729. Published August 6, 2019.
- Deshmukh H, Papageorgiou M, Kilpatrick ES, Atkin SL, Sathyapalan T. Development of a novel risk prediction and risk stratification score for polycystic ovary syndrome. Clinical endocrinology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30339716. Published January 2019.