2 Renowned Herbs for PCOS
If you've been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), you may be feeling a little defeated. The weight gain, mood swings, acne, facial hair increase and hair loss can play a significant role in how you feel overall. Not only that, the pain! Sex can be painful, periods and ovulation can feel uncomfortable or even laughing the wrong way can cause jabbing pain in your sides.
Often women are put on contraception to counter the hormonal imbalances that contribute to PCOS and apart from that, there's not a lot of support. Hormonal contraception can sometimes worsen PCOS symptoms, especially if you've been on them for a prolonged time. The synthetic hormones tend to deplete naturally occurring hormones because the body is smart; it doesn't want to put energy into making hormones if we're getting them externally. This can often deplete progesterone and increase estrogens (it's a lot more complex than that, but that's another article topic).
The problem with that is when we come off the contraption device, our hormones need to take time to re-balance. This can take months to years depending on how long contraceptives have been used. If you've just come off the pill or other forms of contraception, then these two herbs have been shown to synergistically regulate the hormonal communication with the body.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
It is a renowned herb that has been used traditionally for thousands of years, particularly working on the endocrine system. Licorice contains isoflavones (phytoestrogens) that may modulate estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, particularly hirsutism (excessive facial and body hair) in females (Grant, 2012). Licorice inhibits 17-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase and 17-20 lyase reducing androgen (androgens are related to male hormones) synthesis (Rooney, 2014). Licorice has shown promising nootropic and cognition-enhancing pharmacodynamics on animal and human models through specific non-competitive inhibitor against BACE1 enzyme, prevalent in Alzheimer’s (Esmail Al-Snafi, 2018). The herb competitively inhibits 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, ultimately reducing cortisol production (our stress hormone) and displays operative mineralocorticoid-like activity, particularly sodium retention reducing overstimulated nervous system activity (Esmail Al-Snafi, 2018). Its phenols have been shown to specifically target uterine estrogen receptors, providing anti-inflammatory and estrogen modulation directly within the uterine lining (Esmail Al-Snafi, 2018).
White Peony – Paeonia lactiflora
Peony has been used traditionally in Chinese medicine for female hormone modulation. Peony increases aromatase testosterone to estrogen conversion, reducing/modulating testosterone (Grant, 2012). Peony targets the ovaries to inhibit testosterone production (Rooney, 2014), however, has been shown to be utilized for a variety of therapeutic effects; immunomodulation, anti-viral, cytotoxic, tonic, cardiovascular tonic, anti-tumour, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, antioxidant, neuroprotective, glycaemic modulation as well as hormone modulation (Parker, 2016). The herb has pronounced systemic anti-inflammatory properties through modulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines, cAMP, IL-1, IL-6, TNF-alpha, and lymphocyte regulation, as well as many other pathways. It appears the herb works within the liver, kidneys, joints, cardiovascular system, nervous system and endocrine system (Parker, 2016).
In combinational therapeutic interventions
Peony and Licorice have been found to significantly increase dopamine D2 receptors and reduce antipsychotic-induced hyperprolactinemia (hyperPRL) (Wang, 2012). Combinational therapy has also been shown to reduce polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, menstrual irregularities and infertility (Rooney, 2014). The traditional use of these combinational herbs and statistics have found Paeonia lactiflora and Glycyrrhiza glabra enhance their key constituents promoting HPA/HPO homeostasis (Rooney, 2014) (Zhou, 2019). Together, they may also promote increased anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, antibacterial and antiviral effects (Zhou J.-X. &., 2018). Together, the herbs may provide hypoglycaemic and anti-hyperlipidaemic actions, however, their mechanisms of actions in combinational therapy are still to be further researched and established (Rooney, 2014).
***These herbs can interact with hormonal therapies and other medications. It is vital to discuss these options with a trained natural health professional (naturopath or herbalist) to ensure these are the safest and most therapeutic herbs for you.
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