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Top 10 Herbs For PCOS Management.

Posted on August 10 2022

Top 10 herbs for PCOS Management. - Roshni Sanghvi

Several women remain concerned about the hormonal condition known as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). One in every 20 women globally is currently diagnosed with PCOS. Often times, this condition goes undetected till one is planning fertility, thus, complicating the process of child- bearing.

I have already written a detailed article on reversing PCOS here:

PCOS symptoms are often manageable by changing your lifestyle and eating habits alone. However, natural spices and herbs are potent nutritional supplements that offer nutrients that can treat the illness and bring much-needed respite.

Herbal remedies to treat illnesses have been used in India and China for centuries. Certain delectable seasonings will help the body's hormonal imbalance, control insulin resistance, and promote effective detoxification. Reproductive health is also often restored by with strategically including them to your lifestyle.

PCOS is a condition that affects a lot of people today. As a result, it is not unexpected that many women start fitness programmes, change their lifestyles, and take drugs to manage the disease.

However, did you know that all you have to do is go into your kitchen, look for the components of common foods, and incorporate them into your diet. This is no substitute for a bad lifestyle, but can very well boost your recovery and progress.

Usage of Herbs and Spices to Treat Diseases.

Several herbs and spices have a variety of possible health benefits, including those with anti-inflammatory effects, some that improve cognitive function, and some that may even help fight cancer, to name just a few.

Throughout history, the usage of herbs and spices has been crucial. Long before they were used in cooking, many were praised for their therapeutic qualities. Today's science has demonstrated that many of them do provide tremendous health advantages. In fact, modern medicine is heavily influenced by the science of herbology.

How can ayurvedic herbs be used to treat PCOS, and can PCOS symptoms be alleviated?

You're probably sick of hearing about all the foods you should ostensibly avoid if you have PCOS. You rarely hear about foods that should be included in your diet!

The good news is that certain foods can help reduce inflammation, insulin resistance, oxidative stress, and more. Antioxidants are "sneaky" substances in plant foods like fruits and vegetables, spices, and seasonings that may help improve PCOS symptoms while lowering long-term health risks.

PCOS is a disease of excesses inflammation and oxidation int he body. So in a nut- shell, by controlling the two, you can very well manage your symptoms.

Besides this, PCOS is characterised by insulin resistance and estrogen dominance. By including spices that boost insulin sensitivity, such as cinnamon, and reduce estrogen dominance, you will start noticing your cycles normalise and weight loss becomes effortless.

Examining your diet and making necessary adjustments is one of the greatest methods to help control PCOS symptoms. For those unaware, PCOS is women's most prevalent endocrine illness, marked by hormonal imbalance.

"Spices and herbs can do wonders for your health," says Dr Swati Gaikwad, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Motherhood Hospital in Pune. Ayurveda, as a science was used to heal the root cause of any disorder using natural herbs and spices.

Further in this blog, I will detail how some specific herbs act in the body and what does scientific data show about the same.

Ten beneficial herbs for managing PCOS and how to use them:

1. Marjoram:

Marjoram, also known as Maruvain India, is a perennial herb or undershrub with citrus and pine flavours. The herb is famously used regionally, to treat common cold and other respiratory disorders.

Origin: Marjoram, which is native to Cyprus, Turkey, Western Asia, the Mediterranean, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Levant, was regarded as a happy symbol by the ancient Greeks and Romans. During the Middle Ages, it might have migrated to the British Isles. After World War II, marjoram became commonly utilised in the United States.

Benefits: This study had women with PCOS consume two cups of marjoram tea per day VS a placebo. Within just one month, the women consuming marjoram tea saw an improvement in their DHEA levels, fasting insulin and even better blood glucose profile. All these translate to weight loss. Some other key benefits of marjoram are:

  • Improves digestive health.
  • Improves immunity and overall recovery.
  • Hormonal balance.

Ways to consume: Include 4-5 leaves of Marjoram to your salad/ soups daily. Or simply make yourself a warm cup of marjoram tea.

Another way is to try enclosing 2-3 teaspoons of marjoram leaves in a tiny piece of cheesecloth and soaking it in your pot while cooking soups or stews.

If you are looking for a step- by- step guided program on PCOS Management, checkout my Holistic Healing Protocol for PCOS management.

2. Spearmint:

Spearmint originates from Europe and also grows in some parts of Southern Asia. The use of mint in toothpaste or as a teeth wash dates back to 14th century. Mentions of spearmint also dates back to the Bible. This plant has been known for its multiple medicinal properties for generations now.

Origin: Originally from Europe and Asia, spearmint has since been cultivated globally now. This common kitchen spices has a pungent flavour and multiple uses.

Benefits: Spearmint has been gaining quite the popularity amongst the PCOS community for its anti- androgenic property. This means, that it helps in reducing the activity of male sex hormones in women, while also increasing the activity of ovulatory hormones such as LH and FSH.

This study for instance had 21 women drinking a cup of spearmint tea twice a day for a five day period. Inspire of the short study period, women still saw a drop in androgen levels. Women with hirsutism (excessive male- pattern hair growth) benefit the most out of spearmint tea. Other benefits of spearmint include:

  • Improves digestive health
  • Prevents signs of ageing
  • Improves cognitive function
  • Fights Bacterial Infections

Way to Consume: Spearmint has a beautiful aroma and flavour, thus, can be added to curries, chutneys and soups. Spearmint Iced Tea's make for an excellent snack for a summer evening.

3) Flaxseeds:

Flaxseed's keep popping up every time you look for superfoods. They have gained quite the popularity and with reason. These omega- 3 packed super seeds are a cheap, yet essential addition to your diet, PCOS or not.

Origin: Fun fact, you might be wearing flaxseed clothes and not even know about them! The fiber material linen used to make textile comes from the flax plant. The use of flax and linen dates back to ancient Egypt. You can still find pyramid temple walls been painted with flowering flax plants.

Benefits: Flaxseeds are rich in a particular compound called lignans. Lignans have a phytoestrogenic property in the body. Meaning, they prevent the bad oestrogen's in the body from acting up.

For all those following a plant- based diet (which you must for PCOS Management), flaxseed's account for essential fatty acids. In fact, just a tbsp of ground flaxseed powder per day is enough for you to reach your required daily intake of omega- 3 fatty acids.

From a PCOS perspective though, flaxseed's also have an anti- androgenic effect, just like spearmint. Checkout this study for instance, where women with PCOS, consuming just about 2 tbsp of ground flaxseed powder per day experienced a reduction triglyceride levels, fasting insulin and even CPR levels. CRP is a marker for inflammation.

  • Supports healthy bowel movement.
  • Improves skin and hair health.
  • Improves memory.
  • Regulates blood pressure.

Ways to Consume: I personally like to include 1-2 tbsp of ground flaxseed powder to my smoothies or soups per day. Note, you want to add freshly ground powder, and not store the powder for too long as it does tend to get oxidised, losing it's nutritional value.

Flaxseed powder is absorbed much better by the body than the seeds themselves. Thus, it is always better to have them ground first.

4. Dong Quai:

Dong Quai loosely translates to 'the husband returns back to wife'. This is to imply its effect on boosting sexual health. The herb has got the popular title of 'female ginseng'.

The same botanical family as parsley, celery, and carrots includes Dong Quai.

Origin: Dong Quai roots have been used for traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. This herbs requires a high altitude and cold environment to grow and is thus founds in the higher altitude places of China, Korea and Japan.

Benefits: The herb is used in traditional Chinese medicine, but has very little scientific data to back its effective claims. There are some animal studies, like this one, that proves of its effective nature.

It is claimed to act by improving blood flow to the uterus. For this same reason, people who are pregnant are told to avoid taking the same, as it may lead to miscarriages.

I would not consider taking this unless you are under the direct care of a herbalist or TCM specialist. Some of its other benefits include:

  • Improved sexual drive.
  • Relieves menopausal symptoms.
  • Beneficial in migraine management.

Ways to Consume: There are numerous plant varieties, and dosages differ greatly. Though Dong Quai supplements and drops are commonly available globally, I do not suggest you take them unless under the care of an expert.

5. Chasteberry/ Vitex:

Vitex, popularly known as chaste berry, is a Mediterranean native plant. Legand has it that the fruit of this tree has been historically used to reduce sexual drive. This is oxymoron to the effect the rest of the plant has on the body.

Origin: The chaste berry plant, often known as the chaste tree, is indigenous to Asian and the Mediterranean basin. The fact that the plant was once thought to encourage purity may be the origin of the name "chaste berry." Monks reputedly used it to suppress sexual desire throughout the Middle Ages.

Benefits: Vitex works by skewing the ratio of estrogen to progesterone in the body towards progesterone. Meaning, it helps in achieving a better hormonal balance. The herb is most effective in reducing PMS symptoms. For instance, in this study, 91% of women experienced a reduction in PMS symptoms after taking a chaste berry supplement for three months.

Other benefits include:

  • Lowers prolactin levels.
  • Reduces soreness in breasts.
  • May reduce utrine fibroids
  • May be beneficial for acne management.

Ways to Consume: A suggested Vitex or chaste berry dosage cannot be determined by science alone. But depending on weather you are consuming the fruit or the herb, you will want to vary the dosage.

I personally suggest just including chaste berry tea blend in with spearmint for daily consumption.

6. Shatavari:

An Ayurveda favourite, the Shatavari plant commonly grows in parts of India and Australia. This popular herb is often referred to as the Indian Ginseng.

Origin: Shatavari is widespread in northern Australia, the Himalayas, and India. It can reach 1-2 m and loves to establish itself in rocky, gravelly soils at an elevation of 1,300–1,400 m. The word Shatavari loosely translates to 'the one with a hundred husbands', hinting towards its potent effects on the female sexual health.

Benefits: Though this herb has been widely used and widely prescribed, there is little scientific evidence to talk in its favour. This journal paper proposes the effects of shatavari on women with PCOS who have also experienced physical or mental trauma.

Trauma leads to oxidative stress in the body and oxidation further leads to more PCOS symptoms. Shatavati then acts as a powerful anti- oxidant and works by reducing the oxidative stress women experience. Thus, better symptom management. Some other benefits commonly proposed are:

  • Supports lactation.
  • Acts as an adaptogenic, thus speeds recovery.
  • Improves immune function.

Ways to Consume: Mixing shatavari powder directly with plant- milk or water is the best way to consume this. There are multiple shatavari supplements in the market too that one can explore.

Note here, I personally ask my clients to cycle this herb (if using), meaning, to consume it for a period of 60 days and then take a few weeks off before starting over.

The herb has not be tested for its long term effects and there currently are no regulations on the dosage that works the best, thus, you do not want to make it a part of your lifestyle till we know more.

7. Cinnamon:

Cinnamon is mostly employed as an aromatic condiment and flavouring addition in a wide range of cuisines, including sweet and savoury dishes, breakfast cereals, snack foods, teas, and traditional foods.

Origin: There are two predominant types of cinnamon's, namely, Ceylon, coming from Sri Lanka and also referred to as true cinnamon and Cassia, most used commercially and originating from southern China and parts of Asia.

You want to lookout for Ceylon Cinnamon as that is the one most researched upon.

Benefits: Cinnamon acts to reduce fasting insulin and fasting blood glucose levels in people struggling with PCOS. Cinnamon is thus also used widely in the treatment for diabetes management. This study is a meta- analysis of many other studies that shows the effects of cinnamon on insulin resistance.

Since PCOS is a metabolic disease, unless nutritional and sustainable lifestyle changes are not made, the risk of diabetes increases. Thus, including cinnamon on your meals proves to be beneficial.

If you are looking for a step- by- step guided program on PCOS Management, checkout my Holistic Healing Protocol for PCOS management.

Other benefits of consuming cinnamon include:

  • Aids in weight loss on a long run.
  • Improves lipid profile.
  • Lowers HbA1C levels.

Ways to Consume: I ask my clients to sprinkle just a pinch on cinnamon with their breakfast meals. This helps stabilise blood glucose levels all day long and also blunt the insulin spike that people experience post a meal.

You do not want to consume too much of this spice as it may lead to digestive problems.

8. Saffron:

The flower of Crocus sativus also referred to as the "saffron crocus," is the source of the spice known as saffron. The vibrant red stigma and styles, sometimes known as "threads," are harvested and dried for use primarily as food flavour and colouring.

Origin: Saffron is said to have originated from Iran, who till today continues to be the world's greatest producer of the plant. Saffron, or Kesar is also grown in India and some parts of Greece. This little colour enhancer is also the costliest herb on the planet when compared in weight.

Benefits: This double- blind study compares women given saffron supplement VS placebo and its effects on PMS. The saffron group reported reduction in PMS symptoms, better mood, reduced bloating and multiple other benefits with even just a pinch of saffron given to them.

Just like with Chaste berry, saffron is an effective treatment method to reduce symptoms of PMS in women with PCOS.

Other benefits of saffron include:

  • A Powerful Antioxidant
  • Improves libido.
  • Reduces flatulence.
  • May improve skin and hair health.

Ways to Consume: I suggest clients struggling with PMS consume a pinch of saffron added to their food or tea once a day. Just like with other herbs, saffron is very potent and just adding a little bit goes a long way.

9. Fennel Seeds:

Fun fact, the Chinese used fennel extract to treat snake bites. Fennel seeds are also consumed popularly across India as an after meal digestive. Fennel plant is a power house of vitamins, including B vitamins, vitamin C and even many minerals such as phosphorus.

Origin: Fennel seeds are now cultivated globally, but are set to have originated from the Mediterranean region. They were used as a treatment for painful cramps during periods. Fennel seeds work by relaxing the utrine lining, thus, lesser constriction and lesser pain.

Benefits: A few studies have tested the benefits of fennel seeds in reducing PMS pain, but this one study is particularly the most interesting.

Fennel seeds were tested against pain killers such as ibuprofen and performed just as well in terms of reducing menstrual cramps. Except, without the side effects.

Other benefits of consuming fennel seeds include:

  • Improves Digestion
  • Promotes Lactation
  • Helps to Improve Eyesight

Ways to Consume: I suggest my clients to chew on a teaspoon of fennel seeds after lunch and dinner. This way, you make it a lifestyle change and will not forget about it.

10. Ginger:

This Southeast Asian shrub plant is commonly used in Indian and Chinese cooking. Known for its distinct flavour, ginger also is an aromatic spice with many medicinal advantages

Origin: Globally, India is the largest producer of Ginger. The use of this spice dates back to many centuries ago where Chinese and Indian population used this as a tonic to heal inflammatory diseases such as arthritis and respiratory diseases such as the common cold.

Benefits: Ginger helps with PCOS Management if you have excessive menstrual flow and bad PMS symptoms. See this study where participants consuming 1/8th of a tsp of ginger per day VS a placebo experienced a significant reduction in bleeding within just three months

Other benefits of consuming ginger include:

  • Improves Digestion.
  • Protects against respiratory diseases.
  • Boosts immunity.

Ways to Consume: Indian cooking is anyways rich in ginger. However, most often, less than a tsp of ginger is used for curries and daal that serve a family of four or more, thus, you might not be getting enough ginger on your plate.

It is thus best to season your food with raw, grated ginger, once it is served to your plate.

Herbs and spices are potent. And while most of them are safe to use without any supervision, I strongly suggest working with an expert while you introduce them to your diet.

Remember, too much is not always too good when it comes to spices. You can experience adverse side effects if you overdose, just like with any other food.

Lifestyle changes and nutritional changes still remain the cornerstone for PCOS Management. The herbs and spices are just an add- on, not a replacement for a bad lifestyle.

If you are looking for a step- by- step guided program on PCOS Management, checkout my Holistic Healing Protocol for PCOS management.

author-bio

Roshni Sanghvi is an Indian plant-based sports nutritionist and body transformation specialist. She is the first Indian to represent on a national bodybuilding stage being on a 100% plant-based diet. Roshni is a holistic nutritionist, graduated from the prestigious NutraPhoria college of nutrition in Canada. She is also an ACE-certified personal trainer, certified PlantFed gut coach, certified Bodyshred, and Animal flow instructor with a specialisation in disease reversal through food and lifestyle modification.

Her approach is more focused on helping you in adopting a healthy lifestyle. With her result-oriented holistic methods, she has managed to transform and reverse lifestyle diseases such as PCOS, Thyroid, Diabetes etc for 12k+ clients worldwide.

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