The herbs and supplements I took to reverse my PCOS
After receiving so many messages and emails from people asking me about the supplements and herbs I personally take for PCOS, I thought it would be the perfect chance to do an entire post on it...as it really was a game-changer for me.
Natural alternatives seem to be something a lot of women with PCOS are interested in, and I myself spent the first four weeks after my PCOS diagnosis doing intensive research and investigations into natural alternatives to help heal PCOS... so I totally get it.
After being told by my doctor that my only options to help reduce my PCOS symptoms were to go back on the contraceptive pill (which had been masking my PCOS symptoms for 10 years!), or pump my body full of other synthetic hormones to help 'induce' ovulation, I decided that this didn't sit right with me and that I just needed to take the time to listen to my body and work out what it was trying to tell me.
I became obsessed with learning EVERYTHING I possibly could about my condition. I consulted with doctors (who were not very helpful or excited about my idea to ditch traditional medicine and choose the natural path), fertility experts, naturopaths, traditional Chinese Medicine doctors, nutritionists, blogs, research studies, and of course other women who had been diagnosed with PCOS.
Throughout the last couple of months, I have tried various different vitamins, herbs and supplements, but there have been a few that have really stood out and have made a noticeable difference.
I think it's important to note that what works for me may not necessarily work for you. Always do your own research, and speak to as many qualified and knowledgable experts as you can.
I truly believe that PCOS is like a jigsaw puzzle - just because you have all the right pieces doesn't mean it will all fit together. You have to work hard to know what's missing, and which pieces are in the wrong spots.
It's important to remember that it takes a holistic approach to reverse PCOS and that every factor of your life (nutrition, lifestyle, relationships, medications, supplements, stress, age, environments etc) could be affecting it some way.
The supplements I have listed below have genuinely really helped to heal my acne (that covered my face, shoulders, chest and back!), mental health, hair loss, skin tags, memory loss, hormone imbalances and even bring my periods back (and make them regular) after nearly a year of no periods!!!!!
UPDATE I am so excited to announce I have finally launched my CYSTERHOOD tea, and it is now available to order online here
Cysterhood tea has been specifically developed this with a herbalist to help combat PCOS and hormonal imbalances.
It contains many of the herbs listed below and has already help soooo many women (Make sure you read the reviews, some of them are so incredible!)
SOOOOOO getting back to the part you have all been waiting for.... which supplements actually helped to effectively reverse my PCOS and put me back on the path to wellness?
If any of you follow my Instagram, you will know I am obsessed with berberine. This gorgeous bright yellow supplement is actually a compound commonly found in herbs like goldenseal, barberry, and Oregon grape root. I think it has been one of the most effective supplements I have added to my diet.
I did quite a bit of research in berberine and managed to find a very impressive study on how berberine was able to reduce insulin resistance as effectively as the prescription drug metformin. Metformin is a medication frequently prescribed for PCOS, particularly if you have an issue with regulating your insulin.
The same study also found that taking berberine also led to more fat loss around the belly AND lowered levels of free testosterone compared to an equivalent dosage of metformin... so basically this little natural compound is so good, that it's actually MORE effective than metformin, and yet my doctor hadn't even heard of it.
The recommended dose for berberine is 500 mg taken 2-4 times per day.
I would highly recommend taking it with food as it really upset my stomach the first couple of times I tried it. My naturopath also recommended having breaks while on it as it is quite a powerful supplement, So I take it Monday-Friday, then have a break on the weekends and do this for a month. I then take a break from it for three weeks and then start the program again.
Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is a member of the mustard (brassica) family along with cabbages, turnips and watercress.
It grows in the Peruvian Andes and has been used for centuries by native people for its incredible medicinal properties.
It is actually the dried roots of Maca that hold the nutritional value, which is rich in essential amino acids, protein and minerals such as iron, calcium, copper, potassium and zinc.
There have been a number of studies carried out using Maca showing it's amazing nutritional, fertility-enhancing and energising benefits including improved bone health, mood, metabolism, energy levels, memory and hormonal balancing.
Maca is a powerful natural fertility enhancer and has been shown to increase the amount of offspring in animal studies.
Maca works by helping to balance estrogen and progesterone in the body, which may help to encourage a healthy menstrual cycle.
One of the very cool things I have recently found out about Maca is that it is an adaptogen, which means it can help balance the hormones but does not contain any hormones itself. It is able to do this by nourishing the endocrine system.
Licorice root has natural anti-androgen properties and helps the body to maintain proper hormone production and release. Licorice also supports healthy insulin levels and liver health which is important for women with PCOS.
As a natural plant-based estrogen that emulates estrogen, it binds to estrogen receptor sites. And it actively fights the ill-effects of 'Xenhormones'. These disrupt the endocrine system to cause hormonal imbalances, maybe even infertility. By maintaining estrogen balance in the body, licorice helps promote regulated ovulation and improved fertility.
Licorice root is also a powerful anti-inflammatory which can aid in less painful periods, improvement in both ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids. It also results in improved hormonal balance. You can also use licorice root as a topical treatment for acne, but my favourite way to take licorice root is as a tea.
Spearmint tea has actually been scientifically proven to help lower testosterone levels, which as we know are directly linked to many PCOS symptoms.
So far it has been shown to reduce Free Testosterone levels by 30% (the main culprit behind PCOS hirsutism, hair loss and acne!) It increases Luteinising Hormone (LH) by 30% - this is the hormone that triggers ovulation, maintaining a regular menstrual cycle. AND it increases Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) by around 15%, to ensure proper maturation of ovarian follicles. It's really easy to drink as a tea and is one of the main ingredients in my Cysterhood tea .
5. STINGING NETTLE LEAF
Stinging Nettle leaf is known to help improve liver function, which is crucial in order to process our hormones effectively and efficiently. The liver is also useful in helping to reduce male hormones such as DHT, which can be very problematic for those with PCOS. Stinging nettle leaf is usually taken in tea form
6. LEMON BALM
This herb has a vast array of uses. Some of these include being great for digestion, soothing to the nervous system and liver system. It can help reduce PMS symptoms like insomnia and irritability and also has a number of proven anti-inflammatory compounds that can quickly reduce or eliminate these conditions when used regularly. I take lemon balm in tea form and included in Cysterhood tea
7. LADY'S MANTLE
Lady's Mantle is great for those who have an irregular cycle and is easily taken in tea form.
It can help to promote hormone balance and regulation, as well as helping those who are experiencing heavy or painful periods. It is also fantastic for skin issues such as acne and dermatitis, as well as increasing hair growth and symptoms related to the menstrual cycle, including cramps, moodiness, cravings and hot flushes.t
Cinnamon is known for its connection to balancing blood sugar levels, supporting insulin resistance and boosting metabolism/ weight loss (which is one of the keys to managing PCOS)
And a recent study in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology has indicated that "cinnamon improves menstrual cyclicity in women with polycystic ovary syndrome." This study also indicated that cinnamon might help to increase pregnancy rates in those with PCOS too.
9. RASPBERRY LEAF
Raspberry Leaf is well known for its powerful ability to help increase fertility, and is backed up by some great studies. Drinking raspberry leaf tea is thought to be effective in clearing out any congestion and blockages in the ovaries and uterus, which help keep everything moving and functioning.
10. GINGER ROOT
Ginger has been used to help treat PCOS before medical professionals even knew what PCOS was!
It is known for its many benefits, reducing nausea and helping to ease any pain associated with the menstrual cycle. It is also believed to have anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to help lower blood sugar levels, which is essential to regulating insulin levels and hormone balance for PCOS. Drink it as part of a herbal tea
Vitex (Chaste Tree Berry) is considered to be one of the most powerful herbs for women's fertility and menstrual health. I have reviewed a number of studies and testimonials of Vitex and its ability to help aid menstrual health. Vitex supports hormonal balance in the body by having an effect on the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis (hormonal feedback loop), correcting the problem at the source.
Essentially, Vitex promotes progesterone by promoting ovulation. It does this by preventing your pituitary gland from making too much prolactin; basically, less prolactin means better ovulation! Vitex also helps to calm your nervous system and can be helpful for premenstrual anxiety and sleep problems.
*Note that Vitex is an incredibly powerful herb and some women actually find it aggravates their symptoms rather than reducing them (this was one of the reasons I choose not to include it in my Cysterhood tea) and it is also not suitable for women using hormonal birth control.
12. ALFALFA LEAF
Alfalfa leaf helps the body detoxify for optimal hormonal balance and prepare the body for conception. Alfalfa is very nutritious, high in vitamins and minerals, contains some phytoestrogens, and aids in protecting against xenohormones. It also helps in reducing vaginal atrophy and dryness and prepares the body for pregnancy.
Modern herbalists often use alfalfa leaf to help women with disorders related to hormonal imbalance.
Due to its adaptogenic qualities (ability to maintain healthy hormonal levels), alfalfa is used as a natural treatment for PCOS, and other disorders such as hot flashes during menopause, fibrocystic breasts, osteoporosis, fibroids and premenstrual tension. This can be taken as a tea
13. WHITE PEONY
Another very popular herb for women with PCOS. Like Vitex, is White Peony. It has been shown to help increase low progesterone, reduce elevated androgens and help regulate both estrogen and prolactin levels! Amazing!
Most clinical trials have found that White Peony works best when combined with Licorice Root- especially for relaxing muscles, reducing painful menstruation, as well as lowering serum and free testosterone levels in women with PCOS.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, White peony is often combined with licorice for maximum benefit, and I happen to agree, which is why licorice is also on this list.
I've been taking zinc since before I was diagnosed with PCOS, and I think it is one of the reasons many of my symptoms were kept to a minimum.
Zinc is an essential trace metal that is required for over 300 enzyme functions and is involved in insulin signalling by inhibiting the enzyme protein tyrosine phosphatase, leading to increased phosphorylation of the insulin receptor.
Studies show that zinc deficiency affects ovulation, as well as having effects on estrogen levels and the menstrual cycle.
Zinc also helps to reduce PMS symptoms, increase fertility levels, minimise hair loss and hirsutism, clear up the skin (Zinc really helped my skin, and my nails grew so long!) and helps lowers insulin ..... it's basically a little miracle worker so make sure you check out zinc!
15. VITAMIN B12
Vitamin B12 is another supplement I have been taking for quite a while, mostly due to my plant-based diet.
It is the only vitamin that is not present in a plant-based diet, and it is vital for the body's functioning, so it's very important to supplement your diet if you are vegan or vegetarian. B12 is needed for red blood cell formation, neurological function and DNA formation.
One of the biggest symptoms I had when I came off 'the Pill' was memory loss; it was bizarre! However, many naturopaths and doctors are now reporting this as a common symptom of PCOS and think it is linked to a B12 deficiency.
Once found this out, I increased my B12 dose, and within a month, I stopped having memory issues and felt like I had a lot more energy too!
This one was, surprisingly, a HUGE game-changer for me.
I came across inositol being used for PCOS on a couple of blogs and decided to do a bit more research into it. I was a bit sceptical at first because I hadn't heard of it before, and there didn't seem to be a huge number of studies on it.
However, the studies I did showed incredible results and countless success stories, so I figured it was worth trying!
Inositol is a nutrient found in fruits, beans, grains, and nuts and is also made by the body. Studies suggest that women with PCOS have a problem converting inositol effectively, which affects the way their bodies uses insulin and its ability to promote normal hormone levels, regular menstrual cycles and normal ovarian function.
Supplementing with inositol helps to support all this, whilst also supporting normal lipid levels, and promoting egg quality in women trying to conceive.
To cut a long story short, I took inositol for four days, and after nearly a full year of having no periods I GOT A PERIOD!!!!! ... not sure if it was a combination of everything else I was doing, but I like to think it contributed!
UPDATE ON INOSITOL:
I now take The Smoo, rather than Ovasitol as it was very expensive and Smoo is a new product on the market which has the inositol in it, PLUS a bunch of other great vitamins in it as well. It means I am getting my vitamin hit in one go, and it is a lot cheaper and was specifically made by a woman with a PCOS for PCOS #winning
For those wanting to try The Smoo you can use my code: Pcostowellness for 15% off or use this link
Magnesium is a mineral that is found in body and also found naturally in many foods. It is crucial when it comes to muscle and nerve function, metabolism, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure Many women with PCOS are deficient in magnesium, especially if you have ever taken birth control pills. Magnesium is also great for women with PCOS a it has been shown to improve insulin resistance, decrease the risk for developing diabetes, and improve inflammation. Sources of Magnesium include nuts, seeds, legumes, grains. Spinach, potatoes and raw cacao
Folate is a form of B9 that is naturally found in food.
lt is highly important for the formation of red blood cells, nerve function and the formation of DNA.
It has also been found to help women with PCOS who may be suffering from irregular cycles and infertility.
Studies have also shown that 5 grams of folate improved blood sugar control and lipid levels and lowered inflammatory markers in women with PCOS
However it is important to note here that folate is not the same as folic acid.
Folate is the form of vitamin B9 that is found in foods, such as leafy greens. Folic acid is the synthetic form of the vitamin.
This is important because when it comes to supplementing folate using the synthetic form of folic acid up to 50% of people have a variant in the MTHFR (methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase) gene. This variant is associated with decreased ability to convert folic acid to folate.
If you do have a MTHFR variation, it is really important that you take methylfolate (or L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate) especially if you are trying to get pregnant. (This can be tested for prior to getting pregnant if you like)
Food sources include: beans, legumes, vegetables such as asparagus, beets, spinach, broccoli, peas, cabbage, collard greens and some fruits like mangos and oranges.
19. VITAMIN D
Vitamin D, which is also also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ helps to regulate our reproductive hormones such as anti-mullerian hormone (AMH), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), and progesterone levels.
It also helps to support blood sugar balance, fertility, insulin regulation, decreased hyperandrogenism muscle function, immunity, respiratory system and brain development.
67–85% of women with PCOS are thought to be deficient in Vitamin D and unfortunately you can not get enough Vitamin D from food alone. The best source of Vitamin D is 10-15 mins of sunshine (without sunblock) everyday.
20. MONGOLIAN SEA BUCKTHORN
Mongolian Sea buckthorn has 18 amino acids, 22 fatty acids (omega 7, 9, 6, 3), 36 types of flavonoids, 11 minerals (calcium, iron, zinc, etc.), provitamins, strong antioxidants, 14 types of vitamins (A, K, C, D, P, B), phenols, and 42 types of lipid.
Yes its a serious PCOS healing powerhouse!
Its also great for skin, depression, inflammatory, vaginal dryness, digestion and balancing sugar levels. Amazzzzing!
To learn more about my powerful hormone balancing herbal blend CYSTERHOOD tea, check it out here
specifically developed this tea with a herbalist to help combat the MANY of PCOS
* This blog post is about what I have tried and what has worked for me.
Please make sure you do your own research on herbs and supplements before taking them and seek advice from a medical professional.
Written by Brigitte Warne