Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (or PCOS) is an endocrine (hormonal) disorder. It affects between five and 10% of all women of childbearing age, regardless of race or nationality. Symptoms usually present themselves during puberty but may also begin in the early to mid 20s. Certain symptoms are life long, the others will cease at menopause. As it is a syndrome it has a number of diagnostic symptoms with no single hard and fast diagnostic test. Each woman presents with a different number of symptoms and together they make PCOS.
Possible symptoms include hirsutism (excessive hair growth on the face, chest etc.), hair loss (in a classic male baldness pattern), acne, polycystic ovaries (seen on ultrasound), obesity, infertility or reduced fertility and irregular or absent menstrual periods. In addition women with PCOS appear to be at increased risk of developing various health problems during their lives such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. PCOS develops when the ovaries overproduce androgens (e.g. testosterone), which often results from overproduction of LH (luteinizing hormone), which is produced by the pituitary gland. New research is suggesting that the cause of this overproduction is due to the inability of women to process insulin effectively. It can be hard to diagnose as the symptoms are often treated separately and are often considered unrelated by the sufferer and their GP.
As such a 'whole history' is needed before a series of tests can then confirm other symptoms and rule out other disorders. (PCOS Association of Australia)
Although polycystic ovaries can be one of the symptoms they aren't present in all sufferers, which makes the name confusing. In addition many women have polycystic ovaries without having PCOS. Polycystic ovaries are ones, which contain an excessive number of primordial follicles (tiny fluid filled sacs which contain the eggs). This is a very common condition and it is estimated that about one in three women between the ages of 13-50 years have this condition. The vast majority of patients do not require any treatment although a vast range of treatment options available. (Monash Ultrasound for Women)
Peony's active ingredient seems to be paeoniflorin, which is thought to act directly on the ovary to reduce the production of androgens. There have been studies done to show that when combined with licorice in a 50/50 dosage it can result in a complete remission of PCOS and that it does so by normalising adrenal function and reducing testosterone levels. It is important to use correct dosages. Other herbs that have been shown to be helpful are hops and sarsaparilla. (Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism) Acupuncture is also said to be a very effective treatment in hormonal disorders by stimulating and improving the flow of energy. (PCOS Association of Australia)
As PCOS is thought to be due to problems with the processing of insulin, women are often prescribe a low glycaemic-index diet that stabilises blood sugar levels.
Hops, Sarsaparilla,Licorice and Peony
Complementary Healthcare Counci
For more information, take a look through "Help Yourself: an A-Z of natural cures for common complaints" by Mim Beim and Jan Castorina. It's published by Doubleday and is available through all good bookstores.