- Irregular period cycles
- Heavy periods
- Cysts on the ovaries (which would be visible in an ultrasound scan)
- Hirsutism or excess body and facial hair
- Male-pattern baldness or thinning hair on the crown
- Excess body weight
- Abdominal fat
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) affects around 1 in 10 women of childbearing age (18–44 years), including girls who haven’t reached puberty yet.1 Women suffering from PCOS have an abnormally high level of male hormones (androgens), specifically testosterone, which causes havoc in the endocrine system. Some women have high levels of prolactin, the milk-producing hormone, and low levels of progesterone, the hormone responsible for menses and maintaining pregnancy. PCOS patients may even have insulin resistance. As the combination of too much androgens and too little progesterone affects ovulation, PCOS patients have irregular or painful periods and difficult pregnancies.
Unfortunately, PCOS does not have a straightforward cure and has to be managed. Conventional medication and its side effects are prompting women to turn to alternative remedies such as Ayurveda. One viable solution is to use ashwagandha
1. Improves Insulin Resistance
The havoc due to the surge and fall of hormones is integral to PCOS, and insulin is a major player in this disequilibrium. Many studies emphasize a relationship between insulin resistance and PCOS.
PCOS patients have excess insulin which increases the production of testosterone, disturbing the period cycle and causing acne and hairiness. Ashwagandha helps the body use up insulin efficiently.
When your body has excess insulin, the ovaries produce more of the male hormone testosterone, leading to menstrual cycle disturbances. Extra testosterone circulating in the female body can cause acne and hirsutism. High insulin levels also cause the body to store more fat, especially around the abdomen. This is a common sign in PCOS.2
Controlling insulin levels can, to a large extent, reverse some of the
2. Lowers Stress
It is thought that PCOS is more common now because a stressful lifestyle contributes to and magnifies its symptoms. The body produces the hormone cortisol in response to stress. When the cortisol levels become abnormally high, other hormones drop below the healthy level and the number of cell-damaging free radicals increases. Studies show that ashwagandha can help lower cortisol levels by up to 28%.5 6
[expert_opinion expertname=’drkedar’ opinion=”Considering its spectrum of benefits, ashwagandha is undoubtedly one of the best Rasayana herbs (rejuvenators) of Ayurveda. It helps our hormones and neurotransmitters and is very effective for PCOS and sleep disorders.”]
3. Treats Infertility And Irregular Menstrual Cycles
PCOS is the most common cause of infertility in women as it suppresses ovulation. A clinical study found that a polyherbal preparation which included 25 mg ashwagandha could successfully induce ovulation. It could also correct irregular menstrual cycles and reduce menstrual pain.7 Do note that ashwagandha can do this in combination with other herbs and not alone.
[expert_opinion expertname=’sheetalsuvarna’ opinion=”Vitiated Apana Vata localized in the lower abdomen is one of the main factors addressed in reproductive issues.
4. Treats Depression And Anxiety
PCOS can also cause anxiety and depression in women either due to hormonal disturbances or due to the embarrassing physical changes like excess body hair or weight gain that can occur with this condition.
Ashwagandha can reduce stress by lowering cortisol levels by up to 28% and boost mood-lifting hormones.
Ashwagandha activates GABA receptors in the brain. GABA (gamma amionobutyric acid) is a neurotransmitter in the central nervous systems that blocks signals. This super herb therefore helps inhibit the signals caused by stress and relieves anxiety.8 Moreover, ashwagandha roots also contain tryptophan, which is the building block of serotonin, the mood-lifting hormone.9
Ashwagandha can treat depression and anxiety as effectively as standard prescription drugs like lorazepam and imipramine.
5. Fights Cell Damage By Free Radicals
Research has found that PCOS may be related to oxidative stress. Stress and other environmental toxins generates free radicals. Being highly reactive, these free radicals start damaging your body cells by oxidizing them. Your body has a store of natural antioxidants to fight free radicals, but when there are many more free radicals than your body can fight, it is under oxidative stress. Research suggests that antioxidants may stall the development of PCOS.10
Not only does ashwagandha fight free radicals, it enables your immune system to fight them too.
Given our fast-paced lifestyles, it is impossible to escape the environmental factors of oxidative stress like pollution, man-made chemicals, heavy metals, pesticides, and
6. Reduces Weight Gain
Stress can make you bulk up. And as you already know, ashwagandha can reduce stress. It can also boost your metabolism and increase insulin sensitivity. This in turn will help you utilize glucose to produce energy and not store it away as fat. It also increases immune function and keeps the process of weight loss unhindered. Here’s how ashwagandha helps you lose weight.
7. Relieves Fatigue And Insomnia
In Ayurveda, ashwagandha is used as an essential tonic to improve overall health, strength, and vigor and to counter lethargy and fatigue. It is also the recommended herb for inducing restorative sleep. On one hand, it reduces stress. On the other, it makes your body more
Living With PCOS
Don’t self-medicate. Consult an Ayurvedic practitioner. The safe dosage can be determined only by a practitioner.
Ashwagandha can undoubtedly help with many aspects of PCOS, but it has to work in tandem with other lifestyle changes like eating healthy, reducing stress inducers in your life, and giving your body the exercise it requires. Cutting down on processed foods and having more whole-grain products, fruits, vegetables, and lean meats can also help to lower blood glucose and normalize hormone levels in your body.
[expert_opinion expertname=’kristenschneider’ opinion=”PCOS is an imbalance of the second chakra. The second chakra is associated with creativity, passion, and nourishment. A blockage in this area may be illustrative of a block in our lives. We benefit by coupling herbs with deep inward reflections.”]
Remember, PCOS can be managed and in this ashwagandha can prove a great ally. But do note that the perfect dosage is critical because ashwagandha has been seen to increase testosterone levels in men. Having too much may have side effects, including abortion. This is why you must seek the help of an experienced Ayurvedic practitioner who will prescribe the dose that suits your body.
|↑1||How many people are affected or at risk for PCOS?. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.|
|↑2||Homburg, Roy. “Should patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome be treated with metformin? A note of cautious optimism.” Human Reproduction 17, no. 4 (2002): 853-856.|
|↑3||Anwer, Tarique, Manju Sharma, Krishna Kolappa Pillai, and Muzaffar Iqbal. “Effect of Withania somnifera on Insulin Sensitivity in Non‐Insulin‐Dependent Diabetes Mellitus Rats.” Basic & clinical pharmacology & toxicology 102, no. 6 (2008): 498-503.|
|↑4||Andallu, B., and B. Radhika. “Hypoglycemic, diuretic and hypocholesterolemic effect of winter cherry (Withania somnifera, Dunal) root.” Indian Journal of Experimental Biology 38, no. 6 (2000): 607-609.|
|↑5||Houston, Mark. “A Standardized Withania Somnifera Extract Significantly Reduces Stress-Related Parameters in Chronically Stressed Humans: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled
|↑6||K. Chandrasekhar, Jyoti Kapoor, and Sridhar Anishetty, “A Prospective, Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Safety and Efficacy of a High-Concentration Full-Spectrum Extract of Ashwagandha Root in Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Adults”, Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine 34 (2012): 266-262. doi:10.4103/0253-7176.106022|
|↑7||Parveen, Sanjeeda, and Shabnam Ansari. “Testo Induced Ovulation Successfully in Women of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.” Indo American Journal of Pharmaceutical Research 5, no. 6 (2015): 2430-2434.|
|↑8||Candelario, Manuel, Erika Cuellar, Jorge Mauricio Reyes-Ruiz, Narek Darabedian, Zhou Feimeng, Ricardo Miledi, Amelia Russo-Neustadt, and Agenor Limon. “Direct evidence for GABAergic activity of Withania somnifera on mammalian ionotropic GABA A and GABAρ receptors.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 171 (2015): 264-272.|
|↑9||Chauhan, Komal, and Gauri Patil. “Impact of Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) on Mental Health Profile of
|↑10||Zhang, D., W. Y. Luo, H. Liao, C. F. Wang, and Y. Sun. “[The effects of oxidative stress to PCOS].” Sichuan da xue xue bao. Yi xue ban= Journal of Sichuan University. Medical science edition 39, no. 3 (2008): 421-423.|
|↑11||RajaSankar, Srinivasagam, Thamilarasan Manivasagam, and Sankar Surendran. “Ashwagandha leaf extract: a potential agent in treating oxidative damage and physiological abnormalities seen in a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease.” Neuroscience Letters 454, no. 1 (2009): 11-15.|