Is the constant battle with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) wearing you thin? Affecting 1 out 10 women in the childbearing age bracket, PCOS or PCOD is dubbed a global epidemic today.1 No cure exists for PCOS in conventional medicine and treatment usually focuses on tackling symptoms and associated problems, whether irregular periods, excessive hair growth, and fertility issues. In some cases, surgical procedures may also be recommended to treat infertility. For those who are overweight, weight loss and a balanced healthy diet may also make a difference.2 If the side effects of conventional medication or the constant ups and downs of grappling with PCOS are getting to you, a host of natural remedies can help you get a grip on this condition.
From an irregular menstrual cycle and excessive hair growth on areas like your chin or face to thinning hair on the scalp and weight gain, PCOS can manifest in many ways. This medical condition can also cause fertility issues and cysts in the ovaries. Hormonal imbalance, specifically because of high levels of male hormones and insulin, is thought to play a role in the development of PCOS.
While ayurveda doesn’t strictly describe a condition that matches PCOS, it can broadly fall under artava dusti (problems with the menstrual cycle) and yonirogas (uterine disorders). Artava dusti is mainly caused by mityachara (improper lifestyle and dietary habits) or beeja dosha (genetic problems). It is a disorder that involves an imbalance of kapha (the bodily humor representing mass) and later on vata (the bodily humor representing flow).3 4 Ayurveda’s answer to these problems is a holistic approach that focuses on wellness therapies, herbal formulations, diet, and exercise. The objective is to balance the doshas and expel toxins (ama) and waste products (mala) that have accumulated in the body. Individual treatment is planned on the basis of the symptoms you face and their severity. The duration of treatment may vary from a couple of weeks to months. Some lifestyle interventions, however, will have to be ongoing.
An ayurvedic doctor will chart a treatment plan for you that includes elements such as:
1. Panchakarma To Cleanse And Purify The Body: Shodhana Chikitsa
Panchakarma procedures are used to detoxify the body and correct metabolic or hormonal problems related to PCOS. They also remove excess mala and ama from the body, helping recalibrate the endocrine system. An ayurvedic doctor will select and combine some of the following therapies into a regimen based on individual needs.
- Snehana and swedana: These are two pre-panchakarma processes. During snehana (oleation), medicated ghee or oils are to be consumed by the patient in specific doses. In some cases, the medicated lipids may also be administered by the nose (nasya) or through the urethral, vaginal, or anal passages (vasti). Oil pulling and head and body massage with oil are also part of the process. This helps lubricate and soften tissues so they become more receptive to panchakarma. This is followed by swedana or steam baths.
- Udvartana: It involves a massage with herbal pastes and oils to detox the body. Udvartana improves blood circulation, increases lymphatic drainage, and boosts fat metabolism.
- Vamana: This is a therapeutic vomiting used for kapha disorders and aims at correcting the imbalance. Herbs such as licorice, madanphala, and calamus root are combined in a tea and administered to induce vomiting.
- Virechana: This is another method of purgation using herbs like trivrit and has been found to help tackle problems like absence of menstruation in women with PCOS.5
- Vasti: This involves the administration of a medicated enema. While anuravasana vasti is an enema given via the anal passage, the more common and effective form of vasti for PCOS is uttara vasti. Here, a liquid herbal medicine is administered through the vaginal passage. This has a purifying effect and helps boost menstrual flow and improve follicular maturity. It also pacifies vitiated apana vayu – this type of vata is involved in the outward and downward flow of energy and affects menstruation and elimination. Administration of oil of shatapushpa during uttara vasti has been found to help tackle PCOS.6
2. Herbal Remedies To Alleviate And Correct Imbalances: Shamana Chikitsa
In tandem with the panchakarma therapy, many herbal remedies are prescribed for consumption. The nature and dosage of the remedies will vary according to the stage of treatment.
Triphala Kwatha, Chandraprabha, And Manibhadra For Purification
Ayurvedic treatment with herbal remedies also starts with medicinal formulations that have a purifying effect on the body. When dealing with PCOS, herbs that are favorable to the functioning of the female reproductive system are used. Examples of ayurvedic medicines taken at this stage include:
- Triphala kwatha, which is a decoction of haritaki (Terminalia chebula), bibhitaki (Belliric myrobalan), and amalaki (Phyllanthus emblica)
- Chandraprabha, which contains a range of over 40 beneficial ingredients including camphor (Cinnamomum camphora), vacha (Acorus calamus), guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia), and musta (Cyperus rotundus).
- Manibhadra, which contains vidanga (Embelia ribes), amalaki or Indian gooseberry (Phyllanthus emblica), haritaki (Terminalia chebula), trivrit (Operculina turpethum), and jaggery.
Shatavari, Shatapushpa, And Krishna Jeeraka To Strengthen The Reproductive System
After purification, the next step involves taking herbal remedies that boost the functioning of the reproductive system. Examples include:
- Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) may be used to strengthen and balance the menstrual system and regulate menstrual flow. It can also help correct hormonal imbalance and improve follicular maturity.
- The seeds of shatapushpa (Peucedanum graveloens) and oil of krishna jeeraka (Nigella sativa) and sahachara (Barleria prionits) help stimulate follicular maturity and destroy ovarian cysts.
- Shatapushpa can also help tackle menstrual irregularity and menstrual cramps.7
Haridra, Maricha, And Guggulu To Tackle Obesity And Boost Metabolism
A group of herbs and spices classified as “lekhanīya” is used in ayurveda to reduce obesity and “thin the tissues.” These are recommended for women with PCOS who grapple with metabolic problems. Examples of these include apamarga (Achyranthes aspera), turmeric (Curcuma longa), maricha or black pepper (Piper nigrum), and guggulu (Commiphora mukul).8
Herbal remedies used during the course of ayurvedic treatment are not restricted to these herbs, though. Other beneficial ingredients like fenugreek, ashwagandha, holy basil, cinnamon etc. may also be part of formulations prescribed to you.
3. Diet Or Ahara To Lose Weight And Manage PCOS In The Long Term
Long-term management of PCOS also calls for dietary changes that can help keep your weight under control and pre-empt metabolic problems like insulin resistance and even diabetes. Ayurveda uses “apatarpana” or “depleting treatments” to tackle obesity. The focus is on a high-fiber, low glycemic index carb diet. In general, avoid high glycemic index foods like white rice, potatoes, and refined flour and incorporate whole grains and antioxidant-rich vegetables. Whole grains like yava (barley), priyangu (foxtail millet), shyamak (Japanese millet), and cheenak (proso millet) are especially useful to tackle excessive body weight associated with PCOS. Besides these, takra (fresh buttermilk) and madhu (honey), which are rich in nutrients, are to be had regularly. Fruits such as papaya and pineapple are also used to stimulate digestion.
Foods like sprouts, dried fruits and nuts, and oily fish come highly recommended for weight management and hormonal balance. Milk is believed to interfere with the processing of testosterone and is to be replaced with buttermilk in the diet. Processed and refined foods must be avoided at all costs. In addition, you need to avoid oily foods and refrain from having food before the previous meal is completely digested.9 10
4. Yoga To Maintain Weight And Manage Stress
It is widely recognized that lifestyle interventions like exercise can help women with PCOS. But yoga may be even more effective, helping tackle problems ranging from mood swings to weight issues and working as a holistic mind–body therapy. One study compared the effect of conventional physical exercise and yoga on girls between the ages of 15 and 18 years who had PCOS. A yoga program that consisted of suryanamaskar, asanas, pranayama, and meditation, undertaken for an hour a day for 12 weeks, was found to be more effective at improving lipid, glucose, and insulin resistance values than a conventional exercise regimen. Anxiety levels also dropped more significantly in the yoga group.11 12
Yoga asanas that focus on the pelvic area, helping opening it up, are especially useful for women with PCOS. Suryanamaskar (sun salutations) and asanas such as salabhasana (butterfly pose), supta badhakonasana (reclining butterfly pose) Bharadvajasana (Bharadvaja’s twist), chakki chalanasana (moving the grinding wheel), and shavasana (corpse pose) are simple exercises that work on the pelvic area, stimulate the reproductive organs, and help the body relax. Regular practice can also help with systematic weight loss. Pranayama techniques such as nadi shodhan (alternate nostril breathing) and bhramri (bee pranayama) must also be practiced every day.13
A holistic way of life, supported by a wholesome diet and relaxation techniques including yoga, can go a long way in reinforcing the benefits you get from ayurvedic therapies for PCOS. The key is to treat yourself well and keep at it!
|↑1||Polycystic ovary syndrome. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.|
|↑2||Polycystic ovary syndrome. National Health Service.|
|↑3||Ashwini, N. “Conceptual Analysis of PCOS in Ayurveda.” International Journal of Ayurveda 1, no. 01 (2017).|
|↑4, ↑10||Saroj Kumari et al: A Critical Review On Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. International Ayurvedic Medical Journal: 3 (2015).|
|↑5||Jeeth, Asha. “ROLE OF VIRECHANA IN ANARTAVA–A CASE STUDY.” Journal of Ayurveda and Holistic Medicine (JAHM) 2, no. 7 (2014): 41-42.|
|↑6||Siriwardene, SA Dayani, LP A. Karunathilaka, N. D. Kodituwakku, and Y. A. U. D. Karunarathne. “Clinical efficacy of Ayurveda treatment regimen on Subfertility with poly cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).” Ayu 31, no. 1 (2010): 24.|
|↑7||Siriwardene, SA Dayani, LP A. Karunathilaka, N. D. Kodituwakku, and Y. A. U. D. Karunarathne. “Clinical efficacy of Ayurveda treatment regimen on Subfertility with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).” Ayu 31, no. 1 (2010): 24.|
|↑8||Ranade, Anagha, and Rabinarayan Acharya. “AYURVEDIC MANAGEMENT OF AARTAVA KSHAYA WSR POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME–A CRITICAL REVIEW.”|
|↑9, ↑12||Ranade, Anagha, and Rabinarayan Acharya. “AYURVEDIC MANAGEMENT OF AARTAVA KSHAYA WSR POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME–A CRITICAL REVIEW.”|
|↑11||Nidhi, Ram, Venkatram Padmalatha, Raghuram Nagarathna, and Amritanshu Ram. “Effect of a yoga program on glucose metabolism and blood lipid levels in adolescent girls with polycystic ovary syndrome.” International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics 118, no. 1 (2012): 37-41.|
|↑13||Yoga Can Help PCOS. Art of Living.|