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Treating Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Naturally

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or “multiple ovarian cysts” affect many teenage girls and adult women.   PCOS often begins shortly after puberty and can persist for years.  It can be a frustrating, and sometimes painful condition.  It can also make becoming pregnant difficult.  However, there are natural treatment options available that are safe and effective even for teenaged girls.

What are ovarian cysts?

Ovarian cysts are formed when ovulation doesn’t occur as it is supposed to.  Within each ovary there are sacs called follicles that contain eggs.  Normally, one or more eggs are released during each menstrual cycle – this is ovulation.  In PCOS the eggs within the follicles do not mature and are not released from the ovaries.  Instead, they form small cysts in the ovary – ovarian cysts.

How do I know if I have PCOS?

Having ovarian cysts is not enough for a diagnosis of polycystic ovaries.  You also must have other symptoms of PCOS. Typically a combination of the following symptoms is present:

  • Ovarian cysts
  • No menstrual cycle, irregular or infrequent menstrual cycles
  • No ovulation
  • Infertility
  • Hair growth on the upper lip or chin
  • Hair loss from the head
  • Acne
  • Body fat around the waistline
  • Dark skin under the armpits, neck, groin or breasts

If you have symptoms of PCOS there are laboratory tests and ultrasound studies that should be done before a diagnosis of PCOS is made.

What causes PCOS?

PCOS is caused by hormonal imbalances.  An imbalance in a number of different hormones can lead to symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome.  Imbalances in the pituitary, ovaries, pancreatic and adrenal hormones have all been linked to PCOS.  Insulin resistance (a lack of responsiveness to insulin in the cells of your body) is an important factor in the development of PCOS.  Hormone testing should be done to identify your personal imbalances.

PCOS also has a genetic component – if a family member has it (your mother, aunt or grandmother) then you are more likely to develop it.

What treatments are available for PCOS?

With proper diagnosis and treatment, most PCOS symptoms can be effectively managed or eliminated.  The goals for PCOS treatment are to balance hormone levels, decrease insulin resistance and maintain a healthy body weight.

Most Medical Doctors will prescribe a daily birth control pill to manage PCOS.  This approach uses synthetic hormones to artificially ‘balance’ the body’s hormones.  Naturopathic Doctors use diet, vitamins, minerals, herbs and natural supplements to correct the body’s balance and teach it how to maintain balance without using drugs.

Diet and Lifestyle

Flax seeds are an excellent source of fiber and omega 3s

Because of the association between being overweight and having PCOS it is important to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.  Losing as little as 5% of body weight can correct insulin resistance and decrease elevated hormone levels (specifically testosterone).

Select foods that are low on the glycemic index and high in fiber to decrease insulin resistance.  Daily exercise is also important for insulin resistance.  A daily fiber supplement can help some people meet their daily fiber goals.  Look for a fiber made from psyllium, guar gum or pectin.

Consider taking an omega 3 supplement (either fish oil or flax seed oil) and avoid consuming saturated fats.  For more information on omega 3 fatty acids read the article here.

Vitamins and minerals

Vitamin B6 can help balance prolactin levels, which are often elevated in PCOS.  B vitamins are also necessary for dopamine synthesis and adrenal hormone production.

Chromium is necessary for proper blood sugar regulation.  Taking chromium increases the uptake of glucose into cells, decreasing insulin resistance.

Herbs (Botanicals)

Vitex agnus castus

Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is a very effective hormone balancer for PCOS.  Saw palmetto decreases the conversion of testosterone to its more biologically active form (dihydroxytestosterone or DHT).  This results in lower levels of circulating testosterone.  Saw palmetto is effective in addressing symptoms of acne, hair loss, and facial hair growth.

Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus) is another herb used for PCOS.  Chasteberry inhibits prolactin synthesis and raises progesterone levels restoring balance to two important hormones involved in the menstrual cycle.  Low progesterone levels are very common during puberty and are known to contribute to the formation of ovarian cysts.

Natural supplements

Additional natural supplements may be prescribed by your Naturopathic Doctor to address your individual imbalances.  One natural supplement that is often used for PCOS is inositol (d-chiro-inositol).  A deficiency of inositol is often seen in women with PCOS.  Inositol has many benefits for PCOS – it decreases insulin and insulin resistance, decreases testosterone levels and can help promote regular ovulation.


Natural treatment of PCOS can take some time, and a focused effort.  A minimum of three menstrual cycles is usually needed to allow for the hormones to become balanced.  Your Naturopathic Doctor will provide you with support and can modify your treatment plan as needed based on your symptoms.  Remember to inform your Naturopathic Doctor if you begin taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications during your treatment because there can be significant interactions between natural supplements and drugs.


The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only.  It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider.  Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.


Lisa Watson

Dr. Lisa Watson is a Naturopathic Doctor practicing in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She is a passionate writer and speaker and encourages her patients and readers to embrace their full, amazing, health potential. You can follow Dr. Watson on twitter at @drlisawatson or contact her at

18 thoughts on “Treating Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Naturally

  1. Follow the dietary suggestions in this article – eat less refined grains, avoid sugar. Talk to a Naturopathic Doctor or other qualified health care provider to get help with blood sugar balance and hormone balancing. You can get better! ~Lisa

  2. Yes. Women can take saw palmetto. In women it is used typically to treat hyperandrogenism – high levels of testosterone or dihydrotestosterone. It acts as a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor, supporting the natural balance in the body between estrogen and testosterone. I would suggest discussing this treatment option with your Naturopath to be sure it’s right for you.
    ~ Lisa

  3. Thank you for reading! I’m happy to share good quality research and information to help you make informed, empowered decisions on your health!

  4. I am so encouraged after reading your posts. ….tears streaming…. My youngest daughter has just been diagnosed and she is not feeling well at all with the nausea. I want to take her to a naturopathic physician and may even travel to Toronto!!!

  5. Would you suggest taking both the saw palmetto and chaste berry together? I’ve been tested and have both very high testosterone levels and very low (post menopausal low levels at 29 years old, my estrogen is less than .01 percent) I hate taking prescriptions unless I have to. Thanks so much for the info btw!

  6. Yes. I often recommend them together, but your best bet is to work with a naturopath who can tailor a plan directly to your needs. Sometimes you need to take the chaste berry at specific times of the month for optimal outcomes. And remember – the most important thing you can do for PCOS is to optimize your diet and move your body every day! ~Dr. Lisa

  7. I am suffering pcos from last 6 years please help me my periodic cycle is after 2 or three month please recommend me some solution of my loss on skull and access hair on face and acne problem

  8. What do you recommend for pattern hair loss? I am trying to get pregnant so my dermotrologist didn’t recommend anything.

  9. With PCOS most of the symptoms result from high testosterone levels. But you need to understand what the underlying cause is. Check your PCOS type with this article here – – and talk to your naturopath about the appropriate treatments for you.
    ~Dr. Lisa

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