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PCOS related infertility & Chinese medicine

September is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Month

with the National Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Association

two halves of an open pomegranate on a pink background

PCOS is a complex endocrine and metabolic syndrome that affects 5% – 10% of women.

Patients present small ovarian cysts, irregular cycles, facial hair growth, acne, and metabolic problems leading to weight gain. The cysts cause an increase of male sex hormones, disturbing ovulation and leading to infertility.

In this article, we will go over what acupuncture & integrative medicine can do for PCOS.

Symptoms of PCOS

woman wearing pink shirt is carrying a drawing of a uterus and ovaries appearing to suffer from PCOS

Most women with PCOS ovulate infrequently or not at all. Women with PCOS also might experience:

  • Irregular Periods

  • Heavy or painful periods

  • Insulin resistance

  • Weight gain

  • Excess hair on body and face

  • Thinning hair on head

  • Acne, oily skin

  • Abdominal bloating

Insulin resistance & metabolism

Insulin resistance is thought to be a key part of the development of PCOS.

About 85% of women with PCOS are insulin resistant, causing them to be at risk for Type 2 Diabetes.

Sometimes women are prescribed Metformin to lower insulin and blood sugar levels.People who suffer from PCOS also have a higher risk of developing hypertension and are at an increased risk of heart disease.

Insulin resistance means that the body doesn't respond well to insulin, the hormone that keeps blood glucose levels in a safe range.

Higher levels of insulin in the body increase the production of androgens (male-hormones), such as testosterone, in the ovaries.

This can affect the function of the ovaries, such as ovulation and impact fertility. Managing insulin resistance is therefore a key part of managing PCOS.

Supplements & Diet

a teaspoon containing a white powder on a background of colored pills


The greatest amount of research into any natural therapy in PCOS management has been on inositol, a vitamin-like substance.

Available as a supplement, inositol occurs naturally in the human body, but is also present in many foods, particularly grains, nuts and fruit. (read our article on seed cycling for fertility and ovulation)

Inositol helps blood glucose control and can make body cells more sensitive to insulin.

A 2018 review of research found that ovulation rates and menstrual cycles appear to improve with inositol in women with PCOS.[link]

Many of the studies in the review tested nutrient combinations, such as inositol and folate. Studies that tested inositol by itself were not available.


It is generally agreed that chromium improves the action of insulin in the body, but there are only a few small studies into the effects of chromium in women with PCOS.

Control body weight

Studies have shown that losing just 10% of your body weight can result in normal ovulation in people with PCOS

Anti-oxydants, low carbs and intermittent fasting

  • Cut down on animal fats and increase omega-3 essential fatty acids

  • Eat a wide range of organic fruits, vegetables, and low-fat protein such as chicken, fish, and beans.

  • Reduce your blood sugar by lowering your carbohydrate intake, or consider intermittent fasting for


Take N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) to help reduce circulating testosterone, cholesterol, plasma triglycerides, low-density lipoproteins, and insulin.

Acupuncture & Chinese herbs for PCOS

When working with a patient who is experiencing reproductive and hormonal problems, a TCM provider will take into consideration the lab results of blood tests showing hormone levels, but will also be looking for clues as to what is happening throughout the organ systems of the body.

Dampness, Phlegm & Kidney deficiency

Most clinical manifestations of PCOS arise from patterns of too much Dampness and Phlegm in the reproductive organs.

These pathogens cause the fluid-filled cysts on the ovaries and excess dampness also causes weight gain. Kidney deficiency is what contributes to the imbalances in hormone production.

Shao Yao Gan Cao Tang


The traditional Chinese medicine formula made with of peony (Paeonia lactiflora) and licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), is often prescribed by herbalists for the management of infertility in women with PCOS.

It is thought that the herbal formula helps to convert testosterone (which is increased in PCOS) to estrogen.

Other Herbs (do NOT self medicate)

  • Zao Jiao Ci 皂角刺: has the ability to dissolve the waxy coat around the ovarian cysts. We often include it in our custom-made formulas for PCOS

  • Yi Mu Cao  益母草, Chinese motherwort: helps promote blood flow to regulate menses, it can also improve symptoms of diabetes

  • Yan Hu Suo 延胡索: This is one of the most efficient pain killers in Chinese medicine. Its analgesic effects have been well studied. This herb is able to reduce cramps,

See our article here for 8 herbs that treat painful periods and menstrual cramps

Acupuncture restores ovulation

In the past few decades, it has become increasingly common for patients to seek out acupuncture to help address infertility due to PCOS, both on its own and as an adjunct to Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART).

Studies have shown that acupuncture and herbal supplementation used in concert with infertility procedures such as Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) improve outcomes.

Read our article here about acupuncture for IVF.

During a session, your practitioner will address your unique medical history and precise concerns, so do not hesitate and talk to your acupuncturist !

No matter where you are in your fertility, pregnancy & mothering journey,

if you need support, we can help.

In addition to our own team of fertility & women's health acupuncturists, we are well-connected within the Los Angeles- Pasadena area community to help you

find the right integrative and holistic care for you.

On our website, you can learn more about our services, and book an appointment.

If you have more questions please call our front desk, at 626-841-2991, or email us.


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