Polycystic ovaries

The term polycystic ovary syndrome (PCO) was first used in 1935 to describe enlarged ovaries and numerous cysts along with hirsutism (excess facial hair), infertility and amenorrhoea or oligomenorrhoea (an absence of, or reduction in, menstruation) (Am J Obst Gyn, 1935, 29: 181-191).

Now we know that cystic ovaries may occur in various forms: in fertile women without facial hair but with acne, pelvic pain or difficulty controlling temper; in infertile women who menstruate regularly; in women with excessive periods; or in those with painful breasts and nipple tenderness. Again, cysts may be found in ovaries that are normal in size. A link may even exist between polycystic ovaries and the later development of fibroids.

Polycystic ovaries may be diagnosed by laparoscopy or by means of an ultrasound scan. Laboratory tests may show fluctuations in substances such as androstenedione and testosterone, which strongly suggests that polycystic ovaries could be due to a disturbance in the pituitary gland's functioning.

Despite that knowledge, orthodox medical treatment is generally determined by the main presenting complaint, such as hirsutism or infertility.

A well tried and well researched alternative approach is Vitex agnus castus, a Mediterranean shrub. EAC, extract of Agnus castus made from its fruit, apparently has a corpus luteum like effect (Hippokrates, 1954; 25: 717), in that it stimulates progesterone secretion. This has been confirmed by laboratory examination and basal temperature measurement (Deutsche medizinische Wochenschrift, 1954; 79: 1271). It reduces the production of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), and gently increases the secretion of luteinising hormone (LH) and prolactin. EAC does not replace LH, but regulates the production of ovarian hormones. When polycystic ovaries have been detected, excessive bleeding, polymenhorrhoea, persistent acyclic haemorrhages, and similar menstrual disorders can be brought under control by 30 or 40 drops of EAC in water once daily (Deutsche medizinische Wochen-schrift, 1955; 80: 936). (If you find yourself feeling low following treatment, reduce the dosage to 15 to 20 drops.) Premenstrual syndromes may improve as early as from the next cycle (Zeitschrift fuer Allgemeine Medizin, 1981; 56: 295).

My own experience has shown me that uterine fibroids will actually shrink with EAC treatment over six months or more. However, while I have not had success with EAC for submucous myomata, there is evidence that the Oriental herbal remedy Keishi-bukuryo-gan [KBG] (also Kuei-chih-fu-ling-wan, or Gu-zh-jin with fu-ling-a combination of Ramulus cinnamomi cassiae with Sclerotium poriae cocos) will reduce such fibroids.

In a study on 110 patients, these types of KBG shrunk fibroids in 60 per cent of the cases (WDDTY, vol 6, no 4).

These homoeopathic remedies can also be of use: Chlorpromazinum for amenorrhoea, possibly with excessive milk, inflammation of the ovaries and cervix (Brit Hom J, 1965; 2: 102-104); Cobaltum nitricum for bleeding between cycles and lack of libido (Mezger, J, Gestchtete Homeopathtsche Arznetmirrellehre, Heidelberg: Haug Verlag, 1977); Hedera helix for late, shorter and lighter periods, pain in the Fallopian tubes and the left ovary (Stephenson, J, Hahnemannian Provings 1924-1959, Bombay: Roy Publishing House, 1963); and Nepenthe distillatoria for needle like ovarian pains and frigidity (Cahiers de Biotherapie, 1996: 10).

Another possibility is to give acupuncture a try. Although there haven't been any successful human trials, it has successfully treated PCO in mares, cows, sows and bitches (Alan Klide and Shu Kung, Veterinary Acupuncture, U of Penn Press, 1982).

!AHarald Gaier

Harald Gaier is a registered naturopath, homoeopath and osteopath.