Endometriosis, the abnormal growth and function of endometrial tissue, makes a woman's monthly cycle a living hell of abdominal pain and cramps, backache and abnormally heavy, irregular or long menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia) and, in general, just causes a gumming up of the female works.
On the other hand, fibroids - or leiomyomas, in medical-speak - are painless and only make their presence known indirectly through shorter cycles, heavy menstrual bleeding or discomfort, an inability to conceive and a tendency to miscarry.
Medicine has nothing to offer for either condition other than drugs to relieve pain (in the case of endometriosis) or surgery (in the case of fibroids) to remove the entire womb or just the fibroids themselves. But neither offers a permanent cure; even after surgery, the fibroids often return. Natural medicine, however, has a range of remedies that can remove much of the discomfort of these two bugbears of womanhood.
Herbals and homoeopathy
The extract of the fruit of Vitex agnus castus (EAC), taken over a period of seven or eight months, has been shown to have a beneficial effect on heavy periods, persistent acyclical bleeding, endometriotic and pelvic pain, uterine fibroids of all varieties and menstrual dysfunction due to deficiency of progesterone (Hippokrates, 1954; 25: 717).
The effectiveness of agnus castus in treating these conditions has been scientifically validated by a number of laboratory and clinical studies (Deutsche Med Wochenschr, 1954; 79: 1271). This remarkable herb has been shown to reduce the production of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) in the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland and to gently increase secretion of luteinising hormone (LH) and prolactin - an effect that increases with the size of the dose.
EAC is not a female 'plant sex hormone' and doesn't replace LH, but acts through central nervous system pathways to regulate the production of ovarian hormones.
Excessive bleeding, frequent periods, acyclical haemorrhages and similar menstrual disorders caused by ovarian cysts can all be brought under control by about 30 drops of EAC in water, taken once daily - with effects that have been confirmed by ultrasound (Deutsche Med Wochenschr, 1955; 80: 936). By promoting LH secretion, EAC also contributes to progesterone synthesis (Selecta, 1977; 19: 3688), making EAC of immense value in the treatment of endometriosis.
Based on my own clinical experience, many types of fibroids cease to grow and may actually shrink, as confirmed by ultrasound, during EAC treatment for six months or more.
Nevertheless, I've had no success with EAC in the treatment of subserous fibroids - those that lie under the outer membrane of the uterus. For this variety of fibroids, a better treatment possibility is the traditional Chinese herbal remedy keishi-bukuryo-gan (KBG; see below).
Experiments have shown that there are four homoeopathic remedies that can help with ovarian cysts and the symptoms they cause:
* Chlorpromazinum (no menstrual periods, excessive milk, cystic inflammation of the ovaries, inflammation of the cervix) (Br Homeop J, 1965; 2: 102-4)
* Cobaltum nitricum (frequent, irregular uterine bleeding, loss of libido) (Mezger J, Gesichtete Homoeopathische Arzneimittellehre, 4th edn, Heidelberg: Haug Verlag, 1977)
* Hedera helix (late, shorter and less copious menses, pain in fallopian tubes and left ovary) (Stephenson J, Hahnemannian Provings 1924-1959: A Materia Medica and Repertory, Bombay: Roy Publishing House, 1963)
* Nepenthe distillatoria (stinging, needle-like, flashing ovarian pain, loss of libido or sexual response) (Cahiers Bioth'er, 1966; 10: 1-32).
In addition, both Parathyroidinum and Cobaltum nitricum have been scientifically proven to work on fibroids (Allg Homoeop Zeitung, 1958; 203: 419-35; Arch Hom'eopath Normandie, 1962; 25: 30-53; Cahiers Bioth'er, 1971; 29: 1-14).
In Oriental medicine, fibroids are generally believed to correspond to 'Stagnation of Damp Phlegm, Qi or Blood'. Causes are thought to be emotional stagnation, overconsumption of cow's milk products, sexual intercourse at too early an age (before 18, when the body's energies are considered to be immature) or emotional imbalance as a teenager (Gascoigne S, The Manual of Conventional Medicine for Alternative Practitioners, vol II, Dorking: Jigme Press, 1994: 415).
KBG - also known as kuei-chih-fu-ling-wan - is a traditional Chinese herbal mixture of five plants (Cinnamomum cassiae, Paeonia lactiflora, Prunus persica, Poria and Paeonia suffruticosa) that is often used to treat heavy or irregular periods and sterility. It acts as an antagonist (blocker) of LH-rf (luteinising hormone-releasing factor) and as a weak antioestrogen.
A later study by the same group of researchers investigated the effects of KBG on 110 premenopausal patients with uterine fibroids. Period problems such as irregular cycles and heavy bleeding were all improved in more than 90 per cent of cases. In 60 per cent of the women, the fibroids themselves had shrunk (Am J Chin Med, 1992; 20: 313-7).
Acupuncture has shown success in the treatment of ovarian cysts in a number of animals, including mares, cows, sows and bitches (Klide AM, Kung SH, Veterinary Acupuncture, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982: 218). However, although promising, these results may not necessarily apply to humans.
Harald Gaier is a registered homoeopath, naturopath and osteopath.