Study: herbal medicine in PCOS improves symptom management

Researchers looked into herbal medicine plus lifestyle changes versus just lifestyle changes alone when it came to reducing symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

The herbs examined were tribulus, peony, liquorice, cinnamon and St John’s wort, all used regularly by herbalists for irregular periods, sugar cravings, anxiety and mood interferences in women.

These herbs are known for their various effects in women with PCOS, for example tribulus can improve ovulation rates, peony and liquorice reduce androgens, cinnamon is known to reduce insulin resistance, and St John’s wort can reduce anxiety and depression. The study has validated the use of these herbs when treating PCOS.

The Study​1​

The randomised controlled trial in 122 women with PCOS ran across three months. All women taking part were required to adhere to an exercise regime and changes to their diet, but half were also taking herbal medicines.

  • Tribulus was taken from Day 5 of the menstrual cycle (or Day 7 of the trial if the women were not menstruating), for 10 days.
  • A tablet containing peony, liquorice, cinnamon and St John’s wort was taken every day for the duration of the trial.
  • The exercise regime include 90 minutes per week of aerobic exercise and 60 minutes per week of resistance training.
  • Diet modifications included including low glycaemic index carbohydrates and nutrient-dense foods, with attention to caloric intake, with the goal to achieve weight loss or prevent weight gain.

Study Results

The herbal medicine treatment group had significant improvements in all areas, including more regular periods, managing weight, regulating insulin levels, stabilising luteinising hormone, managing blood pressure, and reductions in anxiety, stress, and depression.

There were improvements in pregnancy rates amongst those trying to conceive, and reported improvements in quality of life.

The women taking the herbal medicine experienced:

  • A 33 per cent reduction in cycle length (time between periods)
  • Weight loss of on average 3kg, and 3cm circumference from their waists
  • 40 per cent lower insulin levels

There were no major differences in the amount of exercise and diet choices made by the women across all groups, which showed up the powerful role of the herbs in managing PCOS symptoms.

For detailed information on dosages and therapeutic treatments for PCOS, see The PCOS Solution ebook and treatment program.

Warning: St John’s Wort may increase the metabolism of prescription medications and reduce their effect, or interfere with some antidepressants. Please check with your doctor or herbalist before starting herbal medicine on your own.


  1. 1.
    Arentz S, Smith CA, Abbott J, Fahey P, Cheema BS, Bensoussan A. Combined Lifestyle and Herbal Medicine in Overweight Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (<scp>PCOS</scp>): A Randomized Controlled Trial. Phytotherapy Research. Published online July 7, 2017:1330-1340. doi:10.1002/ptr.5858

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Jessica Lloyd - Vulvovaginal Specialist Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)