Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a very common problem for women of reproductive age. It affects 5-10% of the population, with as many as 5 million American women suffering from it.

Women with PCOS suffer from two of elevated male hormones, infrequent or lack of periods and enlarged ovaries with lots of small cysts. It is the most common cause of ovulatory infertility.

Insulin resistance is an important factor in PCOS, and the diabetes drug metformin is often used. Metformin, though, has many side effects. Berberine, naturally found in herbs like goldenseal and goldthread, is as good as drugs at controlling diabetes. A recent meta-analysis of controlled studies found that, for type 2 diabetes, berberine is more effective than placebo and as effective as drugs and that adding it to drugs is superior to drugs alone (J Ethnopharmacol 2015;161:69-81).

So, researchers in China tried giving berberine to 98 women with PCOS. . . . .

They were given .4g of berberine hydrochloride three times a day for four months.

After four months, there was a significant difference in menstrual patterns. 14.3% of the women had now achieved regular periods. 52% of the women had at least one period during the four months. 26.5% had one period, 11.2% had two, 6.1% had three and 8.1% had four. Remember that, if the berberine takes time to work, there may be fewer periods in the four months because the berberine may not have affected enough change in the early months.

By the end of the four month study, ovulation rates were 22.5% in normal weight women and 31% in overweight women: the authors point out that these rates are similar to rates achieved on metformin in previous studies.

This study, though not placebo-controlled, suggests that berberine may be a safer and effective alternative to metformin.

A recent study also found very impressive results for the herb fenugreek.

PLoS One
. December 8, 2015;10(12):e0144072

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For more information on preventing and treating PCOS, see our book Sex & Fertility: Natural Sollutions.

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