PCOS! The term seems familiar? Well, it affects 4%–20% of women of reproductive age across the globe. Ayurvedic classical texts, clinical experiences, and scientific evidence suggest the adaptogenic herb ashwagandha can help treat and reduce the risks associated with PCOS.
What Is PCOS?
PCOS stands for Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome is a common endocrine disorder. It is a hormonal condition that affects women who are of reproductive age. More than anything else your lifestyle is one of the major reasons leading to PCOS. Excess amounts of androgen (male hormones) and irregular or prolonged menstrual cycles are two features that frequently characterize it.
Wondering how PCOS affects your entire body?
PCOS usually occurs due to hormonal imbalances in your body, forming cysts around the ovaries that prevent them from performing their normal functions. It starts with imbalance in one hormone leading to the other and forms a vicious cycle
You would be shocked to know that as many as 5 million US women of childbearing age have PCOS, making it one of the most prevalent causes of female infertility. It also brings along a host of other health problems including, irregular periods, excessive hair growth due to increased androgen levels, anxiety, stress, sleeping disorders, and acne. PCOS can also lead to diabetes and high blood pressure.
A founding member and former Secretary of the California Association of Ayurvedic Medicine, Mary is a Certified Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist and Pancha Karma Specialist. In 2008, she received the Charaka Award for Excellence in Ayurvedic Teaching. If you would like to learn more about Ayurveda and women’s health, check out this course here.
What Causes PCOS?
High levels of androgens and insulin play a major role in causing PCOS. These compromised adrenal functions create a negative impact on one’s blood pressure, energy level, resistance to infection, immunity, and stress levels.
Insulin resistance is a common finding in PCOS that is independent of obesity. However, obesity negatively impacts insulin resistance and can make it worse.1 Insulin resistance can lead to Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.
Due to stress and the overeating of foods high in fat, sugar, and carbohydrates the fat percentage in the body increases. It can further lead to the development of obesity-linked PCOS.
PCOS & Its Origin - According To Ayurveda
In Ayurveda, this condition is not explained as a single disease entity; but it can be considered underutero-vaginal disorders (Yoni Vyapat). When the deranged Vata vitiates, the muscles (mamsa), blood (shonita), and fat (meda) mix with Kapha and forms a circular, raised, knotted inflammatory swelling called ‘granthi’
This type of glandular swelling has been compared with the modern term ‘cyst’ which is an abnormal closed epithelium-lined cavity in the body, containing liquid or semisolid material.
In PCOS, the development of follicles gets arrested at any level, and remain as it is. The cysts are follicles at varying stages of maturation and atresia.
So, these cysts are not destined to become ovum. Thus, this pathology is referred to as the formation of cyst-causing anovulation (granthibhuta artava dusti) as in PCOS, the follicles become cysts instead of developing into a mature ovum.
Mary graduated from the first graduating class of the California College of Ayurveda in 1997 and now is a senior teacher there. Mary Thompson, is a Certified Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist (C.A.S.) and Pancha Karma Specialist (P.K.S). In 2008, she received the Charaka Award for Excellence in Ayurvedic Teaching. If you would like to learn more about Ayurveda and women’s health, check out this course here.
How Ashwagandha Helps treat PCOS
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), also known as Indian ginseng, is said to reduce Kapha and Vata (Vata-kapha-hara).2
It thereby normalizes imbalanced Vata and Kapha, which are responsible for PCOS. It also has a therapeutic effect on problems pertaining to the reproductive system and inflammatory swelling (granthi).3
Ashwagandha is indicated as one of the most important herbs in Ayurvedic formulations, recommended for pregnancy in infertile women.4
It is also one of the components of bala oil, an Ayurvedic herbal oil formula known to destroy all types of diseases due to imbalanced Vata (Vata roga).5 Abnormal Vata plays a major role in all the uterovaginal disorders (yonivyapad) including PCOS.6
Read more: Everything you need to know about Ashwagandha | How Ashwagandha can help treat acne | Weight management with Ashwagandha
How does Ashwagandha Manage the Risks Associated with PCOS?
Ashwagandha has adaptogenic properties (anti-stress agents) which help to balance hormone levels and thyroid function, support adrenal function7, manages cortisol levels, and maintains insulin levels in the body. Lethargy, obesity, and irregular sleep patterns are also symptoms of stress that can have long term negative effects on your body, both internally and externally. Ashwagandha dodges weariness and enhances sleep quality while combatting stress.
The ability of ashwagandha to lessen stress by lowering cortisol levels in the body, contributes to a healthy female reproductive system. As the regulation of female hormones is significantly impacted by stress. With the ability to help balance hormones, this powerful herb manages irregular menstrual cycle.
Ashwagandha acts like a GABAergic drug binding to GABA receptors, and produces calming, anti‐anxiety, highly stabilizing effects.8
Moreover, ashwagandha root also contains tryptophan, which is the building block of serotonin, the mood-lifting hormone.9 It also corrects irregular menstrual cycles and reduces menstrual pain.10
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Ashwagandha root extract reduces levels of serum cortisol which is elevated in stressful conditions.11 Due to its adaptogen property, it corrects the imbalance between the immune and neuroendocrine system by targeting hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal gland axis12, normalizing the bodily functions under stressful conditions.
Withania somnifera root extract and leaf contains flavonoids which possess hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic activities.13
Ashwagandha significantly increases the volume and sodium content in the urine and decreases cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoproteins in blood serum.14
A study found that the phenolic compounds and flavonoids present in Ashwagandha have antioxidant activity which plays a vital role in reducing serum glucose levels in alloxan-induced diabetic rats.15
A study on ashwagandha showed that it contains alkaloids, as well as steroidal and saponin chemicals which are essential for activity in the hormonal pathways in the system. These chemical constituents increase the production of T4 hormones.
Thus, ashwagandha improves thyroid activity and enhances the anti peroxidation activity in the tissue.16,17,18
In a study on ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) it was found extremely useful in creating the synergistic hormonal balance between the Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and the Luteinizing Hormone (LH).19
Ashwagandha Reduces Weight in Obesity-linked PCOS
According to Brenda Watson and Leonard Smith, authors of ‘The Fiber35 Diet: Nature’s Weight Loss Secret’, Ashwagandhahelps in reducing stress related weight gain by regulating the cortisol levels. Cortisol stimulates glucose production and triggers a hunger response in the brain.20
Also, according to a Life Extension Magazine article entitled “Stress Reduction, Neural Protection and a Lot More from an Ancient Herb” by Dale Kiefer, ashwagandha naturally lowers cortisol levels up to 26% and supports the adrenal glands.
Ashwagandha increases hemoglobin (red blood cell count) and hair melanin. It stabilizes blood sugar and lowers cholesterol.
It supports the female reproductive system, increases ovarian weight, and promotes folliculogenesis (maturation of the ovarian follicle).
Ashwagandha is also a potent inhibitor of angiogenesis.21 Along with a healthy diet and exercise, ashwagandha helps PCOS undoubtedly.
Consult your healthcare provider before having ashwagandha for PCOS or any other uses.
1. 20,21 M.Umadevi, Traditional, And Medicinal Uses of Withania Somnifera THE PHARMA INNOVATION Vol. 1 No. 9 2012 www.thepharmajournal.com Page | 102.
2,3. Dr. J.L.N.Sastry, DravyagunaVijnana, Study of essential Medicinal Plants in Ayurveda Vol 2, ChaukhambhaOrientalia,Varanasi.
4. Sushruta Samhita Uttarsthana chapter 62 verse 27
5. Ashtang Hriday Sharirsthana chapter 2 verse 50
6. Charak Chiktsasthana chapter 30 verse 115.
7. Nadkarni AK. Indian Materia Medica Bombay: Popular Prakashan 1976, 1292-1294.
8. Candelario, Manuel, Erika Cuellar, Jorge Mauricio Reyes-Ruiz, Narek Darabedian, Zhou Feimeng, Ricardo Miledi, Amelia Russo-Neustadt, and Agenor Limon. “Direct evidence for GABAergic activity of Withania somnifera on mammalian ionotropic GABA A and GABAρ receptors.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 171 (2015): 264-272. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26068424
9. Chauhan, Komal, and Gauri Patil. “Impact of Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) on Mental Health Profile of Elderly Women.” European Scientific Journal 9, no. 27 (2013).
10. Parveen, Sanjeeda, and Shabnam Ansari. “Testo Induced Ovulation Successfully in Women of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.” Indo American Journal of Pharmaceutical Research 5, no. 6 (2015): 2430-2434.
11. Auddy B, Hazra J, Mitra A, Abedon B, Ghosal S. A standardized Withania somnifera extract significantly reduces stress-related parameters in chronically stressed humans: A double-blind, randomized study.
12. Verma SK, Kumar A. Therapeutic uses of Withania Somnifera (Ashwagandha) with a note on withanoloids and its pharmacological actions. Asian J Pharma Clin Res. 2011;4(1):1–4.
13. Rajangam Udayakumar Hypoglycaemic and Hypolipidaemic Effects of Withania somnifera Root and Leaf Extracts on Alloxan-Induced Diabetic Rats 09 May; 10(5): 2367–2382. PMC2695282 Published online 2009 May 20. doi: 10.3390/ijms10052367 PMCID.
14. Bhattacharya, S.K. and A.V. Muruganandam, 2003. Adaptogenic activity of Withania somnifera: An experimental study using a rat model of chronic stress. Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav., 75: 547-555.
15. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2010 Jun; 65(2):91-8. doi: 10.1007/s11130-009-0146-8.Antioxidant effect of dietary supplement Withania somnifera L. reduces blood glucose levels in diabetic rats. Udayakumar R (PUB MED).
16. Brown R and Francis G.L; Autoimmune Thyroid Disorders; Journal of Thyroid Research; year 2011; page 1-2.
17. Garg S.C ; Essential oils as therapeutics; Natural product Radiance; year 2005; volume 4(1); page no. 18-26.
18. Singh. G, Sharma P.K, Dudhe R and Singh S; Biological activities of Withania somnifera; Annals of Biological Research; year- 2010, volume 1 (3); page no.56-63.
19. Sher KS, Mayberry JF. Female fertility, obstetric and gynecological history in coeliac disease. A case-control study. Digestion. 1994; 55(4): Pages: 243-246.
I m 20 years old.
I m having too much symptoms of PCOS
Severe acne,too much hair loss,pelvic pain ,hair growth in body ,leakage of white discharge
What can I do to cure it.
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September 13, 2022
I m suffering from pcos n high prolactin (56).can I take aswagandha powder in June summer time…also facing infertility problem