Polycystic ovary syndrome, also known as PCOS, is a hormonal imbalance that affects as many as 5 to 10 percent of women of child-bearing age. PCOS can make it hard for a woman to lose weight and conceive children. Because it triggers excessive production of male hormones, it can also cause male-pattern hair loss on the head and hair growth on the body. Natural supplements that lower male hormones may help prevent hair loss in women with PCOS. If you have PCOS, talk with your doctor before beginning any regimen, herbal or otherwise. PCOS can be tricky to manage, and it can affect the most important aspects of your life.
Chaste tree, also known as vitex or chasteberry, may act as an anti-androgenic, lowering androgen levels, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Chaste tree may help regulate hormone imbalances, such as excess production of androgens or abnormal female-hormone production. Side effects can include itching, rash, headache, additional hair loss, rapid heartbeat, dry mouth and nausea. Do not take chaste tree without your doctor's OK. Do not take it at all if you are pregnant.
Licorice root, made from the root of the licorice plant, is generally not found in large quantities in black licorice candy anymore because of its harmful effects when taken in large quantities. Licorice as an herbal preparation may help reduce PCOS-related hair loss by inhibiting testosterone production in the ovaries. A small study of nine healthy women conducted by researchers at the Italian University of Padua found that 3.5 g of licorice taken daily during the latter half of the menstrual cycle reduced serum testosterone. The results were published in the October-November issue of the journal "Steroids." Additional tests need to be done to substantiate these findings. Talk with your doctor if you are considering licorice root as a remedy. Do not take it at all if you are pregnant. Licorice can also cause electrolyte imbalances, fluid retention and high-blood pressure.
Peony, an herb used in traditional Chinese medicine, is often employed to lower androgen levels in combination with licorice. A traditional Chinese medicine formula of licorice and white peony was used in a study published by Japanese researchers in the March-April 1994 issue of the "International Journal of Fertility and Menopausal Studies." Researchers reported that testosterone levels dropped, and estrogen levels rose in 34 women treated with 7.5 g of the herbal combination for four weeks, suggesting an increase in the conversion of testosterone to estrogen. This combination of drugs should not be taken during pregnancy. Talk with your doctor before taking peony to treat hair loss.
Saw palmetto, often used as an herbal treatment to reduce excess male testosterone, may also reduce androgen production in women with PCOS, thereby slowing hair loss. Saw palmetto may work by inhibiting the conversion of testosterone into a more potent androgen, dihydrotestosterone, by blocking the action of an enzyme necessary for the conversion, 5-alpha-reductase, according to Dr. Paula Gardiner, a member of the Longwood Herbal Task Force associated with the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Do not take saw palmetto alone or in combination with any drugs during pregnancy or at any other time without your doctor's permission.
- Longwood Herbal Task Force; Chasteberry (Vitex agnus castus); Paula Gardiner, M.D.; May 2000
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Hirsutism; Steven Ehrlich, N.M.D.; September 2010
- "American Journal of Chinese Medicine; " Effect of paeoniflorin, glycyrrhizin and glycyrrhetic Acid on Ovarian Androgen Production; T. Takeuchi, et al.; January 1991
- Medical Herbalism; Glycyrrhiza: Licorice Root and Testosterone ; Paul Bergener
- "International Journal of Fertility and Menopausal Studies;" Effect of TJ-68 (shakuyaku-Kanzo-To) on Polycystic Ovarian Disease; K. Takahashi, et al.; March-April 1994