Although pain relievers and hormone medications are the first line of endometriosis treatment, there are many side-effects to these treatments. Several people prefer to use plants as an alternative therapy.
Endometriosis is a chronic medical condition which causes tissue that grows outside the uterus, similar to the uterine lining. These are known as endometrial implants and grow and bleed as hormone reaction.
The endometriosis signs include pelvic pain, long cycles, sexual pain, back pain, nausea and more.
Read about potential endometriosis herbal remedies in this post, how they work and what are the medical treatment choices.
Do they work?
Herbal medicine proponents claim that herbal remedies can control levels of estrogen, slow the growth of endometriosis implants or relieve pain.
However, no studies have explicitly determined how herbal remedies work. Research has instead concentrated on whether can supplements can reduce symptoms.
Endometriosis is an estrogen-dependent condition, meaning estrogen aggravates implant growth and inflammation, making the condition more painful. Natural changes in estrogen levels through the menstrual cycle contribute to increased symptoms.
Research suggests that some endometriosis herbal remedies can improve symptoms, either when someone is taking these herbs alone or in combination with other drugs.
This research is still in the early stages and some of the experiments were not well-designed or well-controlled. It is for this reason that herbal remedies remain an alternative treatment, not the primary one.
Several herbal remedies which could help include:
Curcumin, a turmeric derivative, can help regulate a person’s hormones, slowing endometrial adhesive development.
In a laboratory setting the authors of a 2013 study looked at endometrial cells. We found that curcumin was able to suppress estradiol (a form of estrogen) thereby slowing the growth of endometrial cells.
Not every study resulting in a petri dish replicates such findings in a human body. This study however points to the need for further research in this area.
Scientists are now beginning to understand how this could work, as they have found that curcumin reduces inflammation directly by reducing the triggering action of the messenger proteins that begin the inflammation response.
A common treatment for gynecological issues is Vitex, which comes from the chaste vine.
Studies in laboratory settings show that vitex can change the behavior of estrogen receptors, according to a 2016 study.
The authors proposed that the compound might be effective in the future in treating symptoms of menstrual irregularities, breast pain and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Other studies carried out in 2019 showed it could affect endometriosis infertility but its effect on hormones was still undetermined.
The pine bark can function as an anti-inflammatory agent, according to a 2014 study published in the International Journal of Women’s Health. Because inflammation is a key component of endometriosis, researchers investigated whether it could affect the disease.
Most work has focused on a commercial product called Pycnogenol, extracted from the pine bark.
The study found that Pycnogenol could act with oral contraceptives to reduce pain associated with endometriosis. It is important to note that participants have reported a reduction in pain from taking the contraceptives.
Because of its calming properties, chamomile is a common herb. A 2018 laboratory study showed how endometriosis cells were killed by chrysine, which is a substance found in chamomile.
It has also altered the life cycle of the cells, suggesting that chrysin can change the way endometrial cells grow.
In a laboratory setting the study looked at cells, not at a human body. In a individual, the results may be different.
Lavender is a growing herb in the garden which is used by many to promote relaxation and sleep.
Research from 2015 suggests that essential oil from lavender may help to reduce menstrual pain. Participants received a massage with essential oil extracted from lavender in the study.
The study included a control group that received a lavenderless massage but eventually the lavender group had lower pain scores.
How to use
Herbal remedies are not prescription drugs but supplements. This means there is no approved method to take them and there is no standardized dose this works for all.
Some endometriosis herbal take techniques include:
- Use herbs as a supplement to traditional treatments, rather than as a replacement.
- Follow the package or manufacturer’s instructions. Do not exceed the dosage on the packaging. Call a doctor if someone takes too much — natural remedies can still be toxic.
- Start with one herb at a time. This makes it easier to monitor results and detect side effects.
Herbal supplements, like any medicine, can cause side effects and interfere with other medications. Talk to a doctor before you try out new herbal remedies.
There is no medication which can cure endometriosis. Alternatively, the focus of care is on treating pain, severe bleeding, infertility and other potential symptoms. A doctor can advise a person to get the best endometriosis treatment, depending on their age, background and whether they still want to get pregnant.
Some methods for managing pain affecting endometriosis include:
- Pain medication. Some people find relief with over-the-counter pain medication, while others need prescription pain pills. In 2018, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new drug, Orilissa, to target endometriosis pain symptoms.
- Hormone treatment. Hormones that reduce estrogen levels or regulate a person’s period may help relieve symptoms. Options include combined contraceptive pills, progestin-only pills, and intrauterine devices (IUDs).
- Surgery. A skilled surgeon can remove endometriosis implants and repair any damage. A newer surgical treatment severs nerves in the pelvis to reduce pain sensations. Some people choose to have a hysterectomy to stop heavy bleeding, but it does not remove all endometriosis symptoms.
When endometriosis affects a person’s fertility and they want to become pregnant, surgery and in vitro fertilization (IVF) are choices.
At this stage herbal endometriosis solutions are experimental. Most of the experiments are lab-based, and more human research is needed to decide whether herbs are helpful.
Experiments have not yet demonstrated that these remedies work or have even established by what method they could work.
People considering herbal remedies should speak to a practitioner who is informed about medicines, study the research and recommend using herbs as a substitute instead of a medical treatment substitution.