Chinese Medicine for PCOS

This article was written by Kim Heng, the leading Chinese medicine expert at ALIVE. Kim spent 8 years in China with a focus on women’s health.

The crisp chill air of September adds a boost of energy to my morning commute as I take in deep breaths and gear up for the season ahead. It’s also PCOS awareness month and presents an opportunity for reflection on our mind and body.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects 5⁻10% of women of reproductive age worldwide. It has serious reproductive implications and causes mood disorders and metabolic disorders, such as type-2 diabetes.

Oral contraceptives (OCs), are suggested as a first-line therapy for menstrual irregularities; however, OCs are not appropriate for women pursuing pregnancy, and they might cause weight gain, thus exacerbating the PCOS. Also, it would increase the risk of venous thromboembolism.

Complementary and alternative therapies, such as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), have beneficial effects of decreasing risk. Current research demonstrates that several herbs and herbal formulas show beneficial effects in PCOS treatment. It is a common practice in Chinese society to receive traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for treatment of gynecological problems and infertility. In Taiwan, the National Health Insurance (NHI) Program provides coverage for >99% of the total 23 million population, and the prescription for Chinese Herbal Medicine and western medicine is equally covered.

A nationwide population-based study was published in 2019 to analyze TCM utilization patterns among women with PCOS. It found that 66.43% women sought TCM treatment because of PCOS for infertility or menstrual disorders. The most common herbal formula used for PCOS treatment was found to be Jia-wei-xiao-yao-san (Supplemented Free Wanderer Powder) JWXYS. In modern clinical therapy, JWXYS plays a vital role in treatment of anxiety, irritability, stress, depression, premenstrual tension, and infertility.

While JWXYS is the most commonly prescribed formula, it is not for all patients. You should consult with a licensed herbalist before using Chinese Herbal medicine. Please don’t hesitate to reach out during PCOS awareness month, we’re here to support your health.