Plant Therapies in Endometriosis
Endometriosis is a gynaecological condition estimated to affect 10% of reproductive women. It involves the growth of endometrial-like tissue outside of the uterine cavity, which leads to symptoms such as dysmenorrhea (painful periods), pelvic pain, and infertility. However, symptoms are not just located in the pelvic cavity, and many women with endometriosis often experience digestive disturbances like constipation, diarrhea and/or bloating, fatigue, migraines, and anxiety and depression. The exact cause of endometriosis is unknown, but we do know that it involves a complex combination of factors including immune dysfunction, hormonal changes, genetics, angiogenic processes and inflammation. Although not life threatening, the level of dysfunction some of these individuals experience can have a huge impact on their quality of life.
Treatment options usually include various forms of hormonal birth control, surgeries to remove lesions and in severe cases, a hysterectomy. More and more women with endometriosis are seeking alternative therapies to reduce symptoms and preserve fertility, while also minimizing any side effects of therapy.
Botanical medicine, or plant therapies have shown great promise in helping women manage their symptoms associated with endometriosis and provides new approaches in the holistic treatment of endometriosis.
Angiogenesis is the formation of new blood vessels, which is an important pathological process in the development of endometriotic lesions. This, along with nerve fibre changes is a major cause of the pain women with endometriosis experience. Herbs that provide anti-angiogenic actions are being studied to reduce endometriosis lesion formation post-surgery, reduce recurrence, and reduce progression. These herbs have been shown to shrink existing lesions and loosen adhesions which reduces the congestion and pain in the pelvic cavity. This can also improve ovarian function which is key to preserving fertility.
Outside of specifically altering growth of new blood vessels, various herbal therapies have been shown to regulate endometriosis through many other pathways such as reducing inflammation, creating hormonal balance, and modifying the immune response. Plant therapies can also be used to help manage many of the other health issues common in those with endometriosis such as digestive concerns, low energy, and mental health concerns.
The goals of the patient is important to consider when determining which route of treatment is best. Plant therapies provide alternate options to women who are looking to manage their symptoms while preserving fertility. Should you be interested in trying naturopathic medicine and plant therapies for your endometriosis symptoms, click here.
Zheng, Weilin, et al. “Anti-Angiogenic Alternative and Complementary Medicines for the Treatment of Endometriosis: A Review of Potential Molecular Mechanisms.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2018, 1 Oct. 2018, pp. 1–28, 10.1155/2018/4128984. Accessed 8 Sept. 2019.
Zondervan, Krina T., et al. “Endometriosis.” New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 382, no. 13, 26 Mar. 2020, pp. 1244–1256, 10.1056/nejmra1810764.