In my previous post on treating PCOS with inositol, I mentioned in the comments that I use spearmint tea to treat PCOS. Since then, I have received questions about treatingPCOS with spearmint tea from a few readers. I began using spearmint tea to treat my PCOS after an acupuncturist recommended trying it out.I had had a lot of success in treating my PCOS with juicing and inositol and I was open to expanding my treatment to include spearmint tea. Since being diagnosed with PCOS, I have learned that it is better to treat illnesses and disorders naturally first with diet and exercise when possible.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is the most common endocrine disorder affecting up to 20% of women of reproductive age. PCOS occurs when there is a an imbalance of female and androgen (male) hormones and a surplus of insulin in the blood stream. Insulin resistance causes elevated levels of female and male hormones. Vice versa, elevated levels of estrogen and androgen hormones cause insulin resistance. High hormone levels lead to high insulin levels and the syndrome perpetuates itself.
In this cycle, a woman’s body becomes overloaded with both male and female hormones, glucose and insulin. Due to these imbalances, a woman can experience irregular menstrual periods, the absence of menstrual periods, hirsutism, painful hormonal acne, brittle hair and nails, difficulty losing weight and obesity. Women with PCOS also have an increased risk of developing hypertension, dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes and heart disease due to the related obesity. It also causes more than 75% of cases of anovulatory infertility (infertility caused by hormonal imbalance).
Issues with Metformin
At the time, I was treating my PCOS with juicing, inositol and Metformin prescribed by my doctor. Meformin was prescribed by my doctor to increase sensitivity to insulin and ultimately insulin absorption. But, I could no longer take Metformin, because I was experiencing arrhythmia, a known side effect of the medicine, which was made worse with caffeine. However, I have to admit that I should not have been drinking caffeine, because most caffeine is generally bad for PCOS, with the exception of green tea. Nonetheless, the longer that I was taking Metformin, the more frequent my arrhythmia became. Overall, I needed to find an alternative quickly.
I had began taking inositol, a natural insulin sensitizer, about four months prior to improve my insulin sensitivity. I was not sure if taking myo-inositol (in conjunction with D-chiro inositol and folic acid) would provide enough glucose sensitivity for absorption to replace Metformin. In order to transition from Metformin to inositol completely, I thought that it would be best to lower my androgen levels in order to reduce the level of glucose absorption that my body needed. This is where spearmint tea came in.
Speaking with My Doctor
On a side note, I had spoken to my doctor before I stopped taking Metformin to discuss alternatives. As mentioned in a previous post, my case of PCOS is not very severe. Since my change in diet and exercise, I have experienced regular periods, and less cystic acne. But, I still suffered from some cystic acne, brittle hair and nails, hirsutism and stubborn body weight.
My doctor told me that there was no other medication that I could take to improve my insulin sensitivity or lower my hormone levels. There was mixed clinical evidence in the effectiveness of inositol as an insulin sensitizer, but as someone experiencing arrhythmia, I had no other choice but to try it. Some women suffering from PCOS are prescribed birth control in an effort to overwhelm their bodies with female hormones to outweigh the imbalance of male hormones. Unfortunately, most women in the PCOS forums online reported mostly or only negative results from this treatment, including little or improvement with their PCOS. They also mostly reported increased weight gain, which introduces more glucose and insulin into your blood stream, exacerbating PCOS. With this, I was not willing to try this treatment for my less severe case of PCOS.
My doctor offered to prescribe spironolactone to treat hirsutism. While it can help reduce facial hair, it’s a purely cosmetic treatment that does not address the underlying testosterone causing it. I did a trial prescription of spironolactone and experienced menstrual bleeding for 14 days before I stopped taking it. Afterward, I learned that 80% of women taking spironolactone experience irregular periods – sometimes for several months – a side effect that my doctor had not disclosed. For a purely cosmetic treatment, I decided that an immensely irregular period was not worth the potential results. It would be better to treat the source of the problem naturally rather than the symptom with medication.
Treating PCOS with Spearmint Tea
Multiple studies have shown that drinking spearmint tea on a daily basis produces an anti-androgenic (anti-male hormone) effect in women. This means that it lowers testosterone levels and related issues, including hirsutism and hormonal acne in women (whether or not they have PCOS). It can also stimulate female hormones that can become depleted due to PCOS.
Scientific research has not determined what in spearmint tea lowers testosterone levels, but its effectiveness has been demonstrated in multiple studies.
However, spearmint tea is not for everyone. Men should not use spearmint tea to treat hormonal acne, because it affects men differently. Spearmint tea does lower testosterone in men, which reduces libido, sperm count and can damage testicular tissue. Also, a study in 2004 found that consumption of spearmint tea interferes with iron absorption, and those with iron deficiencies should not drink it on a regular basis.
The first study was performed in Turkey in 2007 where the native plant was believed to reduce libido in men. 21 hirsute women — one group suffering from PCOS and the other not — were given spearmint tea to drink twice a day for a five-day span. Every women experienced a reduction in free testosterone levels and an increase in luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) (both of which help regulate the menstrual cycle and ovulation), as well as estradiol (a form of estrogen). There are two forms of testosterone: free testosterone and total testosterone. Free testosterone is the form that contributes to the hirsutism and hormonal acne that PCOS sufferers experience.
In 2010, a second study was performed to determine the long-lasting effectiveness of results found in the first study. The second study was performed in the UK and lasted for 30 days. This time, 42 women were split into two groups, where one group was given spearmint tea and the other was given a placebo herbal tea. Women in the spearmint tea group experienced a reduction in both free and total testosterone and increase of LH and FSH.
In both studies, the participants did not experience a reduction in hair growth, because the timeframe for each study was too short for a change in hair follicle growth to occur. Neither study noted a change in acne, either. But, that does not diminish the antiandrogenic effects of spearmint demonstrated in each study.
Many women who have drank spearmint tea on a long-term basis have reported success in treating hirsutism and hormonal acne related to PCOS. I personally drink spearmint tea daily on an ongoing for the past two years and have experienced a reduction in both and hirsutism and hormonal acne. My facial hair has become softer and slowed in growth. I no longer experience hormonal acne around my mouth. I only experience hormonal acne now during my menstrual cycle, which is normal. At my last appointment with my endocrinologist, my hormones were in balance. Previously, my free and total testosterone levels were elevated out of the normal range for women. This caused painful hormonal acne formed around my mouth, and continuous facial hair growth.
A reduction in testosterone due to the antiandrogenic properties of spearmint tea helps to bring hormones of PCOS sufferers into better balance. While my PCOS treatment regimen (including drinking spearmint tea daily) has eliminated my hormonal acne, it has only reduced my hirsutism.
My current Regimen
I am happy to say that today, my hormones are in balance. I have regular periods and no longer experience hormonal acne outside of my menstrual cycle. However, I do still struggle with hirsutism and some stubborn body weight, although it is not as severe as it was once was.
I use a daily regimen of fresh homemade juice a low-glycemic diet, inositol supplements and spearmint tea to treat PCOS naturally. You can read about the doses of juice and inositol that I take in those posts. As for spearmint tea, I usually drink one to two cups daily. Two cups (one cup twice daily) was the amount of spearmint tea that study participants, who experienced dramatic a dramatic reduction in testosterone, were given. Plus, given the iron absorption-blocking properties of spearmint tea, I would not drink more than two cups of spearmint tea to treat PCOS a day.
When buying tea, be sure to buy pure spearmint tea. Oftentimes, spearmint tea is mixed with peppermint tea, which dilutes its effectiveness in treating PCOS. I personally buy this one-pound bag of organic spearmint tea on Amazon, which lasts me for around a year (when stored properly).