10 + Powerful Plants And Supplements For PCOS


What is PCOS?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a complex condition caused by imbalanced hormones, which can cause ovarian dysfunction and metabolic issues. It is one of the most common hormonal conditions that affects women of reproductive age and encompasses reproductive, endocrine, metabolic and psychological symptoms. While treatment often requires a toolbox approach, there are some supplements for PCOS, as well as herbs, that have shown promise.

Types of PCOS

There is no known cause of PCOS, and initially, there was thought to be only one type of PCOS, but with more research, it has been found that there are 5 different types and different presentations of PCOS.


1. Classic PCOS

This is the most common type of PCOS. Classic PCOS is mainly characterised by irregular menstrual cycles, high levels of androgens (male hormones such as testosterone), and visible polycystic ovaries on ultrasound. Women with classic PCOS often experience symptoms such as acne, hirsutism (excess hair growth), weight gain, and infertility.

2. Ovulatory PCOS

In this type, women have irregular menstrual cycles and polycystic ovaries but normal androgen levels. Despite irregular periods, these women still ovulate occasionally, which may make it easier for them to conceive compared to other types of PCOS. However, they may still experience symptoms such as acne and weight gain but do not seem to have issues with excessive hair or balding.

3. Non-Classic PCOS (Normo-Androgenic PCOS)

This type of PCOS is characterised by hyperandrogenism (elevated androgen levels) without the typical ovarian dysfunction seen in classic PCOS. Women with non-classic PCOS may have regular menstrual cycles but will also show visual symptoms such as hirsutism (excess hair growth), acne, androgenic alopecia (hair thinning or loss), and can also have issues with their metabolism.

4. Post-Pill PCOS

Some women may develop PCOS-like symptoms after stopping the hormonal contraceptive pill. This type of PCOS is often temporary, and symptoms may resolve on their own over time.

5. Inflammatory PCOS

 Inflammation plays a significant role in the cause of PCOS. Inflammatory PCOS is characterised by elevated markers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and increased production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Women with this type of PCOS may have more severe symptoms and a higher risk of metabolic complications.


What are the symptoms of PCOS?

The symptoms of PCOS can vary widely among individuals and may change over time, people may have one or two of the symptoms or all of them. 

The most common symptoms of PCOS are:

Irregular menstrual periods: Women with PCOS often experience irregular menstrual cycles. Such as unpredictable periods, as well as long intervals between periods, or even the absence of menstruation.

Ovulation dysfunction: PCOS can disrupt regular ovulation, leading to difficulty conceiving (infertility) or experiencing recurrent miscarriages.

Hyperandrogenism: Elevated levels of androgens (which are male hormones) such as testosterone can lead to symptoms such as hirsutism (excess hair growth on the face, chest, abdomen, or back), acne, androgenic alopecia (hair thinning or loss on the scalp), and oily skin.

Polycystic ovaries: Many but not all women with PCOS have enlarged ovaries with multiple small follicles (cysts) that can be detected on ultrasound. However, the presence of polycystic ovaries alone is not sufficient for a diagnosis of PCOS as visible cysts are pretty common for most women - even those who do not suffer from PCOS.

Weight gain and difficulty losing weight: Women with PCOS are at an increased risk of weight gain, particularly in the abdominal region. This is because PCOS affects the metabolism and also the ability to balance blood sugars. Insulin resistance, a common feature of PCOS, can make it challenging to lose weight despite efforts to diet and exercise.

Insulin resistance and metabolic abnormalities: PCOS is often associated with insulin resistance, a condition in which the body's cells become less responsive to insulin, leading to high blood sugar levels. This can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Mood disorders: PCOS has been linked to an increased prevalence of mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. The changes in hormones can affect mood, and the psychological impact of living with a chronic condition that quite often affects appearance (acne and excess hair) can significantly affect people’s mental health and self-esteem.

Sleep disturbances: Some women with PCOS may experience sleep disturbances such as insomnia or sleep apnea, which is characterised by pauses in breathing during sleep.

Other symptoms: Additional symptoms of PCOS may include pelvic pain, headaches and fatigue.

Why is getting a diagnosis difficult?

Even though PCOS is the most common hormonal condition in females of reproductive age, it still can be hard to get a diagnosis - as there is no single test to diagnose it definitively. This is due to the fact that PCOS is a syndrome (a group of symptoms that go together). Single diagnostic tests do not work for syndromes (like PCOS) as many symptoms require different diagnostic tests.

The prevalence of PCOS globally is thought to be seen in 5-10% of women of reproductive age, with similar numbers here in Aotearoa. An important note to remember is that PCOS is often under diagnosed both globally and nationally, so many women are often suffering from PCOS with no diagnosis.

How is PCOS diagnosed?

Diagnosis involves taking a full medical history and assessing symptoms, and those symptoms vary from person to person. It can take years for women to get a proper diagnosis, which can be both upsetting and expensive. A diagnostic criteria has been created that can help guide diagnosis.

  • Pelvic exam to determine if the ovaries are enlarged
  • Ultrasound scan of the ovaries
  • Blood tests for hormone, glucose, and cholesterol levels

Alongside the combination of two or more of the following symptoms:
  • Irregular periods
  • Increased hair growth or acne
  • Raised levels of male hormones
  • Metabolic or blood sugar issues
  • Thinning hair
  • Appearance of many follicles in the ovaries - from the ultrasound
  • Infertility
Medical support often includes prescribing the contraceptive pill in an attempt to regulate menstruation, Metformin (a diabetic medication) to help support insulin and blood sugars as well as Spironolactone which is a medication used to support blood pressure but also is prescribed as a diuretic and to women with PCOS to help with acne and hirsutism.

5 supplements for PCOS

1. Inositol: Inositol, particularly Myo-inositol and D-chiro-inositol, are supplements for PCOS which have gained attention for their ability to improve insulin sensitivity and ovarian function in women with this condition. Research indicates that inositol supplementation can help regulate menstrual cycles, reduce testosterone levels, and promote ovulation.

2. Vitamin D: Many women with PCOS have been found to have deficient levels of vitamin D, which plays a crucial role in hormone regulation and immune function. Supplementing with vitamin D has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, menstrual regularity, and fertility outcomes in women with PCOS.

🌿Related: 4 Reasons You Should Be Taking Vitamin D In Winter

3. Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil (or vegan alternatives) have anti-inflammatory properties that can benefit women with PCOS. Studies suggest that omega-3 supplementation may help reduce androgen levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and alleviate symptoms such as irregular periods and acne. 

4. N-acetylcysteine (NAC): NAC is an antioxidant that has been investigated for its potential to improve insulin resistance and reduce oxidative stress in women with PCOS. Research indicates that NAC supplementation may help regulate menstrual cycles, reduce testosterone levels, and improve fertility outcomes.

5. Chromium: Chromium is a mineral that plays a role in insulin signalling and glucose metabolism. It has been used as a supplement for PCOS and studies with chromium has been shown to enhance insulin sensitivity and reduce insulin levels in women with PCOS, leading to improved glycemic control and menstrual regularity.

🌿RelatedThe Best Sources Of Micronutrients - What You Need To Be Eating

9 helpful herbs for PCOS

Alongside supplements for PCOS, plants can also help. Here are some herbs for PCOS that can help support your symptoms.

1. Cinnamon: Cinnamon has shown promise in improving insulin sensitivity, which is often impaired in women with PCOS. Studies suggest that consuming cinnamon regularly can help regulate menstrual cycles and lower insulin resistance, aiding in better blood sugar control.

2. Spearmint: Spearmint tea and topical spearmint oil has demonstrated anti-androgenic properties, meaning it may help lower levels of testosterone, a hormone often elevated in PCOS. Drinking spearmint tea regularly has been reportedly associated with reduced hirsutism (excess hair growth) and improved hormonal balance.

3. Bitter plants: Bitters are compounds found in several plants. It has been studied for its insulin-sensitising effects, with research suggesting that bitter supplementation can help lower blood sugar levels, improve insulin resistance, and support more balanced hormones in women with PCOS.

🌿Related10 Bitter Foods And Why You Should Be Eating Them


4. Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra): Licorice root may help regulate menstrual cycles and reduce levels of testosterone in women with PCOS. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-androgenic properties that could benefit hormone balance and fertility. It can also support the nervous system which is key in any hormonal condition.

5. Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens): Saw palmetto is often used to manage symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) in men, but it may also have anti-androgenic effects in women. It could potentially help reduce hirsutism and acne associated with elevated androgen levels in PCOS.

6. Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus): Chasteberry, also known as Vitex, is a popular herb for hormonal balance in women. It may help regulate menstrual cycles, reduce PMS symptoms, and support ovulation by influencing the production of certain hormones. It is often paired with white peony and licorice.

7. White Peony (Paeonia lactiflora): White peony root is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine to regulate menstrual cycles and support hormonal issues. It can also work at reducing inflammation.

8. Gymnema (Gymnema sylvestre): Gymnema is known for its ability to help regulate blood sugar levels by blocking sugar absorption in the intestines and enhancing insulin sensitivity. It could be beneficial for women with PCOS who struggle with insulin resistance and glucose metabolism.

9. Turmeric (Curcuma longa): Turmeric contains the active compound curcumin, which has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It may help reduce inflammation associated with PCOS and improve insulin sensitivity, potentially benefiting metabolic health and hormonal balance.

10. Red clover (Trifolium pratense): Red clover is mostly associated with menopausal symptoms but it can also be helpful for PCOS due to its isoflavone content that can help with estrogen balancing. It is also very high in minerals and nutrients.

11. Sage (Salvia officinalis): Sage can help support better lipid profiles, sugar metabolism and antioxidant support for people suffering from PCOS.

12. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): Yarrow can help with regulating menstruation and flow which can be an issue with PCOS. It also aids with cramping, inflammation and congestion which can also occur with this syndrome. We use red yarrow, sage and red clover in our Hormone Balance.


As PCOS is a hormonal condition, it can take at least three months for people to notice a change in their cycle if they introduce new interventions. Supporting your detoxification pathways is also a priority as excess hormones (like everything we eat, drink or put on our skin go via our liver), you can do this easily through bitter plants or foods. 

Lifestyle modifications such as increasing wholefoods and reducing processed foods and sugar consumption can greatly benefit those with PCOS. As with many hormonal conditions it is important to also support the nervous system, which you can do through nervine herbs, daily magnesium supplementation and potentially L-theanine, if anxiety and stress become quite severe.

Although there is no cure for PCOS, there are ways to manage it naturally. So, as always, please be in contact if you need more information.

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