The Jean Hailes Foundation is an amazing Public Health resource for patient education & health promotion of women’s health issues. They have just released a web article about the collected research and pros & cons of various systems of herbal medicine in the treatment of Polycycstic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
The article on PCOS at Jean Hailes
Shao Yao Gan Cao Tang – Peony & Liquorice Decoction
One of our fantastic Chinese herbal formulas, (Bai) Shao Yao Gan Cao Tang (Peony and Liquorice Decoction) makes a star appearance. Shao Yao Gan Cao Tang first appeared in the Shang Han Lun (Treatise on Cold Damage) which is one of the more widely used Chinese Herbal Medicine textbooks. It was written in 200CE by a famous physician called Zhang Zhong-Jing. More about the Shang Han Lun here.
How does Chinese Medicine view PCOS?
Most cases of PCOS come with some kind of Kidney Qi or Kidney Yang deficiency – it’s a generalisation so not to say that every single case does, however for the purposes of this article, let’s focus on that which appears in clinic most often . “Kidneys” as they relate to this article, refers to your Chinese Medicine Kidneys, not your Western Kidneys. Chinese medical physiology of the female reproductive cycle tends to translate the different Vital Substances of traditional medicine into their modern context of hormones. Each hormone can be attributed for the most part, into its metaphorical counterpart in the Chinese Medical framework. Ovulation’s physiological process is driven by Kidney Qi, which requires semi-decent levels of Kidney Yin & Yang balance in order to get the ripe follicle kick-started in its monthly journey down the fallopian tube to rest in the uterus. A good metaphor to describe what Kidney Qi’s function in ovulation is, would be the energy that it takes for the ball to be kicked by a soccer player at kick-off. The ball sits poised on the field, and the player (with Kidney Qi on their jersey for the purposes of visualisation) focuses, takes aim and kicks. The kick itself is the same type of energy that Kidney Qi would express during the release & movement of the follicle. When Kidney Qi is deficient, that movement does not occur as functionally and the follicle stays in the ovary, gets stuck and forms a cyst, blocking the progress of future follicles in either a physical or energetic way.
What do we assess?
Chinese medicine practitioners consulting with patients about PCOS will do a thorough Chinese Medicine diagnosis to ascertain if it really is Kidney Qi Deficiency. As there can be other causes behind the issue, a full diagnosis is conducted, assessing diet, lifestyle, general health, sleep health, emotional considerations, menstrual history, hormonal test results, and the patterns that are shown when basal body temperature is taken every morning for 2-3 cycles. Basal body temperature (BBT) charting is a useful diagnostic tool which assists to inform a complete diagnosis. Chinese medicine practitioners use BBT charts to ascertain what patterns your body presents with in terms of temperature, as some of our fundamental principles of diagnosis require a distinction between hot & cold. It is an interesting and empowering information gathering tool for any female of reproductive age, but cannot be considered as a primary method of diagnosis without the addition of other testing and traditional diagnostic methods.
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