This actually was released at the end of August, but I thought it was pretty exciting news…

The National Instititute of Health announced that it awarded several grants to study botanical treatments for certain disorders.  Two of these studies directly cover herbs commonly recommended for ovarian cyst treatment.  Here’s the 411:

Botanical Dietary Supplements for Women’s Health

Principal Investigator: Norman Farnsworth, Ph.D.
University of Illinois at Chicago

This center has been supported for 10 years and has always focused on women’s health. In this new cycle, the center’s mission has evolved to a focus on the safety of botanical dietary supplements, such as black cohosh and licorice, which are widely available. The investigators will study how multi-component mixtures work together; how they are absorbed, distributed and eliminated by the body; how they affect chemical and physical processes within the body; how they interact with drugs; and how they impact women’s own estrogenic hormones.

Botanical Estrogens: Mechanisms, Dose and Target Tissues

Principal Investigator: William Helferich, Ph.D.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Partner Institutions:
University of Mississippi, University; Oregon State University, Corvallis; National Center for Toxicological Research, Jefferson, Ark.

This new center will address safety, efficacy, and mechanism of action of botanical estrogens, such as wild yam, soy and dong quai, currently being consumed by women. The projects will look at biological effects of botanical estrogens on molecular mechanisms and cellular pathways, and their actions on bone, uterus, breast tissue, breast cancer metastasis, and cognition.

Of specific interest are dong quai, wild yam, and soy.  Dong quai and soy are both estrogenic herbs – they affect your level of estrogen.  Wild yam is used to make progesterone cream, which may be useful in controlling ovarian cysts.  Black cohosh and licorice are also often recommended to treat cysts as well.

However, not all of these herbs work.  Some actually make cysts worse in certain women.   Most women already have an overabundance of estrogen, thanks to many sources in the environment.   This can actually increase the number of follicles released which are not all reabsorbed.  It also can worsen endometriosis, a common contributor to cysts.

Progesterone cream, on the other hand, shows promise for helping heal endometrial cysts and PCOS.   The progesterone applied at the right time of the month signals the cyst to dissolve.  It also helps to shrink endometrial tissue.

It will be very interesting to see what the results of this study will be!  Of course, it’ll probably be a few years until we find out 🙂

You can see the news story here.

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