A diagnosis of endometriosis - the growth of endometrial tissue in the abdominal cavity outside the uterus where it ordinarily functions as the uterine lining - often means years of excruciating pain as the rogue tissue swells with a woman's monthly cycle.
Surgery to remove the tissue and hormone-suppressing drugs are the most common treatments, but neither guarantees a cure. For some women, the pain becomes so unbearable that they resort to hysterectomy.
As an alternative, Dr. Mary Hardy, head of the Integrative Medicine Unit at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, has found herbal formulas that ease endometrial pain. She answers some frequently asked questions about herbs for endometriosis below:
Q: How do mainstream and alternative therapies differ in their treatment of endometriosis?
A: Traditional herbalists classify endometriosis as a disease of excess hormones or insufficient clearing of hormones. Thus they try to regularize and balance the hormonal process by using herbs meant to cleanse and normalize the cycle and promote good elimination. Conventional medical treatments suppress ovulation, circumventing the whole menstrual cycle.
Q: Which herbs may be used to treat endometriosis?
A: Milk thistle and dandelion are believed to promote clearing of hormones out of the body, specifically through promoting liver function. Yarrow, too, is traditionally thought to be a good blood-moving and cleansing herb, and may help take away some of the stagnant congestion in the pelvis. Many other herbs have been used traditionally as well.