Herbal Therapy and Endometriosis

Endometriosis affects about 12 million American women and is considered one of the three major causes of infertility. Conventional medicine draws upon two forms of therapy to curb this mysterious condition caused by the painful growth of uterine tissue around the abdominal cavity: hormone therapy and surgery.

Progesterone suppression therapy, in essence, stops a woman's normal hormonal cycle and seems to work for some women, but the side effects, including mood swings and weight gain, can make a woman miserable. Surgical removal of endometrial lesions can keep the disease in check, but this is more of a stopgap measure, since the lesions often grow back over time.

Often, hormone suppression therapy and surgery are used in conjunction to control the condition with hysterectomy as the last resort.

Patients looking for alternatives to conventional treatments do have natural alternatives in the form of various herbal formulas that often include milk thistle, dandelion, and yarrow. One of the main ingredients in many of these mixtures, yarrow (Achillea millefolium), is traditionally thought to speed the healing of wounds and, with the other herbs, is taken as a strong tea. However, there has been no scientific research to determine the efficacy or safety of yarrow or any of the herbal mixtures for endometriosis.

A field study being conducted by Columbia University Medical Center is looking into botanical remedies used by traditional healers to treat women's health issues, including endometriosis. As with any herbal therapy, always consult with your physician and a licensed herbalist before embarking on treatment.

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