Chamomile is one of the most ancient medicines in the world, and with good cause. Its many healing properties have been recognized the world over for centuries, and we’re also seeing its benefits in calming PCOS symptoms.
So many herbs have effects on hormones, and many of those same herbs also have effects on the stress axis.
Chamomile, one of the most well-known members of the Asteraceae family, has been used as a botanical medicine for over 5,000 years. It’s recorded in Egyptian hieroglyphs for its medicinal properties, and was treasured by the Romans and ancient Norse peoples as well.
In traditional herbal medicine, chamomile is used as a calming botanical medicine, but that said, it has many other benefits as well. One of these benefits happens to be significant anti-inflammatory effects.
In this study, 80 women with PCOS were given 370mg of chamomile capsules 3 times a day for 3 months. A control group received a placebo instead.
After that 3-month period was over, those who had taken the herb showed a noted improvement in lipids like LDL and Triglycerides.
It was also noted that the ratio between LH and FSH (a key marker PCOS marker) also improved significantly.
Interestingly, the participants also showed a reduction in testosterone by the end of the study.
Chamomile’s Phytosterols and Their Effects on PCOS
Chamomile contains phytosterols, coumarin and flavonoids which may be involved in this effect. Phytosterols (which are cholesterol-like compounds) have been previously found to reduce androgenic hormone synthesis, especially testosterone.
Phytoestrogens reduce cytochrome P450 (cholesterol desmolase enzyme), which suppresses cholesterol’s conversion to pregnenolone. This can cause an overall reduction in steroid synthesis, including testosterone.
GABA and Ovulation in PCOS
Chamomile’s benefits go much further than the effects on hormone synthesis directly: they also have an effect on the brain’s master hormonal regulation effects.
Endocrine studies on mice have shown that the peak of LH (luteinizing hormone) secretion is triggered by hormonal activity in the preoptic area (POA). This part of the brain is known as the hypothalamus, and is an area responsible for regulating hormones. The peak of LH is what triggers ovulation to occur each month in a woman’s cycle.
In PCOS, women often have elevations in LH at the wrong times, and ovulation can be challenging as a result.
Recent findings show that the calming neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) helps control activity of the areas of the brain that are responsible for triggering ovulation.
Evidence suggests that the GABA typically acts to inhibit the GnRH neurons. At certain times, reduced inhibitory effects on GnRH neurons causes a peak in LH, so ovulation can occur.
Interestingly, chamomile could provide its beneficial effect on PCOS due to its impacts on GABA neurotransmission, so this could very well be another mechanism of action for this wonderful herb.
A quality chamomile product can be purchased here.
Heidary M, Yazdanpanahi Z, Dabbaghmanesh MH, Parsanezhad ME, Emamghoreishi M, Akbarzadeh M. Effect of chamomile capsule on lipid- and hormonal-related parameters among women of reproductive age with polycystic ovary syndrome. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences : The Official Journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences. 2018;23:33. doi:10.4103/jrms.JRMS_90_17.
Zafari Zangeneh F, Minaee B, Amirzargar A, Ahangarpour A, Mousavizadeh K. Effects of Chamomile Extract on Biochemical and Clinical Parameters in a Rat Model of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Journal of Reproduction & Infertility. 2010;11(3):169-174.
Sharpe RL, Woodhouse A, Moon TW, Trudeau VL, MacLatchy DL. Beta-sitosterol and
17beta-estradiol alter gonadal steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR) expression in goldfish, Carassius auratus. Gen Comp Endocrinol. 2007 Mar;151(1):34-41. Epub 2007 Jan 2.