ACUPUNCTURE, HERBS AND PCOS: Autonomic nervous system activation mediates the increase in whole-body glucose uptake in response to electroacupuncture

Foundation of American Experimental Biology Journal


Applying just one session of low frequency electroacupuncture has been shown to reduce blood sugar in overweight women with PCOS. This adds to the mounting evidence we have that indicates that electroacupuncture is a valid and desirable treatment option for PCOS patients trying to improve their ovary function and fertility.


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Herbal Medicines for Treating Metabolic Syndrome: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials

Jang et al, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016;2016:5936402

Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine


One of the main concerns with PCOS is elevated insulin levels and abdominal obesity.  A reduction in these is correlated with better ovary function in patients with PCOS.

This review examined the effect of Chinese herbs on such parameters and concluded that they were an effective treatment.


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Effectiveness of acupuncture in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome undergoing in vitro fertilisation or intracytoplasmic sperm injection: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Junyoung Jo and  Yoon Jae Lee, 2017 Acup in Med, online

British Medical Journal; Acupuncture in Medicine


A review of randomised and controlled trials that examined the effect of acupuncture on 430 PCOS patients undergoing IVF, indicates that acupuncture (both electro acupuncture and manual acupuncture) improved pregnancy rates and reduced the risk of OHSS. Acupuncture was delivered only during the IVF cycle and did not improve live birth outcomes in this review.


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Effectiveness of Abdominal Acupuncture for Patients with Obesity-Type Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Zheng YH et al, Jnl of Alt and Comp Med, 2013 Sep;19(9):740-5. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
When overweight PCOS patients were given acupuncture treatment twice a week for 6 months, using points on the abdomen, they responded better than those given Metformin for the same period of time, in terms of increased frequency of ovulation and weight loss.


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Acupuncture for ovulation induction in polycystic ovary syndrome: A randomized controlled trial.

 Johansson J et al, Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2013 May 1;304(9):E934-43
American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism 


This trial showed that repeated acupuncture treatments increased ovulation frequency in PCOS patients and abnormally high ovarian and adrenal hormone levels were reduced.



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Effects of acupuncture on the outcome of in vitro fertilisation and intracytoplasmic sperm injection in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Rashidi BH et al, Acupunct Med. 2013; 31(2):151-6 Acupuncture in Medicine (BMJ)
A group of women with PCOS who were undergoing IVF were given 5 acupuncture treatments once they commenced the IVF drugs. Compared to a group who had no acupuncture they produced higher quality embryos but did not achieve a higher pregnancy rate. In our experience PCOS patients require several months of treatment in order to make a noticeable change in hormone levels and ovary activity.


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Influence of acupuncture on leptin, ghrelin, insulin and cholecystokinin in obese women: a randomised, sham-controlled preliminary trial

Funda Gucel et al, Acup Med, 2012, Vol 30, Issue 3

BMJ journals, Acupuncture in Medicine


Not all PCOS patients have difficulties managing their weight – just as not all over weight women have PCOS. However where weight is an issue, acupuncture has long been used as part of a successful weight loss programme. One of acupuncture’s mechanisms may be its beneficial effects on the relevant hormones.

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A systematic review on use of Chinese medicine and acupuncture for treatment of obesity

Sui Y et al, 2012, Obesity Rev, Vol 3, p 409–430
Obesity Reviews

PCOS patients are not always overweight but for those with insulin resistance getting on top of weight gain can be difficult. This review (which is not specific to obesity only in PCOS patients) reports that in terms of weight loss, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are better than placebo and lifestyle interventions and have similar efficacy to anti-obesity drugs (including Metformin), but with fewer side effects. This review also noted that those who used acupuncture or Chinese herbal medicine to lose weight had a lower risk of relapse.

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True and Sham Acupuncture Produced Similar Frequency of Ovulation and Improved LH to FSH Ratios in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Pastore L et al, 2011 Jnl Clin Endocrinol Metab Aug online jc.2011-1126 The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism
A reduction in LH levels and an increase in ovulation frequency was found in PCOS women having acupuncture using either real needling or sham needling (which pricks rather than penetrates the acupuncture points in a manner similar to Japanese acupuncture). As we have seen in a couple of other studies reported on these pages, mild stimulation of acupuncture points without penetration is not an entirely inert control and a comparison with a group undergoing no treatment would have been an interesting control. True acupuncture but not sham acupuncture reduced levels of testosterone and insulin in the women who ovulated.


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