Post-doctoral fellow Ashley Haywood, ND, MSOM, LAc is investigating the potential use of Gymnema sylvestra as a natural treatment for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a common health problem affecting approximately four to six percent of reproductive-aged women that can cause irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, facial hair, obesity, acne and elevated insulin levels. Gymnema sylvestra is an herb from India that has been used for diabetes for centuries and has been gaining popularity as a natural treatment for PCOS. Several studies have demonstrated the efficacy of insulin-sensitizing compounds such as Metformin in reducing the elevated insulin associated with PCOS and diminishing endocrine and metabolic abnormalities found in women with PCOS. Gymnema sylvestra may work in a similar way, and could be used as an alternative to Metformin in PCOS.
The study is a double-blind placebo-controlled study that takes place over eight months, and looks at generally healthy women with PCOS. After a two-month screening period where they learn to track their menstrual cycles, study participants take capsules of either Gymnema sylvestra or a placebo twice a day for six months. Hormones, menstrual cycles and markers of insulin metabolism are measured. Results from the study are expected in fall 2010 and will be used to design a much larger clinical trial looking at the role of blood sugar regulation and its effects on fertility in women with PCOS.