Herbs and Supplements

Some women have turned to herbs and supplements in hopes of experiencing additional relief from their endometriosis and its related symptoms. It is important to note however, that utilizing herbs and supplements should not be a replacement for traditional, prescribed treatment options. Herbs and supplements may be incorporated into a woman’s treatment plan in addition to the therapies she has been instructed to use by her healthcare provider. Additionally, it is important to check in with a healthcare provider before trying any herbs or supplements. Some of these products can cause undesirable side effects or can interact with medications. Alternatively, before a new medication or treatment is started, it’s important to let your provider know if you have previously been taking supplements or herbs of any kind.

Currently, there is no scientific consensus on the effect of utilizing herbs and supplements for endometriosis and its related symptoms. However, herbs and supplements can impact different individuals in different ways, and some may experience relief from symptoms when using certain herbs or supplements in a healthy and safe manner. Some common herbs and supplements that women with endometriosis may consider trying include (but are not limited to) the following.

Milk thistle

Milk thistle is a plant that contains silymarin. The main component of milk thistle that is used by individuals with endometriosis is its seeds. The silymarin in the seeds is thought to be anti-inflammatory in nature and supportive of healthy liver functioning. The liver is responsible for filtering out toxins in our body, including excess hormones such as estrogen. Endometriosis lesions depend on estrogen for development and growth. Promoting healthy liver functioning may help decrease excess estrogen in the body. Milk thistle may interact with various medications including medications for some liver conditions, anti-diabetes drugs, or cholesterol lowering medications.1

Probiotics

The digestive system is full of bacteria that help it function and help us digest our food properly. Probiotics are foods or supplements that contain these good bacteria and help support our gut health. Probiotics may also help regulate immune system functioning and decrease inflammation. Both of these properties may help contribute to potential relief from some endometriosis-related symptoms. Probiotics can be found in foods such as yogurt, some cheeses, fermented tea (also called Kombucha), and more.2,3

Omega 3 fatty acids

Similar to probiotics, omega 3 fatty acids may help reduce inflammation and promote healthy immune system functioning. Some studies have suggested that eating a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids might decrease a woman’s risk of developing endometriosis, however, others have suggested that omega 3 fatty acids may have no effect on endometriosis that is already present. Omega 3 fatty acids are found in fish, fish oil, flaxseed, some nuts, fortified foods, and other healthy dietary staples.4-6

Curcumin (turmeric)

Curcumin is an active component in turmeric. Turmeric is used daily across the world as a spice for food, flavoring, coloring, dietary supplement, and more. It is native to Asia and is related to the ginger root. The part of the turmeric plant that is most commonly used in supplements is its roots. Curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties as well as other potentially health-promoting characteristics, such as hormone regulating abilities and anti-oxidant properties, among others. It also may promote healthy immune system functioning. Research on curcumin for the treatment of endometriosis is limited, however, several studies and reviews have suggested that it may provide relief from endometriosis-related symptoms. Further research is needed to strengthen this potential relationship.7,8

DIM

DIM, short for diindolylmethane, is found in vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, kale, and cauliflower. DIM has been thought to be anti-inflammatory in nature, and is metabolized similarly to estrogen. Because of this, in low doses, it may help promote healthy estrogen breakdown and removal from the body.9

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 refers to a complex of substances that the body needs to carry out a wide variety of critical functions. Vitamin B6 can be found in non-citrus fruits, starchy vegetables such as potatoes, fish, and poultry, among other sources. It is possible that vitamin B6 might play a role in hormone regulation. Through a complex pathway, vitamin B6 may reduce the level of estrogen in the body, potentially relieving endometriosis-related symptoms. However, much more research is needed to investigate this potential mechanism.10,11

As mentioned, this is not an exhaustive list of all herbs and supplements a woman may consider trying in addition to her already prescribed endometriosis treatment options. It is important to consult your healthcare provider before trying any herbs or supplements on your own.

Written by: Casey Hribar | Last reviewed: June 2018
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