Nothing beats a nice cup of tea.
Being British, I'm sure tea is part of my blood, however I'm not talking the regular breakfast tea, I'm talking herbal tea's that have magical powers.
Ok, I may be exaggerating a little bit, but a lot of them do have medicinal properties that can support many health issues.
Hormonal imbalances, in particular, seem to benefit from regular tea drinking.
I used herbal medicine (mainly in tea form) to help me overcome my PCOS, and now to keep symptoms at bay.
The main drivers of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome are...
1. Insulin resistance
3. Adrenal stress
The great thing is that certain herbs have anti-inflammatory, stress relieving and detox supporting properties.
If you haven't already, check out my other post, 'Herbal Medicine for PCOS - Which Plants Can Help You Heal', as I share the most effective herbs in supplement and tincture form.
The great thing about herbal tea is that it's pretty safe for ANYONE to consume, whereas supplements and tinctures can often be contraindicated, because they are more potent and concentrated.
(That being said, do speak with your health practitioner if you are taking medication, are pregnant, trying to conceive or have other health conditions)
Here are my 8 favourite herbal tea's for women with PCOS...
(P.S they are all caffeine-free, apart from green tea! Perfect for those of you with caffeine sensitivity, anxiety, insomnia or adrenal stress)
This herbal tea has actually been shown in scientific research to reduce free testosterone levels (by up to 30%!). One study had women with PCOS drink 2 cups of spearmint tea per day, during the follicular phase of their menstrual cycles. After treatment with spearmint teas, there was a significant decrease in free testosterone and increase in luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and estradiol. However, there were no significant decreases in total testosterone or dehydroepiandrostenedione sulphate (DHEA-S) levels.
I am often asked whether peppermint tea provides similar results. Although it will likely have some similar benefits, I do find that spearmint is more effective for PCOS, while peppermint tends to work better for gastrointestinal complaints. I recommend drinking 2 cups of organic spearmint tea per day during the first half of your cycle (up until ovulation), for the best results.
This common 'weed' is rich in nutrients such as magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin B, vitamin K, potassium, silica and calcium. It has been used throughout history as a diuretic and for treating painful muscles and joints, eczema, arthritis, gout and even anaemia. In women with PCOS it can help to support detoxification, but it can also help to regulate androgen ('male' hormone) levels.
Most PCOS symptoms are caused by elevated androgenic hormones such as testosterone, DHEA and androstenedione, but especially dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This pesky hormone tends to be the driver of acne, hair loss and irritability. It is created when testosterone is metabolised by the 5-alpha reductase enzyme, and it is turned into a metabolite that is 3x as potent. Nettle helps to inhibit this enzyme, therefore lowering the production of DHT. It is often used in prostate support formulas because of this same beneficial mechanism.
Green tea has many health benefits and is very rich in antioxidants. Some degree of inflammation is likely present in all women with PCOS, therefore antioxidants from diet and herbs can help to repair free radical damage.
There are many studies that show the metabolic benefits of green tea, and one study in particular found that the consumption of green tea by overweight and obese women suffering from PCOS lead to weight loss, a decrease in fasting insulin, and a decrease in the level of free testosterone.
Green tea does contain caffeine, therefore those with anxiety or elevated cortisol levels may not tolerate it well. That being said, individuals who are sensitive to the caffeine in coffee, may actually tolerate green tea better, as it also contains a calming amino acid known as l-theanine. This can give you a stable, energy boost, without causing that 'wired' or jittery feeling. Try consuming 1 or 2 cups, before mid-day.
Liquorice can help to lower testosterone levels in women and it can also block androgen receptors. It has also been found to help the body more efficiently regulate cortisol, which is our main stress hormone, therefore giving your adrenals a break. Adrenal stress is very common in women with PCOS, and many women often have cortisol levels that are too high or low. I like to recommend my client with PCOS to have a cup of liquorice tea when they feel like their energy levels are low, which tends to be first thing in the morning and during the '3/4pm slump'.
It also has a very sweet taste and is sometimes referred to as “sweet root.” An extract can often be 30 to 50 times sweeter than sugar, hence why it has been used to make sweets and desserts. This is great for women with PCOS, as sugar cravings can often be a big problem. Next time you feel like reaching for the biscuit tin, brew yourself a mug of liquorice tea instead and I can guarantee that those cravings will lessen.
The health of our liver is very important for hormonal balance. Once we have created and used our hormones, they are sent to the liver to be metabolised (broken down) and then excreted via the bowels or urine. If our liver is sluggish or overwhelmed due to too many environmental toxins, trans fats, stress and nutrient deficiencies, then hormones cannot be processed efficiently and can start to recirculate in the body. PCOS tends to be a condition of 'hormonal excess', therefore we need to ensure that our detoxification is optimal. Dandelion is a fantastic herb at supporting the health of our liver.
It's slightly bitter taste can stimulate bile flow from the liver and gallbladder, and it is rich in nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. Dandelion has a similar taste to coffee, therefore it can be a great alternative for those who need to eliminate caffeine for their hormone health.
My favourite herbal tea by far! Tulsi (also known as 'Holy Basil'), is an adaptogenic herb, which means that it helps to balance the nervous system and regulate your stress response. Tulsi is also believed to regulate blood glucose levels and reduce inflammation. It tastes great too!
It is estimated that 20-30% of women with PCOS have adrenal androgen excess, which means that the adrenal glands are pumping out 'male hormones' such as testosterone, DHEA-S and androstenedione. Along with changing your perception of 'stress', slowing down, sleeping more and exercising less intensely, the addition of tulsi tea can help to calm the nervous system and adrenal overdrive.
Many women with PCOS struggle with anxiety, stress and digestive issues like IBS, which are all things that chamomile can help to improve! It is a carminative herb, which means that it 'calms' the gut and nervous system. It can also help to lower stress hormones and helps to prepare the body for sleep, which we know is very important for women with PCOS.
There have been studies that have shown that just one night of poor sleep (defined as less than 5 hours), reduced insulin sensitivity by around 30%! Stress can also increase blood glucose levels and promote insulin resistance. This means that you could be eating the best diet in the world and exercising daily, but if you aren't sleeping enough or you're stressed out of your mind, you could still be dealing with insulin resistance and blood sugar fluctuations.
This 'warming' spice improves insulin sensitivity and allows glucose to be transported from the blood and into the cells much more efficiently. It may also reduce insulin levels by slowing the movement of food from the stomach into the small intestine (a part of digestion called “gastric emptying”) which also slows the breakdown of carbohydrates. If you regularly experience hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose), I wouldn't recommend this in large amounts, because it can be quite powerful!
It can also support digestive motility and it may help to combat sugar cravings, due to it's slightly sweet flavour. Don't forget, you can use cinnamon in your cooking too, in both sweet and savoury meals. Make sure that you purchase Ceylon aka 'true cinnamon', not cassia.
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