Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI) is a condition leading to decreased fertility, irregular periods, hot flashes, and many other symptoms. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine have been used for centuries to balance hormones and treat reproductive health issues like POI. It works by addressing the underlying imbalances in the body to stimulate the body’s natural healing processes.
Recent research has shown that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are effective for treating premature ovarian insufficiency.
What is Premature Ovarian Insufficiency?
Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI), also known as premature ovarian failure, is a condition characterized by diminished function of the ovaries in women under the age of 40. Typically, the ovaries produce hormones like estrogen and progesterone, and they release eggs regularly during the menstrual cycle. In POI, these functions are impaired, leading to a reduction in the normal production of these hormones and a decreased number of eggs.
Women with premature ovarian insufficiency may miss periods, have irregular menstrual cycles, or may stop having periods altogether. This is a common factor in infertility. Women with POI might experience symptoms typically associated with menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and mood swings.
The exact cause of POI can vary and may include genetic factors, autoimmune disorders, certain medical treatments (like chemotherapy or radiation therapy), or it may occur without a known cause. It’s important to note that POI doesn’t mean a woman is completely infertile, as sporadic and unpredictable ovulation can occur, but it does significantly reduce fertility levels.
Current Research Update
Recent research shows that acupuncture combined with Chinese herbal medicine are effective in treating balancing hormone, specifically a reduction in the levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) (1). Another significant finding was the increase in circulating estrogen levels (called serum estradiol) among patients receiving acupuncture and herbal medicine. Menopausal symptoms were also reduced from the treatment.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are thought to improve ovarian function by potentially preventing or delaying the dealth of follicular granulosa cells and slowing the degeneration of ovarian follicles.
In addition to hormonal regulation, acupuncture and Chinese medicine are thought to enhance overall ovarian function to improve fertility. This enhancement could involve improving blood flow to the ovaries, reducing inflammation, and supporting the health of the ovarian tissues.
Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine for POI
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine work through addressing imbalance in the body to correct the root of the condition. When it comes to POI, we think about a few common imbalances, most often too little Qi, or energy. We determine what the specific imbalance is through characteristics of the menstrual cycle, overall symptoms, and checking the tongue and pulse.
Qi is the energy which we use for all of the body’s tasks- digestion, exercise, growth, circulation, immunity, reproduction, etc. When it becomes too little or gets stuck, meaning it can’t circulate, illnesses can develop. POI is usually related to Qi vacuity, that is when there is too little Qi, specifically reproductive Qi. This may manifest as light periods, long cycles, poor digestion, hormone imbalances, and overall fatigue.
The concept of Jing or essence is especially important in POI. Jing is the reproductive Qi of the body. Acupuncture treatments and herbal medicine boosting Jing is are helpful for POI.
In terms of the menstrual cycle and conception, the ideas of Yin and Yang play a significant role. Yin correlates with the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle, the time for growth and preparation for ovulation. It embodies characteristics like cooling, nurturing, and the capacity to receive, which are essential for the egg’s growth and readiness. Conversely, Yang is associated with the luteal phase, the period following ovulation. It signifies warmth and growth, key for the successful implantation and development of the embryo.
Treatment Course for Premature Ovarian Insufficiency
The treatment journey begins with a thorough assessment and identification of the underlying imbalance.
This includes a detailed discussion of your medical history, lifestyle, diet, emotional well-being, and specific symptoms. We will discuss what your specific goals are, meaning looking to balance hormones, if you are actively trying to conceive, or are planning on beginning cycles of IVF. I will also perform a physical examination, including pulse and tongue diagnosis, to identify the underlying TCM patterns contributing to the condition.
Based on the assessment, the TCM practitioner formulates a personalized treatment plan. This plan typically combines acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, tailored to address the root cause of POI.
Acupuncture sessions generally start with a frequency of 1 times per week. Treatment is typically 3-6 months, but may vary from patient to patient. Each session typically lasts about 45-60 minutes
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatment are customized for your specific imbalance
For example, in order to tonify the Qi and nourish yin, we may use herbs such as:
- Chinese Yam (Shan Yao)
- Semen Cuscutae (Tu Si Zi)
- Prepared Radix Rehmanniae (Shu Di Huang)
- White Peony Root (Bai Shao)
These herbs are believed to have hormone balancing effects, as well a smay regulate or enhance immune functions.
Specific acupuncture points are used for Qi vacuity, such as:
- KI3 (Taixi)
- SP6 (Sanyinjiao)
- LR3 (Taichong)
- CV4 (Guanyuan)
- CV6 (Qihai)
Feel Better, Get Acupuncture
Chinese medicine has been used to improve fertility and treat irregular menstruation for thousands of years. Recent research supports the idea that acupuncture and Chinese medicine are effective treatments for balancing hormones and improving fertility. The treatment course for POI using TCM is customized to your specific underlying imbalance. By addressing the root of the condition, the treatment can lead to long term improvements in overall health.
Please call us at 212-319-5757 to make an appointment. Or you can schedule your appointment online.
This blog post aims to inform and educate readers about the concept of hot and cold herbs in TCM. However, it’s not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult a healthcare provider or a trained TCM practitioner before starting any new treatment or health practice.
- Li HF, Zhang JX, Chen WJ. Dissecting the efficacy of the use of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine for the treatment of premature ovarian insufficiency (POI): A systematic review and meta-analysis. Heliyon. 2023 Oct;9(10):e20498. Published online 2023 Sep 29. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2023.e20498. PMCID: PMC10560776. PMID: 37818004.