Chinese Herbal Medicine for the Optimal Management of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Am J Chin Med. 2017;45(3):405-422. doi: 10.1142/S0192415X17500252. Epub 2017 Mar 30.


Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a complex heterogeneous disorder characterized by androgen excess and ovulatory dysfunction; it is now known to be closely linked to metabolic syndrome. Recent research suggests that insulin resistance plays an important role in the pathogenesis of PCOS which may lead to the excessive production of androgens by ovarian theca cells. Currently there is no single drug that can treat both the reproductive and metabolic complications of the disorder. Existing pharmaceutical agents such as hormonal therapies have been associated with side effects and are not appropriate for PCOS women with infertility. Additionally, insulin sensitizing agents useful for treating the metabolic abnormalities in PCOS have limited efficacy for treating reproductive aspects of the disorder. Chinese herbal medicines have a long history of treating gynaecological problems and infertility and therefore may be a novel approach to the treatment of PCOS. Current research demonstrates that the compounds isolated from herbs have shown beneficial effects for PCOS and when combined in an herbal formula can target both reproductive and metabolic defects simultaneously. Therefore, further investigation into Chinese herbal medicine in the treatment of PCOS is warranted.

Keywords: Chinese Herbal Medicine; Hormone Therapy; Infertility; Insulin Resistance; Polycystic Ovary Syndrome; Review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / biosynthesis
  • Berberine / isolation & purification
  • Berberine / pharmacology
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / chemistry
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Ginsenosides / isolation & purification
  • Ginsenosides / pharmacology
  • Glucosides / isolation & purification
  • Glucosides / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Monoterpenes / isolation & purification
  • Monoterpenes / pharmacology
  • Phenanthrenes / isolation & purification
  • Phenanthrenes / pharmacology
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / etiology
  • Resveratrol
  • Stilbenes / isolation & purification
  • Stilbenes / pharmacology
  • Theca Cells / metabolism


  • Androgens
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Ginsenosides
  • Glucosides
  • Monoterpenes
  • Phenanthrenes
  • Stilbenes
  • Berberine
  • peoniflorin
  • cryptotanshinone
  • Resveratrol