Acupuncture and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

What is PCOS?

1 in 10 people are affected by Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and yet despite this staggering number it is still not fully understood what causes it and there is no cure.

But that doesn't mean that we cannot help manage those signs and symptoms.

In PCOS the hypothalamus and GnRH preferentially promote luteinising hormone (LH) over follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).

This causes the anterior pituitary gland to increase the LH/FSH ratio and in turn, the ovaries create hypersecretion of androgen (an example of which is testosterone).

With this increase in androgen, there is an increase in insulin resistance.

The result is high androgen, high insulin and low FSH = follicles continue growing but not maturing and no ovulation.


If like me, you would like more information on the hormones involved in the menstrual cycle, you can find more in my recent blog here.

With these hormonal changes we will expect to see:

  • no or irregular periods/infertility

  • acne

  • increase in bodily hair

  • the polycystic appearance of ovaries on an ultrasound

  • increase in weight

  • risk of developing non-insulin-dependent diabetes

  • high blood pressure

  • cardiovascular disease

The exact cause of PCOS is not well understood but could be an interaction between genetics and environmental factors.

How does acupuncture look at PCOS?

In Chinese Medicine, we treat the individual symptom and whilst a diagnosis of PCOS is helpful we will take the whole picture and treat accordingly.

If we look at the individual signs and symptoms e.g. no or irregular periods there are a number of TCM patterns we can explore including:

  • Qi & Blood deficiency

  • Yin deficiency

  • Qi stagnation or Blood stasis

  • Liver Fire

However, there are four Chinese medicine 'patterns' which we might look for. These would be:

Spleen & Kidney Yang Deficiency

delayed / irregular periods

scanty light coloured period blood


dizziness & tinnitus

aching or weak lower back and knees

cold sensation in body and limbs

clear and profuse urine

loose stools

loss of libido


Phlegm Dampness

scanty, delayed, or no periods


vaginal discharge

dizziness or muzziness


profuse sputum in throat

loose stool


Liver Fire

no periods or scanty periods

irregular periods


thick hair


distending pain in chest or breasts

dry mouth with thirst


Qi Stagnation & Blood Stasis

delayed menstruation

scanty period with clots

abdominal pain during menstruation

no periods


mental depression

fullness in the chest

So, what can acupuncture do for PCOS?

The British Acupuncture Council website and the research that they have on PCOS say that acupuncture treatment may specifically help with symptoms by: