Endometriosis is a painful, chronic disease that occurs when uterine tissue (technically, endometrial tissue) grows outside the uterus. The misplaced fragments of tissue develop and bleed in response to the hormones of the menstrual cycle. In turn, this causes inflammation and damage in nearby tissues. Symptoms of endometriosis include fatigue, infertility, and cyclic pelvic pain made worse by urination, bowel movements, or sexual intercourse.
Conventional treatment may involve anti-inflammatory medications, hormone therapies, and surgery. Unfortunately, such treatment is often not fully satisfactory.
Proposed Natural Treatments
Due to the limitations of conventional treatment for endometriosis, many women with this condition turn to alternative therapies. However, there is no reliable scientific evidence to indicate that any natural treatment can relieve or heal endometriosis.
Traditional Chinese herbal medicine
is one of the more commonly used alternative approaches to endometriosis.
Chinese medical theory
has its own unique way of interpreting the condition, using such concepts as “blood stasis” and “obstructed Qi.” It employs herbal combinations along with
in the hopes of restoring normal health. Commonly used herbs include
, cnidium, bupleurum,
. Unfortunately, no
double-blind, placebo-controlled trials
of Chinese herbs for endometriosis have been conducted. A trial comparing Chinese herbal therapy to standard therapy is currently underway.
has been proposed for the treatment of many chronic pain conditions. However, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 14 women with chronic pelvic pain (due to endometriosis or other causes) found no significant benefit with 2 weeks of treatment.
A larger study did find some evidence of benefit after 4 weeks of treatment, but a high dropout rate and other design problems compromised the meaningfulness of the results.
Studies in animals suggest that
, a source of omega-3 fatty acids, may be helpful for endometriosis.
However, human trials have not been reported.
Western herbs such as crampbark,
, and prickly ash are sometimes suggested for the treatment of endometriosis, but there is no reliable evidence that they are helpful.
Finally, some alternative practitioners associate endometriosis with
, but there is no meaningful scientific evidence to indicate that approaches based on these supposed connections provide any benefit.