Stinging Nettle

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Medicinal use of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) involves both the root and leaf of this plant. Studies have shown that the lignans in the root competitively bind SHBG. This binding may cause a decrease in SHBG ability to bind its receptors.66

Figure 29-1. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica).

Saw Palmetto

Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is an herb commonly used, because of its antiandrogen and antiinflammatory properties, for treating benign prostate hypertrophy (BPH). The lipid portion of the berries is used medicinally to produce these effects. Studies have shown that saw palmetto inhibits 5 alpha-reductase in the prostate, which decreases conversion of testosterone to the more potent form dihydrotestosterone.67 Although saw palmetto has not been studied as a PCOS treatment, the herb's antiandrogenic activity may be beneficial for patients with the condition.

Soy (Glycine spp.) protein extracts and isoflavones produce many beneficial effects to treat PCOS symptoms. There is evidence that using soy products as supplements to treat individuals with type 2 diabetes decreases fasting glucose, fasting and postprandial insulin, insulin resistance, triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein, and hemoglobin A1c.68-70 In addition, studies have indicated that increased soy intake decreases risks of endometrial cancer, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia.71,72


Women with PCOS are believed to have a deficiency of a D-chiro-inositol-containing-inositolphosphoglycan (DCI-IPG), causing insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia. Research has shown that D-chiro-inositol supplementation in women with PCOS increases insulin action; improves ovulation rates; and decreases androgen levels, blood pressure, and hypertriglyceridemia.73,74

A study done with obese women who had PCOS showed that treatment with metformin improved insulin action by increasing the insulin-mediated release of DCI-IPG mediators.75 DCI-IPG functions to stimulate the rate limiting-enzymes pyruvate dehydrogenase phosphatase (involved in insulin-induced lipogenesis) and glycogen synthase phosphatase (involved in insulin-induced glycogenesis).76

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