How Chinese Medicinal Herbs Support Uterine Fibroids

Essential Takeaways: 

  • It is estimated that 26 million women in the United States between the ages of 15 and 50 have uterine fibroids, yet many aren't aware they have them
  • Uterine fibroids are the sole cause of infertility in 2-3% of women
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herbal formulas support fibroids and the symptoms associated with them by targeting the root cause patterns of imbalanced hormones that allow fibroids to develop 
  • Cycle Balance works to support your unique hormonal needs while helping your body function optimally 

Dr. Chloe A. Givens, is a forward-thinking functional pharmacist and Certified CBD Expert. As a passionately curious science communicator, Dr. Chloe is teaching and inspiring others to utilize holistic modalities like herbal medicine to heal all aspects of their unique root causes of disease.

Uterine Fibroids & Their Impact on Our Health

Uterine fibroids, also known as uterine myomas, fibromas, fibromyomas, or hysteromyoma, are benign (noncancerous) growths that develop from the smooth muscle tissue within the uterine wall. These growths are the most common benign gynecological tumors in women of reproductive age worldwide (4), and it's estimated that 26 million women in the United States (between the ages of 15 and 50) have them. What’s even more astonishing is that, because these growths don’t always present with the hallmark symptoms (discussed below), many women aren't even aware they have uterine fibroids (1).

There is a higher occurrence of uterine fibroids observed between women ages 35 to 45, and these growths often go unnoticed until a period of rapid growth begins during the perimenopausal phase (typically around ages 41-45). Additionally, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), nearly two-thirds of women in the United States use hormonal contraception. Of the available forms of hormonal birth control, “the pill” is the most popular and most prescribed method among women aged 15 to 49 (5). You may be wondering why this is important, but hormonal contraception can not only mask the signs and symptoms of uterine fibroids, but it can also potentially increase the risk of developing uterine fibroids in the future (6).

What are the Signs & Symptoms Associated with Uterine Fibroids? 

While it is possible for uterine fibroids to cause no symptoms at all, especially in those who have utilized or are currently utilizing some form of hormonal contraception (10), most women will experience one or more of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Pelvic pain & pressure 
  • Heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding
  • Spotting or bleeding between periods 
  • Pain during sex 
  • Unexplained lowered red blood cell count
  • Abdominal bloating or protrusion 
  • Infertility
  • Urinary & bowel symptoms 
  • Enlarged uterus & abdomen
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Fertility challenges

It’s also imperative to recognize which fibroid symptoms may indicate an emergency. Potential emergent symptoms include:

  • Intense or sudden abdominal pain
  • Chronic pain unresponsive to pain medication
  • Severe vaginal bleeding & anemia symptoms like dizziness, extreme fatigue, and weakness.

If you experience any of the above symptoms, it’s imperative that you seek immediate medical attention.

What Causes Uterine Fibroids? 

The exact cause of uterine fibroids remains unknown, but research suggests that several factors may contribute to their development (4). Some of these factors include: 

  • Hormones: There is a strong correlation between uterine fibroid development and the hormonal imbalance known as “estrogen dominance (8).” Estrogen dominance can result from excessive estrogen production, alterations in estrogen metabolism and excretion, or an imbalance in the estrogen-progesterone ratio. During menopause, estrogen levels naturally fall and developed fibroids shrink in size. This is because fibroids feed on estrogen so less circulating hormone means less food to sustain their growth. 
  • Genetic Changes: Fibroids can arise from the rapid multiplication of a single abnormal muscle cell in the uterus, stimulated by estrogen (8).
  • Family History: Women with a family history of uterine fibroids face a heightened risk of developing the condition themselves.
  • Age: Women aged 30 and above are at an increased risk of developing uterine fibroids.
  • Obesity: Being overweight or obese raises the risk of developing uterine fibroids in women (9).
  • Early Onset of Menstruation: Women who experience early onset menstruation have a higher likelihood of developing uterine fibroids.
  • Vitamin D Deficiency: Inadequate levels of vitamin D have been associated with an elevated risk of uterine fibroids.
  • Food Additive Consumption: The consumption of certain food additives, like phthalates, has been linked to an increased risk of uterine fibroids (23).

How Are Uterine Fibroids Diagnosed? 

If your doctor suspects you may have fibroids after thoroughly discussing your menstrual history, they may order one or more of the following diagnostic tests:

  • Ultrasound: Uses sound waves to create images of the uterus and pelvic organs.
  • Hysteroscopy: Involves a thin device, known as the hysteroscope, that’s inserted through the vagina and cervix to visualize the interior of the uterus.
  • Hysterosalpingography: A special X-ray test that identifies abnormal changes in the size and shape of the uterus and fallopian tubes.
  • Sonohysterography: Involves introducing fluid into the uterus, via the cervix, and using ultrasound imaging to obtain a clear picture of the uterine lining. 
  • Laparoscopy: Utilizes a thin device, known as the laparoscope, that’s inserted through a small incision near the belly button to visualize the abdominal cavity and identify fibroids on the exterior of the uterus.
  • Further Imaging: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans, though rarely necessary, can be employed to monitor fibroid growth over time.

While western medicine focuses on treating fibroids with pharmaceutical medications and invasive surgeries, we at Elix believe that there are naturally superior and more integrative treatment options available for helping support your menstrual wellness journey. The great thing about TCM is that it complements conventional therapies, so you don’t have to choose just one route to support your healing. While there are several pharmaceutical medications that may reduce the heavy bleeding or the painful periods that are associated with uterine fibroids, they may not actually prevent the growth of fibroids or address the irreversible side effects that may manifest later in life (7). In the same way, surgery can oftentimes be needed if the root cause of fibroids is never addressed, and it’s here that Cycle Balance helps to bridge the treatment gap.

TCM & Elix's Approach to Supporting Uterine Fibroids

TCM views the body through an entirely different lens when compared to western medicine. In essence, TCM is like learning a brand-new language that’s focused on holistically supporting our bodies. This integrative approach supports the body as a dynamic energy system and is based on the theory that all our body’s organs mutually support each other. This mutual relationship explains why a dysfunction in one organ system has a direct impact on the functioning of our surrounding organ systems. Further, the goal of TCM is not to simply manage symptoms but to figure out why the symptoms are happening to begin with. This is known as addressing the “root cause.” At Elix, your pattern diagnosis (your root cause patterns of hormonal imbalance) is made through a thorough health history and observation of the tongue (a microcosm of our body, showing us the internal state of our organs). There are several reasons why uterine fibroids form, and TCM uses pattern diagnosis to figure out the “why” behind your unique disease state. 

Below are some common patterns of imbalance seen with fibroids, and oftentimes, people with fibroids have a combination of multiple patterns:

  • Qi Stagnation: Qi is our vital energetic life force that keeps us alive. We need Qi to move smoothly within our bodies so an easy menstrual cycle can result. When our Qi stagnates, it stops moving freely and creates a physiological traffic jam within our bodies. This in turn affects the movement within and between our different body systems and can lead to a build-up of Qi around our uterus, creating masses, i.e. fibroids. 
  • Blood Stagnation: Following the same idea as above, when our blood stops moving freely, it can congeal and create masses, like uterine fibroids. 
  • Phlegm-Dampness: You can think of Phlegm-Dampness like a cold type of inflammation. Phlegm-Dampness is an accumulation of internal “mucus” that can create uterine masses, like fibroids.
  • Qi Deficiency: This deficiency usually underlies the above patterns. Because Qi is our vital energetic life force, a deficiency will in turn create an environment where there’s not enough energy to move Qi and Blood, resulting in mass growth, i.e. fibroids.

How Cycle Balance Supports Symptoms of Fibroids

Cycle Balance® is formulated to support your unique patterns of imbalance, which we now know as the “why” behind why fibroids are forming in the first place. Based on your pattern diagnosis, a personalized blend of Chinese medicinal herbs is chosen to create your tincture. Each formula is tailored specifically to your unique needs and is based on how each herb will synergistically work to support your body at a foundational level.

Listed below are a few of the herbs used in Cycle Balance that support the patterns associated with uterine fibroids: 

By supporting your unique root causes of imbalance at the foundational level, your body will begin to function optimally, creating an environment inhospitable to fibroids.

TCM Herbs for Uterine Fibroids

Below you will find research backed information, detailing some of the additional herbs that may be included in your personalized Cycle Balance® formulation:

  • Poria (Fu Ling): This edible mushroom suppresses inflammation, reduces cramps, helps promote relaxation, regulates endocrine function, and assists with balancing hormones (16).
  • White peony root (Radix Paeoniae Alba, Bai Shao): This esteemed medicinal herb is celebrated for its mental focus and emotional stabilization properties. It also possesses immune-boosting benefits which naturally contribute to more balanced hormones and reduced premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms (17).
  • Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca, Yin Mu Cao): Motherwort has been used for centuries to help relieve PMS symptoms, promote proper menstruation, and alleviate menstrual cramps by enhancing uterine circulation and blood supply (18).
  • Cortex Moutan (Mu Dan Pi): This medicinal herb comes from the root bark of Paeonia suffruticosa, commonly called “tree peony.” It is widely used in TCM practice for the treatment of blood-heat and blood-stasis syndrome, and is also known for its powerful ability to reduce inflammation throughout the body. This makes Cortex Moutan an essential herbal selection for severe menstrual cramps (19).
  • Angelica Root (Angelica Sinensis, Dang Gui): This herb contains anti-inflammatory properties that improve blood flow, decrease water retention, support uterine health, and reduce PMS symptoms like bloating and hormonal weight gain (20).
  • Chinese Skullcap (Scutellaria Baicalensis, Huang Qin): Baicalein is a flavonoid extracted from the root of Chinese skullcap, and has been shown to decrease oxidative stress and reduce inflammation (21).
  • Vitex Berry (Chaste Tree Berry, Man Jing Zi): This medicinal herb is most often utilized to help correct menstrual irregularities, support fertility, and reduce PMS symptoms. It has been shown to help balance the ratios of estrogen and progesterone, further supporting its role in combating estrogen dominance (22).

Precautions & Safety Concerns

Prior to commencing herbal medicine treatment, it is crucial to engage in a thorough discussion with your trusted TCM practitioner and your prescribing doctor. This conversation should address any concerns for potential interactions with your other medications. Because prevention and treatment approaches for uterine fibroids will always be tailored to each individual patient, TCM offers a safe and effective avenue to addressing these hormonal imbalances.

Proven Herbal Healing Tailored to Your Cycle

 Elix utilizes the wisdom of TCM to create your customized Cycle Balance formula. Rather than simply masking your menstrual symptoms, we want our community to feel empowered to take control of their cycles. To unlock the full potential of your personalized tincture, consider incorporating some of the following healthy lifestyle tips into your daily routine:

  • Embrace daily movement, adjusting the intensity based on your current energy levels. 
  • Fuel your body with nourishing whole foods while decreasing added sugar and industrial seed oil intake.
  • The following foods have been shown to promote fibroids and the associated symptoms when consumed in excess: red meat, dairy, alcohol, and caffeine. 
  • Prioritize restorative sleep and self-care activities.
  • Find tools that help you positively respond to stress like mediation, breathwork, and finding time for grounding in nature.

All of the above lifestyle tips work synergistically with Cycle Balance® to restore harmony to your hormones and further prevent uterine fibroid development. Once you understand that unbalanced hormones can prompt the development of uterine fibroids and further foster the tumor growth cycle, your true healing journey can begin. If you’d like to learn more about how you can regain control of your menstrual cycle and heal your uterus, feel free to take our online Health Assessment and discover how we can help support your menstrual wellness journey.

This article was reviewed by Dr. Liem Le.

Dr. Liem Le is a Doctor of Chinese Medicine, Functional Medicine Practitioner, and Nutritionist Integrative Medicine Department at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center. He is a part of the teaching staff for the Masters program for the Functional Medicine and Human Nutrition program at University of Western States. Dr. Le is currently working on his fellowship in Integrative Medicine with the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine via a scholarship from the White House to complete the initiative.

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