As a female studying naturopathic medicine I have always been avidly aware of female reproductive disorders as they have related to me in my own life. Recently, I’ve started to come across disorders like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) in my studies and I decided to do a deeper dive into the research. For those of you who don’t know, PCOS is the most common endocrine disorder in menstruators of reproductive age, but its etiology is largely unknown which makes it an interesting area for further research.1 Researchers suggest that PCOS has multifactorial effects and can lead to serious consequences like infertility, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular concerns if left untreated.1 In addition to this, a lot of patients with PCOS end up being diagnosed with anxiety and/or depression due to the chronicity and difficulty of living with a disorder that essentially has no cure.1
Recently, in our sexual and reproductive health lectures at school we took some time to assess what PCOS really is and to discuss what it’s like for those who live with PCOS. One student mentioned the excruciating pain patients experience when a cyst in their ovaries has been burst and others spoke about the difficulty of losing weight and maintaining a regular menstrual cycle when their hormones are so out of sync. I have also heard of patients who experience the growth of thick hair on their face and others who struggle to conceive even with the help of conventional medical treatments. All of this being said, I knew there must be a way to help-so I looked towards mushrooms!
Maitake, otherwise known as Grifola frondosa, is a functional mushroom that may provide some assistance to women suffering with polycystic ovarian syndrome. In one study the researchers took subjects with PCOS who originally failed with first-line drug treatments and gave them a Maitake mushroom extract.2 They then found that, to a degree, Maitake helped induce egg-production in PCOS patients and that it may be used as a safe additive therapy for them.2 In addition, Maitake has been reported to improve insulin resistance which can often be developed in those with endocrine disorders like PCOS.2 By improving insulin resistance this may potentially prevent patients from developing diabetes as well as the comorbidities that come alongside diabetes like obesity and hypertension.
Ultimately, treating disorders like polycystic ovarian syndrome is quite complex because it presents in so many ways in so many different people. Maitake is also quite complex because it has a variety of medicinal properties, from treating PCOS to increasing immunity and reducing fatigue in it users.3 In my opinion, using a holistic approach with numerous safe evidence-based treatments like Maitake is the best approach to managing PCOS. What are your thoughts?
- El Hayek S, Bitar L, Hamdar LH, Mirza FG, Daoud G. Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome: An Updated Overview. Front Physiol. 2016;7:124. Published 2016 Apr 5. doi:10.3389/fphys.2016.00124
- Chen JT, Tominaga K, Sato Y, Anzai H, Matsuoka R. Maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa) extract induces ovulation in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome: a possible monotherapy and a combination therapy after failure with first-line clomiphene citrate. J Altern Complement Med. 2010;16(12):1295-1299. doi:10.1089/acm.2009.0696
- Ulbricht C, Weissner W, Basch E, et al. Maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa): systematic review by the natural standard research collaboration. J Soc Integr Oncol. 2009;7(2):66-72.
Written by: Angelica Mastrodicasa — HBSc University of Toronto & 3rd Year Student of Naturopathic Medicine, Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, Toronto