PCOS? How to Induce Ovulation Using 'Hen of the Woods'

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This natural culinary delicacy helped trigger ovulation in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), offering a natural alternative to commonly used medications

Irregular periods, typically without ovulation, are a hallmark of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), one that can make becoming pregnant difficult. As such, PCOS often goes hand-in-hand with infertility.[i] While it's often said that PCOS can't be cured, there is help available, including in the form of maitake mushrooms, also known as "hen of the woods."

Maitake (Grifola frondose) means "dancing mushroom" in Japanese, so named because people would dance with joy upon finding them[ii] -- if that gives you any clues about their health-boosting potential. These large, brown mushrooms grow in clusters with a delicately layered, feathery appearance.

If you're lucky enough to find one in the wild, you might mistake it for a hen resting on a log, hence its nickname "hen of the woods." At GreenMedInfo.com, you can learn about 60 diseases that maitake mushroom may benefit. Among them is insulin resistance, which may explain why this nutrient-dense fungus shows promise for PCOS.

Maitake Induces Ovulation in Women With PCOS

It's estimated that 4% to 20% of reproductive-aged women have PCOS.[iii] In addition to irregular periods, symptoms include excessive hair growth on the face or body, hair thinning or baldness and weight gain. Those affected may also suffer from additional health problems, such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and endometrial cancer.[iv]

Insulin resistance is also commonly seen in those with PCOS, and insulin-sensitizing drugs like metformin are often used in its treatment. Maitake mushrooms are widely known as adaptogens that can help fortify your body against many types of stress. However, they also stimulate the immune system and may help reduce elevated blood sugar levels while reducing blood pressure and balancing lipids.[v]

Maitake mushroom extract may also help to improve insulin resistance,[vi] along with inducing ovulation in PCOS patients. In a study of 80 people with PCOS, 72 received either maitake extract or the drug clomiphene citrate (Clomid), which is used to induce ovulation, for 12 weeks. The maitake extract contained "SX-fraction" (MSX), a glycoprotein, and dried maitake mushroom powder.

Eighteen of the patients who didn't response to maitake extract or CC on their own received both maitake extract and CC for up to 16 weeks. Favorable effects were seen, with ovulation rates of 76.9% in the maitake extract group and 93.5% in the CC group. For those receiving combination therapy, all of those who initially failed to respond to the maitake extract, and 6 of 8 of those who didn't respond to CC, successfully ovulated.

"The present study suggests that MSX alone may induce ovulation in PCOS patients and may be useful as an adjunct therapy for patients who failed first-line CC treatment," the researchers noted.[vii]

While the study wasn't intended to research infertility effects -- only 11 participants were trying to conceive -- improvements were found in this area as well. Three of the 11 infertile subjects conceived during the study. Two out of three were taking maitake extract only while the third was taking the combination treatment after drug treatment failed. "Thus," the study concluded, "MSX may have significant clinical implications in women with PCOS."[viii]

Reishi Mushroom May Help Manage PCOS Symptoms

PCOS is a common trigger of hyperandrogenism, a hormonal imbalance in which the ovaries create an excessive amount of male hormones like testosterone. Hyperandrogenism is responsible for many PCOS symptoms such as acne, oily skin, excess body hair, male-pattern baldness and abnormal menstruation.

Reishi mushrooms have numerous health-affirming properties, including an ability to control blood glucose levels, support the immune system, protect the liver and fight harmful bacterial infections.[ix] They also have powerful anti-androgenic effects, showing the strongest action in inhibiting testosterone out of 20 mushroom species.[x]

Reishi significantly reduced the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, which prevented testosterone from being converted into "more potent" DHT. "High levels of DHT are a risk factor for conditions such as benign prostatatic hypertrophy (BPH), acne, and baldness," researchers explained in the International Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism.[xi]

More Reasons to Love Mushrooms if You Have PCOS

Many mushrooms are considered adaptogens, which means they help stimulate your natural immunity to disease and maintain a healthful state of balance. Further, in addition to inhibiting lipid accumulation in the body,[xii] which may also be useful for PCOS, maitakes contain alpha glucan that offers anti-diabetes support.

In a study on mice, maitake mushrooms significantly decreased body weight and reduced levels of fasting plasma glucose, serum insulin, glycosylated serum protein, triglycerides, cholesterol, free fatty acid and malondialdehyde content in livers.[xiii]

In another animal study, maitake significantly controlled body weight, blood glucose and related organ biomarkers, and effectively counteracted the hyperlipidemia and insulin resistance triggered by poor diet.[xiv] Reishis, meanwhile, support detoxification, helping to fight premature aging and cancer due to their ability to isolate, digest and flush toxins from the body.[xv]

Looking for more natural ways to address PCOS and its symptoms? GreenMedInfo.com's PCOS research database has 73 more natural substances that may help, from cinnamon and pomegranate to flaxseed and resveratrol. You'll also find details on therapeutic tools for relief, such as acupuncture and yoga, along with problem substances to avoid, such as phthalates and pesticides, to protect your health.


References

[i] World Health Organization, Polycystic ovary syndrome https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/polycystic-ovary-syndrome

[ii] Mushroom Appreciation September 6, 2023 https://www.mushroom-appreciation.com/maitake-mushroom.html

[iii] J Hum Reprod Sci. 2020 Oct-Dec; 13(4): 261-271. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7879843/

[iv] J Hum Reprod Sci. 2020 Oct-Dec; 13(4): 261-271. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7879843/

[v] J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Dec;16(12):1295-9. doi: 10.1089/acm.2009.0696. Epub 2010 Oct 29. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21034160/

[vi] J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Dec;16(12):1295-9. doi: 10.1089/acm.2009.0696. Epub 2010 Oct 29. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21034160/

[vii] J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Dec;16(12):1295-9. doi: 10.1089/acm.2009.0696. Epub 2010 Oct 29. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21034160/

[viii] J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Dec;16(12):1295-9. doi: 10.1089/acm.2009.0696. Epub 2010 Oct 29. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21034160/

[ix] Wachtel-Galor S, Yuen J, Buswell JA, et al. Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi): A Medicinal Mushroom. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011. Chapter 9. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92757/

[x] Int J Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Spring; 10(2): 497-502. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3693613/#:~:text=In%20a%20research%20study%20exploring,into%20the%20more%20potent%20DHT.

[xi] Int J Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Spring; 10(2): 497-502. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3693613/#:~:text=In%20a%20research%20study%20exploring,into%20the%20more%20potent%20DHT.

[xii] Kubo K, Nanba H. Anti-hyperliposis effect of maitake fruit body (Grifola frondosa). I. Biol Pharm Bull. 1997 Jul;20(7):781-5. doi: 10.1248/bpb.20.781. PMID: 9255420.

[xiii] Lei Hong, Ma Xun, Wu Wutong. Anti-diabetic effect of an alpha-glucan from fruit body of maitake (Grifola frondosa) on KK-Ay mice. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2007 Apr;59(4):575-82. PMID: 17430642

[xiv] Xue Jiang, Jie Hao, Zijian Liu, Xueting Ma, Yuxin Feng, Lirong Teng, Yu Li, Di Wang. Anti-obesity effects through the modulation of lipid metabolismceramide in mice fed a high-fat diet. Food Funct. 2021 Jun 23. Epub 2021 Jun 23. PMID: 34160500

[xv] Reishi, Ling Zhi: 'Mushrooms of Immortality.' By Paul Stamets, Contributor. 12/04/2012 08:10am EST | Updated December 6, 2017. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/reishi-mushrooms_b_2200808

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.

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