Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome – basics

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is the most common female endocrine disorder. PCOS is strongly associated with hyper-androgenism, ovulatory dysfunction and obesity. The syndrome also increases the risk for metabolic disturbances such as hyper-insulinaemia and insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes, hypertension and an increased likelihood of developing cardiovascular risk factors and impaired mental health later in life.

Many women with PCOS require prolonged treatment. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is characterised by the clinical signs of oligo-amenorrhoea (infrequent or very light menstruation), infertility (failure to conceive), acne, male patterned baldness and hirsutism (excessive hair growth). The current conventional medical treatments for women with PCOS are prescription medications, surgery, and lifestyle changes aimed at controlling symptoms.

How acupuncture can help?

In general, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. The resulting biochemical changes influence the body’s homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being.

Research has shown that acupuncture treatment may specifically help with symptoms of PCOS by:

  • a regulatory effect on follicle stimulation hormone (FSH), luteinising hormone ( LH) and androgens
  • modulating the activity of the sympathetic nervous system and improving blood flow to the ovaries
  • downregulating the expressions of serum levels of testosterone and oestradiol
  • controlling hyperglycaemia by increasing insulin sensitivity and decreasing blood glucose and insulin levels


Ren 2014 (SR & MA of 31 studies)(1): Acupuncture may be effective; weak positive evidence

Lim 2016 (Cochrane SR of 5 RCTs)(2): Insufficient evidence; weak positive evidence

Jo etc. 2017 ( SR & MA) found that acupuncture is more likely to improve ovulation rate  and menstruation rate compared with no acupuncture. They found statistically significant pooled benefits of acupuncture treatment as an adjunct to medication in luteinizing hormone (LH), LH/follicular stimulating hormone (FSH) ratio, testosterone, fasting insulin, and pregnancy rates (weak positive evidence) (3).


1. Ren LN, Guo LH, Ma WZ, Zhang R. [A meta-analysis on acupuncture treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome].  Zhen Ci Yan Jiu. 2014 Jun;39(3):238-46.

2. Lim CE, Ng RW, Xu K, Cheng NC, Xue CC, Liu JP, et al. Acupuncture for polycystic ovarian syndrome. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016(5):Cd007689.

3. Jo, J., Lee, Y. J., & Lee, H. (2017). Acupuncture for polycystic ovarian syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Medicine, 96(23), e7066.