Endometriosis is a painful, chronic disease that occurs when uterine tissue (technically, endometrial tissue) grows outside the uterus. The misplaced fragments of tissue develop and bleed in response to the hormones of the menstrual cycle. In turn, this causes inflammation and damage in nearby tissues. Symptoms of endometriosis include fatigue, infertility, and cyclic pelvic pain made worse by urination, bowel movements, or sexual intercourse.
Conventional treatment may involve anti-inflammatory medications, hormone therapies, and surgery. Unfortunately, such treatment is often not fully satisfactory.
Due to the limitations of conventional treatment for endometriosis, many women with this condition turn to alternative therapies. However, there is no reliable scientific evidence to indicate that any natural treatment can relieve or heal endometriosis.
Traditional Chinese herbal medicine is one of the more commonly used alternative approaches to endometriosis. Chinese medical theory has its own unique way of interpreting the condition, using such concepts as “blood stasis” and “obstructed Qi.” It employs herbal combinations along with acupuncture in the hopes of restoring normal health. Commonly used herbs include corydalis, cnidium, bupleurum, dong quai, and perilla. Unfortunately, no double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of Chinese herbs for endometriosis have been conducted. A trial comparing Chinese herbal therapy to standard therapy is currently underway.
Magnet therapy has been proposed for the treatment of many chronic pain conditions. However, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 14 women with chronic pelvic pain (due to endometriosis or other causes) found no significant benefit with 2 weeks of treatment.1 A larger study did find some evidence of benefit after 4 weeks of treatment, but a high dropout rate and other design problems compromised the meaningfulness of the results.2
Finally, some alternative practitioners associate endometriosis with chronic candida, food allergies, or immune weakness, but there is no meaningful scientific evidence to indicate that approaches based on these supposed connections provide any benefit.
1. Brown CS, Parker N, Ling F, et al. Effect of magnets on chronic pelvic pain. Obstet Gynecol. 2000;95:S29.
2. Brown CS, Ling FW, Wan JY, et al. Efficacy of static magnetic field therapy in chronic pelvic pain: A double-blind pilot study. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2002;187:1581–1587.
3. Covens AL, Christopher P, Casper RF. The effect of dietary supplementation with fish oil fatty acids on surgically induced endometriosis in the rabbit. Fertil Steril. 1988;49:698–703.
4. Yano Y. Effect of dietary supplementation with eicosapentaenoic acid on surgically induced endometriosis in the rabbit. Nippon Sanka Fujinka Gakkai Zasshi. 1992;44:282–288.
Last reviewed August 2013 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
Last Updated: 8/22/2013