Natural Treatments for Endometriosis

11 Alternative Therapies to Alleviate Pain and Cramping

Endometriosis is a health disorder in which the tissue that forms the lining of the uterus (called the endometrium) grows outside of it. These growths are known as implants or lesions.

They often attach within the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and pelvic lining but can also spread beyond the pelvic area.

The standard care plan tends to involve:

  • Hormone treatments
  • Surgery
  • Pain medicine
  • Lifestyle changes

But treating this health issue can be hard and may cause unwanted effects.

For these and other reasons, many women seek natural ways to support or replace the standard treatments prescribed by their health care providers.

This article will discuss common natural treatments women may add to their care plan, such as:

  • Eating plan changes
  • Herbs
  • Creams
  • Holistic health care
endometriosis signs and symptoms
Illustration by Emily Roberts, Verywell

Natural Treatments May Support Care Goals

These natural aids fall do not fall under mainstream care. Rather, they fall under the purview of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

Some women may opt to use CAM with or in place of standard treatments. Using them along with standard care is known as integrative medicine.

CAM may be used to manage any or all of the symptoms of endometriosis, which tend to occur or get worse before and during your period, such as:

  • Pelvic pain and cramps
  • Low back or abdomen pain
  • Deep and sharp pain during sex, bowel movements, urination, or ovulation
  • Sciatica or nerve pain that travels from your lower back to the back of your thighs
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Stomach issues, such as diarrhea or constipation
  • Not being able to get pregnant

Little evidence exists to support the various forms of CAM for this health issue. With that said, their risk of harm tends to be low and using them is not likely to make it worse.

Recap

CAM has been used alone or as along with standard care to ease endometriosis symptoms such as pain and cramps.

Let your healthcare provider know if you plan to use natural treatments of any sort, so they can keep an eye on your condition and prevent and manage any drug interactions or side effects.

Isoflavones May Ease Symptoms

Estrogen is a female hormone that controls the normal growth of the endometrium. An imbalance in this hormone can worsen pain and other symptoms caused by lesions.

A group of plant-based compounds called isoflavones may help ease symptoms of endometriosis by blocking aromatase. This is an enzyme that converts androgens (male hormones) to estrogens.

Rich sources of isoflavones include:

  • Celery
  • Parsley
  • Soybeans
  • Chickpeas
  • Fava beans
  • Pistachios
  • Peanuts

Likewise, an organic compound called indoles may slightly counter the effects of estrogen.

Indoles can be found in foods such as:

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Bok choy

Recap

Plant compounds such as isoflavones and indoles may help ease symptoms of endometriosis by blocking the effects of the hormone estrogen.

Low-Fat Diet May Lower Risk of Toxins

Some studies suggest that being exposed over time to certain toxins may raise the risk for endometriosis and worsen its course.

Toxins such as dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) stored in animal fats can be passed to humans through the foods they eat and drink.

Cutting back on foods high in saturated fats may help lower this risk.

Some studies have shown that a higher intake of red meat can raise the risk of endometriosis, while a higher intake of fresh fruits and vegetables can lower risk.

Progesterone Cream May Block Blood Supply

Progesterone cream may help block the pathway that leads to endometrial lesions.

It is believed that the cream helps prevent new blood vessels from sprouting in a process known as angiogenesis.

Stifling this process may impede the blood supply that feeds lesions and causes pain. It may also keep new lesions from forming.

The cream is made from soy or Mexican wild yam. The yam's root and bulb are used to extract a plant steroid called diosgenin.

A bioidentical form of the female hormone progesterone is then made.

Wild yam cream is often touted as a natural form of this hormone. But this is misleading since the body cannot convert diosgenin to progesterone.

The cream is sold from drug compounding pharmacies and some drugstores. The dose can be applied to the upper chest, wrists, or inner arms or thighs.

For safety reasons, the cream should only be used with your health care provider's guidance. Too much of the hormone can cause you to:

  • Have mood shifts
  • Feel depressed
  • Retain water
  • Gain weight
  • Have heavy bleeding during and in between your period

Recap

Progesterone cream made from soy or wild yams may impede the blood supply that feeds endometrial lesions and causes pain. The cream should only be used under the care of your health care provider as the risk of side effects goes up if too much is used.

Although progesterone cream can be bought over the counter, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved its use.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Helps Ease Swelling

Endometrial cramps and pain are largely caused by a class of complex fatty acids known as prostaglandins.

Some of these fatty acids ease swelling while other promote it. Too much of one type or too little of the other can incite pain.

The body converts omega-3 fatty acids into the types of prostaglandins that quash pain and swelling.

Omega 3s may also keep the types that boost swelling from forming.

Omega-3s can be found in fatty fish such as:

  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Sardines
  • Anchovies

A higher intake of omega-3s can sway the balance of prostaglandins in favor of the ones that temper swelling.

This action is mostly due to a nutrient found in fish oil known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

Research outcomes remain split when it comes to EPA's merits, but some studies have shown that omega-3s help lower the risk of this health issues by close to 50%.

Recap

Omega-3 fatty acids may help quell endometrial pain by blocking prostaglandins that cause swelling. These can be found in certain fatty fish such as salmon.

Along with eating fatty fish, you can obtain omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil supplements sold over the counter in capsule form.

Chamomile Helps Calm Cramps

Chamomile has long been used as an herbal aid to calm the body and mind.

These same effects may help ease premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and endometrial pain and cramps.

Chamomile contains an isoflavone known as chrysin. A 2019 in vitro study found that chrysin prompts apoptosis (cell death) in uterine tissues that have grown out of control.

The study notes that chrysin found in chamomile and other substances (such as honey) may one day lead to novel drugs for endometriosis.

It remains to be seen whether stronger studies can replicate or improve upon these results in humans.

Resveratrol May Quell Pelvic Pain

Resveratrol is a nutrient mainly found in berries, nuts, and grape skins.

It may help quell symptoms by blocking aromatase and the COX-2 enzymes that cause swelling and pain.

Studies have shown that this nutrient may greatly reduce pelvic pain and menstrual cramps.

Adding resveratrol to the care plan seemed to improve pain better than just using hormone treatment alone.

But these were in vitro and animal studies along with a few smaller human studies.

Larger scale randomized controlled trials (RCTs) supporting the merits of this phytoestrogen are still needed.

Turmeric Helps Control Free Radicals

Turmeric contains a nutrient known as curcumin that may help keep swelling and free radicals in check in women with endometriosis.

In vitro studies have shown that curcumin can slow endometrial cell growth by keeping the body from making estradiol. This is the strongest of the three types of human estrogen.

Further research may be able to pinpoint whether oral intake of turmeric can produce the same health outcomes in women with this health issue.

While generally regarded as safe, the FDA warns that some imported turmeric supplements were found to contain high levels of lead. To ensure safety, only buy supplements certified by the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), NSF International, or ConsumerLab.

Green Tea May Curb Lesion Spread

Green tea also acts to block aromatase and impede angiogenesis.

The main active nutrient found in green tea is epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG).

Animal studies have shown that EGCG may have healthful effects in women with endometriosis.

A 2021 review found that EGCG may stymie the growth and spread of lesions.

A separate review published in 2021 supports these findings and notes that EGCG may also lessen pain in women with this health issue.

Acupuncture May Lessen Pain Best

Acupuncture involves the insertion of small needles in the skin to treat pain and other health problems.

A 2017 review of studies published in PLoS One found that acupuncture may help ease pelvic and abdomen pain and shrink lesion size in women with endometriosis.

A systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2018 also found that among the approaches studied, only acupuncture notably reduced pain.

Larger-scale RCTs are needed to back up these findings.

Massage Helps Break the Tension

Osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) and pelvic massage may help:

  • Gently release bands of uterine scar tissue called adhesions
  • Ease stress that can heighten pain and cause uterine spasms

A 2017 review cited a few studies that support the use of OMT and massage in women with endometriosis.

The studies found that these treatments may help ease tension and pain and bolster quality of life.

But the breadth of their effects cannot be garnered based on the results of these studies alone due to factors such as poor research design, small sample size, and short study period.

Chinese Herbs Stand Toe-to-Toe With Steroids

Herbal formulas are often used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to treat uterine health issues like endometriosis.

TCM cites blood stasis as the cause for this health problem. Lesions form when blood slows or pools in the abdomen and other sites within the body.

A review of studies published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that Chinese herbs used to treat blood stasis fared well when compared to the steroid gestrinone in curbing endometriosis pain after laparoscopic surgery.

Oral and enema forms of these herbs also eased pain just as well as as the steroid drug danazol when used outside of surgery.

Despite these findings, the authors point to to the need for more rigorous research to fully assess how well Chinese herbs treat and lower the risk for this condition.

Summary

For some women, standard treatments may not be enough to manage endometriosis symptoms such as pain.

In this case, some women may integrate CAM into their plan of care. These may involve eating low-fat foods and using various herbs and nutrients to curb or keep symptoms at bay.

It may also involve holistic health care methods such as acupuncture, massage, and TCM.

Although these and other natural treatments may help endometriosis symptoms, it is vital to your health to use these modes of care with caution and with your health care provider's guidance.

A Word From Verywell

The care plan for endometriosis involves a tailored approach that factors in the types of treatment you prefer and your health status.

These may involve the use of well-established and novel modes of treatment.

Share your desire to integrate natural modes of treatment with your health care provider.

Seek guidance from your provider but also conduct thorough research of your own before trying out any new treatment.

Bear in mind that the natural approach may not be the safest or best treatment choice for your health needs.

Making a well-informed choice can help you optimize your care plan and safeguard your health.

Endometriosis Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next healthcare provider's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Doctor Discussion Guide Woman
Was this page helpful?
31 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Carpinello OJ, Sundheimer LW, Alford CE, et al. Endometriosis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK278996/

  2. Newmark AL, Luciano DE, Ulrich A, Luciano AA. Medical management of endometriosisMinerva Obstet Gynecol. 2021;10.23736/S2724-606X.21.04776-X. doi:10.23736/S2724-606X.21.04776-X

  3. InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Treatment options for endometriosis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279498/

  4. U.S. National Library of Medicine, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health. Complementary and integrative medicine.

  5. Balan A, Moga MA, Dima L, et al. An overview on the conservative management of endometriosis from a naturopathic perspective: phytochemicals and medicinal plantsPlants (Basel). 2021;10(3):587. doi:10.3390/plants10030587

  6. Parasar P, Ozcan P, Terry KL. Endometriosis: epidemiology, diagnosis and clinical management. Curr Obstet Gynecol Rep. 2017;6(1):34-41. doi:10.1007/s13669-017-0187-1

  7. Schwartz ASK, Gross E, Geraedts K, et al. The use of home remedies and complementary health approaches in endometriosisReprod Biomed Online. 2019;38(2):260‐271. doi:10.1016/j.rbmo.2018.10.009

  8. Marquardt RM, Kim TH, Shin JH, Jeong JW. Progesterone and estrogen signaling in the endometrium: what goes wrong in endometriosis? Int J Mol Sci. 2019;20(15):3822. doi:10.3390/ijms20153822

  9. Mori T, Ito F, Koshiba A, et al. Aromatase as a target for treating endometriosis. J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2018;44(9):1673-81. doi:10.1111/jog.13743

  10. Emmett JH. Nutritional protocol for endometriosis. J Nutr Diet. 2017;1(Suppl 1):104

  11. Sirohi D, Al Ramadhani R, Knibbs LD. Environmental exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and their role in endometriosis: a systematic literature reviewRev Environ Health. 2020;36(1):101-115. doi:10.1515/reveh-2020-0046

  12. Buggio L, Barbara G, Facchin F, Frattaruolo MP, Aimi G, Berlanda N. Self-management and psychological-sexological interventions in patients with endometriosis: strategies, outcomes, and integration into clinical care. Int J Womens Health. 2017;9:281-293. doi:10.2147/IJWH.S119724

  13. Reis FM, Coutinho LM, Vannuccini S, Batteux F, Chapron C, Petraglia F. Progesterone receptor ligands for the treatment of endometriosis: the mechanisms behind therapeutic success and failureHum Reprod Update. 2020;26(4):565-585. doi:10.1093/humupd/dmaa009

  14. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Health Sciences Policy; Committee on the Clinical Utility of Treating Patients with Compounded Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy, Jackson LM, Parker RM, Mattison DR, eds. The Clinical Utility of Compounded Bioidentical Hormone Therapy: A Review of Safety, Effectiveness, and Use. National Academies Press (US); 2020.

  15. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Sec. 310.530 Topically applied hormone-containing drug products for over-the-counter (OTC) human use.

  16. Society for Endocrinology. Prostaglandins.

  17. Abokhrais IM, Denison FC, Whitaker LHR, et al. A two-arm parallel double-blind randomised controlled pilot trial of the efficacy of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids for the treatment of women with endometriosis-associated pain (PurFECT1) [published correction appears in PLoS One. 2020 Feb 27;15(2):e0230055]. PLoS One. 2020;15(1):e0227695. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0227695

  18. Jurkiewicz-Przondziono J, Lemm M, Kwiatkowska-Pamuła A, Ziółko E, Wójtowicz MK. Influence of diet on the risk of developing endometriosisGinekol Pol. 2017;88(2):96-102. doi:10.5603/GP.a2017.0017

  19. Khalesi ZB, Beiranvand SP, Bokaie M. Efficacy of chamomile in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome: a systematic reviewJ Pharmacopuncture. 2019;22(4):204‐209. doi:10.3831/KPI.2019.22.028

  20. Ryu S, Bazer FW, Lim W, Song G. Chrysin leads to cell death in endometriosis by regulation of endoplasmic reticulum stress and cytosolic calcium level. J Cell Physiol. 2019;234(3):2480-90. doi:10.1002/jcp.26770

  21. Dull AM, Moga MA, Dimienescu OG, Sechel G, Burtea V, Anastasiu CV. Therapeutic approaches of resveratrol on endometriosis via anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenic pathways. Molecules. 2019;24(4):667. doi:10.3390/molecules24040667

  22. Cai X, Liu M, Zhang B, Zhao SJ, Jiang SW. Phytoestrogens for the management of endometriosis: findings and issuesPharmaceuticals (Basel). 2021;14(6):569. doi:10.3390/ph14060569

  23. Arablou T, Kolahdouz-Mohammadi R. Curcumin and endometriosis: review on potential roles and molecular mechanismsBiomed Pharmacother. 2018;97:91‐97. doi:10.1016/j.biopha.2017.10.119

  24. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Import Alert 28-13.

  25. Garzon S, Laganà AS, Barra F, et al. Aromatase inhibitors for the treatment of endometriosis: a systematic review about efficacy, safety and early clinical developmentExpert Opin Investig Drugs. 2020;29(12):1377-1388. doi:10.1080/13543784.2020.1842356

  26. Kamal DAM, Salamt N, Zaid SSM, Mokhtar MH. Beneficial effects of green tea catechins on female reproductive disorders: a reviewMolecules. 2021;26(9):2675. doi:10.3390/molecules26092675

  27. Afrin S, AlAshqar A, El Sabeh M, et al. Diet and nutrition in gynecological disorders: a focus on clinical studiesNutrients. 2021;13(6):1747. doi:10.3390/nu13061747

  28. Xu Y, Zhao W, Li T, Zhao Y, Bu H, Song S. Effects of acupuncture for the treatment of endometriosis-related pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2017;12(10):e0186616. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0186616

  29. Mira TAA, Buen MM, Borges MG, Yela DA, Benetti-Pinto CL. Systematic review and meta-analysis of complementary treatments for women with symptomatic endometriosisInt J Gynaecol Obstet. 2018;143(1):2-9. doi:10.1002/ijgo.12576

  30. Shan J, Cheng W, Zhai DX, et al. Meta-analysis of Chinese traditional medicine Bushen Huoxue prescription for endometriosis treatmentEvid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017;2017:5416423. doi:10.1155/2017/5416423

  31. Flower A, Liu JP, Lewith G, Little P, Li Q. Chinese herbal medicine for endometriosis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012;(5):CD006568. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD006568.pub3

Additional Reading