Drinking tea can be helpful for polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) symptoms like facial hair growth. Facial hair growth, or male-pattern hair growth called hirsutism, is one of the more common complaints we hear from women with PCOS. This distressing symptom stems from the ovaries or adrenal glands producing too many androgens, and often negatively effects self-esteem levels in addition to being costly to manage.
The underlying cause of most PCOS is insulin resistance, but the condition can also be triggered by stress (adrenal PCOS) or general inflammation in the body. There are many diet and lifestyle changes a woman can make to help manage her PCOS symptoms, but it can feel overwhelming knowing where to start. It can be helpful to adopt an “addition” mindset vs. a “subtraction” mindset when working towards a healthier lifestyle to balance your hormones.
For example, if you are trying to reduce sugar intake, rather than focusing on what you are taking away (subtraction mindset), such as “I can no longer have my daily afternoon latte” , try switching your mindset to “I get to have a daily afternoon cup of tea ” (addition mindset).
Tea is a great thing to add to your drink rotation when you have PCOS. Studies have shown that both green tea and spearmint tea can have a positive impact on PCOS symptoms, including hirsutism.
Here is what some of the studies show about tea for PCOS:
In a 30-day randomized controlled trial, 41 women were randomized to drink either a placebo herbal tea or spearmint tea twice per day. It was found that free and total testosterone levels were significantly reduced in the spearmint tea group over the course of the study (1).
Another small study in 2007 showed that hirsute women who drank 2 cups of spearmint tea per day for 5 days during the follicular phase of their menstrual cycle showed a significant decrease in free testosterone levels. There were no significant decreases in total testosterone or dehydroepiandrostenedione-sulphate (DHEA-S). Further studies are needed, due to the short duration of the study and small sample size (2).
A study published in 2017 showed that the consumption of 500 milligrams of green tea extract twice daily for 12 weeks led to weight loss, decreased fasting insulin levels, and lower levels of free testosterone in overweight women with PCOS (3). Animal studies have also shown the positive effects of green tea extract in subjects with PCOS. One study found a significant reduction in insulin resistance index as well as reduced body weight in rats with PCOS (4).
How does 500 mg of green tea extract translate to cups of green tea? One would probably have to drink at least 64 oz of green tea per day to reach that level, so about 128 oz per day to reach the therapeutic dose in the human study above. Is this realistic for most people? Probably not. Taking a supplement of green tea extract, such as this one or doing a combination of the tea and the extract supplement, would be an easier way to achieve that dose for most people.
Other teas and beverages
Drinking adequate water and a good variety of herbal teas, even those not studied for PCOS, is a good way to stay hydrated and get anti-inflammatory benefits from the polyphenols and antioxidants in tea. You can read more about healthy drinks other than water and some of our favorite tea options here.
What should you do with this information?
More studies are certainly needed to prove the anti-androgenic properties of spearmint and green tea for PCOS, but consuming more tea is a good option to try for women struggling with symptoms from the high androgens that come along with the condition.
If you are a more than 1 cup per day coffee drinker, start off by replacing your second cup of coffee with tea and see how it goes. Consider using decaffeinated green tea if you are drinking it in the afternoon. Working towards an intake of 2-6 cups of spearmint or green tea per day is a reasonable goal for most people. You can find one of our favorite spearmint teas here.
If you are looking for more personalized guidance for treating PCOS, check out our 3-month PCOS program.