In the 1970s there were no midwives in our area of King County, Washington, in the US. In medical school and residency education I’d spent considerable time in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, observing and helping to deliver babies. My medical practice (which wasn’t yet named Tahoma Clinic) wasn’t very full at the start, so when a few women asked me to help with home deliveries – which of course require you to be available any time of day or night – I was able to help. This continued until the early 1980s, when I no longer had the time, and fortunately an experienced midwife moved to our area.
As word got around about my helping with home births, many women started coming to the clinic about other health issues, too. One woman came in because she’d been told her only option for very large uterine fibroids (leiomyomas for the technically inclined) was hysterectomy. She was still in her early 30s with no children yet, so she didn’t want to do that. (The other conventional medicine treatment, embolization of the blood vessels feeding the fibroids, had been ruled out in her case because there were too many large vessels involved.)
She was told hysterectomy was her only option
This patient had been to her gynaecologist for regular checks on the fibroids, and at her last visit had been told what had become obvious to anyone. The fibroids were growing steadily and her uterus had swelled to the size it would be if she were 7˝ months pregnant! She was advised that her uterus should be removed before the fibroids grew any larger making the surgery even more difficult and hazardous. She asked if there was anything else that could be tried, since she was married and still might want to have children.
This was before the internet, of course, so research was more challenging and the only place to look for information was in the Medical Library of the University of Washington Medical School. Combining what I found there with what I’d learned earlier from Dr. John Meyers (and had used very successfully since) about the effective elimination of fibrocystic breast disease with iodine, it appeared there might be a potential non-surgical treatment.
There appeared to be a possibility of stopping the fibroid growth with sodium iodide, a form of iodide sometimes given intravenously. But there was also a chance that large quantities of intravenous iodide could suppress her own thyroid function, so she would need to be monitored closely. This way the treatment could be stopped if any thyroid suppression was detected.
She went home and discussed it with her husband, a soldier stationed at what was then called Fort Lewis near Tacoma, Washington. A few days later she called back and made an appointment for the first treatment with 1g (1,000mg) of sodium iodide given slowly intravenously (IV). She was given the same IV treatment twice a week for a month, then once weekly after that. She made sure to tell her Army gynaecologist what she was doing; he was sceptical, asked for copies of her thyroid function tests, and continued to check the size of her fibroid-laden uterus.
Her fibroids shrank toone-third the original size
After two months of treatment (and no abnormal thyroid tests) she told me that her gynaecologist said her uterus had dropped down to the size of a six-month pregnancy. Apparently the fibroids were shrinking! We continued with the treatment and monitoring for several more months until her husband was transferred to another Army base in Texas. At that time the latest report from her gynaecologist was that her uterus had shrunk down to the size of a 2˝-month pregnancy, one-third the size it was when she began treatment.
Of course she wanted to continue the treatment, so we gave her copies of all her medical records and lab tests. Unfortunately, we never heard from her again. However, the same sodium iodide treatment (with thyroid monitoring) was tried for a few other women. It helped them too, but not as dramatically as it had the first time it was used.
This case, of course, is just clinical experience and not controlled research. Sodium iodide intravenous treatment requires careful monitoring of thyroid function, and can only be done by a doctor. So let’s review actual research on remedies that women can try on their own.
Beat fibroids with black cohosh
Let’s start with black cohosh. In 2014 a randomized, double-blind, controlled Chinese study was reported. Thirty-four women with at least one fibroid (also termed myomas) took an extract of black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa for the technically inclined) while another 28 with at least one fibroid took a patented pseudo-oestrogen called tibolone. Transvaginal ultrasound was used to measure the dimensions of each participant’s fibroids.
The black cohosh group had a median fibroid volume shrinkage of 30 per cent (p=0.016 for the technically inclined). Other dimensions measured had equal or greater volume shrinkage. In contrast, the tibolone group had a small (4.7 per cent) median volume increase. The researchers wrote: “Our results suggest that… Remifemin® is a valid herbal medicinal product in patients with uterine myomas as it provides adequate relief from menopausal symptoms and inhibits growth of the myomas…”1
Tea time, anyone?
A 2013 study found that the green tea extract epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, may be an effective remedy for fibroids. In randomized, placebo-controlled research done in Egypt, 22 women with at least one fibroid measuring three-quarters of an inch or larger (confirmed by transvaginal ultrasound) took 800mg of green tea extract (45 per cent EGCG), while 11 women took a placebo for four months.
Follow-up transvaginal ultrasound determined that the women who took the placebo had an average 24.3 per cent increase in fibroid volume. The women who took the green tea extract showed a significant reduction (32.6 per cent) in fibroid volume, a significant reduction in fibroid-related symptom severity, and a significant reduction in blood loss with an accompanying significant improvement in anaemia. There were no adverse effects.
The researchers concluded: “EGCG shows promise as a safe and effective therapeutic agent for women with symptomatic uterine fibroids.”2
Tackle fibroids with curcumin and genistein
In 2011, Japanese researchers reported that curcumin, the active ingredient in the spice turmeric, significantly inhibited the growth and proliferation of animal fibroid cells. They concluded: “Curcumin may be useful as an alternative therapy for uterine leiomyoma.”3
Earlier, in 2009, another research group from the same Japanese university published research demonstrating the inhibitory effect of the phytoestrogen genistein on the same type of animal fibroid cells. Genistein is a plant oestrogen which has a greater affinity for oestrogen receptor beta than oestrogen receptor alpha.
However, these researchers reported that genistein and curcumin inhibited fibroids through the same cellular mechanism (for the technically inclined, stimulation of PPARγ). They concluded: “Genistein may be useful as an alternative therapy for leiomyoma.”4
Traditional Chinese remedy shrinks fibroids
There’s one more potential botanical remedy for fibroids. (Thanks to Kerry Bone, this one was mentioned right here in Nutrition & Healing in 2012.) In 1992, a Japanese research group reported on the anti-fibroid effects of the traditional Chinese herbal remedy Kuei-chi-fu-ling-wan (I can’t pronounce it, either), sometimes sold in the United States as ‘Gui formula’. Significant shrinkage of uterine fibroids was demonstrated in 60 per cent of those treated.5
Could an oestrogen therapy be the key?
As you may know, 2-methoxyestradiol is a very potent anti-carcinogenic oestrogen whose mechanism of action is so well known that patent medicine companies are trying to copy it to make a synthetic version.
Yes, 2-methoxyestradiol can be a prescription item requiring help from a doctor skilled and knowledgeable in natural and nutritional medicine, but it’s also possible for women’s bodies to internally synthesise it too. Just ask that same doctor skilled and knowledgeable in natural medicine, she or he will tell you!
Years ago, a colleague sent me a research report about uterine leiomyoma cell growth inhibited by an incredibly small amount of 2-methoxyestradiol, one micomole per litre. (That’s well within the range that can be internally secreted in normal women’s bodies.) Although I’ve been unable to locate the hard copy of that first research report, there has since been other research on this same topic.
In a study in 2006, researchers showed that 2-methoxyestradiol induces cell suicide and inhibits cell proliferation in both rat and human leiomyoma cells, making it a potential treatment for uterine fibroids.6 Then in 2012, a research group with the same principal author as the 2006 study published research on how the oestrogen actually achieves those anti-fibroid effects.7
BEFORE surgery seek a second opinion
If you have uterine fibroids, I urge you to get a second opinion before you agree to surgery or embolization. Take a copy of this article to a doctor skilled and knowledgeable in natural and nutritional medicine, as well as bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, and discuss your options. With this information – and the help of the doctor you’ve chosen – you have a very good chance of putting together a fibroid-shrinking programme that will work for you!
Wishing you the best of health,
Dr. Jonathan V. Wright
Nutrition & Healing
Vol. 9, Issue 4 • April 2015
Full references and citations for this article are available in the downloadable PDF version of the monthly Nutrition and Healing issue in which this article appears.