A Traditional Medicine Approach to Ovarian Cysts

By Barbara Poczyniak, R.Ac

min read

Cysts on the ovaries can be a common occurrence during the monthly cycle. An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac within the ovary or attached to it’s surface. They are often harmless and will dissolve on their own. Others may cause discomfort or pain if they get very large, rupture and bleed.

If you have cysts, its a good idea to ask your doctor about the type, the size and on which ovary.  Surgery is usually not considered necessary, if the cyst is within a certain range.  But it will also depend on what the cyst is filled with (fluid, solid or combination of both), and what other symptoms you may be having.  Many physicians now prefer to monitor the size of cysts before going to excision. 

What are the types of ovarian cysts?

There are a number of cyst types.  Most common are the ones that are related to ovulation: they are either follicular or corpus luteum cysts.  The following descriptions are from the Mayo Clinic.

Follicular cyst

A simple cyst that can form when ovulation doesn’t occur or when a mature follicle collapses on itself.  This type forms at time of ovulation and can grow to about 2.3″ in diameter.  It may shrink on its own or can rupture and cause a sharp pain on the side of the ovary on which it appears.

Corpus luteum cyst

A type of functional cyst that occurs after an egg has been released from a follicle. If pregnancy does not occur, this usually breaks down and disappears. It may however fill with blood or fluid and persist on the ovary.  Usually it is found only on one side and without symptoms. 

Hemorrhagic cyst

A type of functional cyst occurs with bleeding within the cyst.

Dermoid cyst

A type of benign tumour that is also sometimes referred to as a mature cystic teratoma. This is an abnormal cyst that affects younger women and may grow to 6″ or more in diameter.  This type may contain other types of tissue such as fat and occasionally bone, hair and cartilage.  This type of cyst does not usually dissolve on its own, and is more likely to be regularly monitored by your physician. 


Also known as endometrioid cysts, these are part of the condition known as endometriosis. This type forms when endometrial tissue (the lining of the uterus) is abnormally present on the ovaries. It affects women during their reproductive years and may cause issues such as pelvic pain.

Polycystic-appearing ovary

This is an ovary diagnosed based on its larger size – usually twice that of normal.  It will have smaller cysts present around the outside of the ovary. 

TCM treatment for ovarian cysts

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, ovarian cysts (actually cysts anywhere the body) are seen as a type of pathogenic accumulation.  The cyst forms when the body’s circulation of energy is poor, sluggish or impeded by other congestion.  This lack of proper circulation flow causes stagnant blood and other sluggish moving matter to accumulate into the form of cysts.  Usually there is an underlying imbalance that factors in to why this mechanism is happening. 

Helping the body naturally move and clear this congestion is a key part of treating cysts with acupuncture and abdominal massage.  We look for the source or root of the issue in order to get lasting results and keep the congestion from returning.  Acupuncture works by helping to increase micro-circulation in the pelvic region, but also the overall circulation in the body.  It can help treat pain, and also has an effect on the body’s neuro-endocrine communication systems.

Arvigo Abdominal Therapy® for treating ovarian cysts

Traditional Mayan abdominal massage focuses on restoring the homeostasis in the entire body, but especially the vital flows in the abdominal and pelvic areas.  In this approach we encourage the uterus to be in its optimal, central position – the idea being that a potentially displaced uterus can disrupt hemodynamics and balance of surrounding systems.  The better the natural flow of fresh blood, lymph, nerve and energy – the more likely the body can help itself clear the cyst.

Self Care for Ovarian Cysts

Self care practices are suggested alongside in-office treatments, including abdominal self massage, castor oil packs, dietary changes and pelvic steaming.

Castor Oil Packs

A simple, traditional home remedy that supports gentle liver detoxification and is thought to naturally break down unwanted “accumulations” in the body. 

The packs can be as simple as a folded length of cloth that can easily found around the home.  Traditionally, unbleached wool flannel is used for this purpose.  Saturated in castor oil, it is folded into a rectangle shape and placed over the lower abdomen (over the uterus and ovaries). Heat is applied, either through a heat pack or hot water bottle.  DIY care sessions typically last 20-60 minutes, and it is recommended to try a series of 5-7 days in a row rather than once in a while. 

Two important contraindications for castor oil packs: 

  1. Castor Oil packs are not to be done during pregnancy (or during the luteal phase of your cycle if you are actively trying to conceive).  
  2. Castor Oil packs may make menstrual flow heavier, so generally should be avoided during menstruation. 

Dietary Considerations for Ovarian Cysts

As the nature of cysts may vary, the type of diet recommendations may vary as well for each individual.

In general, it is recommended to:

  • Omit sugar and foods that cause inflammation in the body. 
  • Avoid processed foods.
  • Try to include organic food whenever possible. 
  • Increasing the levels of fibre in your diet. Adequate fibre (and hydration) will help the body clear excess estrogen that may be implicated in certain types of ovarian cysts. 
  • Eat your greens – dark green, leafy vegetables and cruciferous veggies are both a source of fibre and support your liver’s efforts at detoxification.

Stress Management

In TCM, the role of the liver organ system also relates to pathogenesis such as cyst formation.  The liver is considered a detox organ but also plays a large part in how emotions and stress are handled by the body and mind.  The healthier the liver is, the better we can process our reactions to stress. In return, the better we are equipped to handle negative emotions in a healthy way, the less stress we place on our liver and its bodily functions. 

Traditional medicine looks at ovarian health through a multi-level approach, including hands-on treatment, self care modalities and lifestyle changes such as food and stress level management.


Next Steps

Have questions about Acupuncture or Arvigo Therapy® and how it might fit in your plan?  Please contact me for a free consultation call to discuss your situation and get more specific details. 



The Impact of Diet and Lifestyle on Gut Microbiota and Human Health

Ovarian cysts: Overview (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539572/)

Dietary fat intake and reproductive hormone concentrations and ovulation in regularly menstruating women (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4763493/)

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endometriosis, ovarian cysts, unexplained infertility, unknown infertility

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