Updated: Nov 23, 2020
Uterine fibroids affect millions of women. Because their symptoms range from mild to severe to incapacitating for some, many natural remedies have been suggested for relieving or even curing the symptoms of uterine fibroids. Women have tried to shrink fibroids with apple cider vinegar, castor oil packs, and herbal cleanses, and in some cases, women swear by these remedies. The problem with many of these 'natural approaches' is that medical evidence demonstrating that they work is seriously lacking, and most of the success stories behind them are anecdotal. Read on to learn more.
In this Article
Why medical evidence matters and how we use it to advance our understanding of medical treatments
A brief review of the natural remedies that have been suggested to help with fibroids
Our conclusion: do natural remedies like apple cider vinegar, castor oil packs, or dietary changes shrink fibroids?
Medical Evidence Matters
Medical evidence is important because it allows patients to know that a treatment, either medical or surgical, has been proven to be safe and effective for large numbers of people. Proper clinical research may also reveal the side effects and complications that could arise with a given treatment. Without observing the use of a treatment in a large group of people in a controlled manner, we have no way to know if the treatment really works or if it’s safe in the general population.
How Medical Evidence is Created
Evidence based medicine has long been used by physicians to make informed decisions about what to prescribe patients. You may have heard buzzwords like “randomized controlled trial” or “meta-analysis” mentioned when researching different treatment options. These are different types of studies that are done to evaluate whether or not a treatment is safe and effective.
A randomized controlled trial is a clinical study that compares two treatments by giving the first treatment to one group of patients and a second treatment to the second group of patients. These types of clinical trials are typically used to evaluate a new treatment against the current gold standard of care or a against a placebo to verify that the new treatment has health benefits. A meta-analysis looks at various scientific studies that have been done and pools together the knowledge gained from each, and can be a valuable tool for a physician or patient to learn more about how well a treatment works.¹
Apple Cider Vinegar for Fibroids
Apple cider vinegar is fermented apple juice, and the beneficial effects are said to come from the main ingredient in vinegar, acetic acid.² It has become popular as a “cure all”, with benefits for various ailments including acid reflux, heart disease, diabetes, and dandruff. It has also been touted as a remedy to shrink uterine fibroids. Our research didn’t reveal any credible science that’s able to explain why this might work, but the internet is full of women swearing that their fibroid symptoms have been alleviated by apple cider vinegar. Some websites instruct women to drink 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in 1 cup of water daily,³ others say that the exact amount is unknown and any amount will have an effect. Researchers have begun studies on the effect of apple cider vinegar on weight loss and body fat content, however no scientific study has been done to determine if it does indeed shrink fibroids.
Castor Oil Packs for Fibroids
Castor oil contains ricinoleic acid, which is said to have anti-inflammatory properties. Like apple cider vinegar, it has been popular amongst natural treatments for multiple issues including increasing wound healing and scalp health. A study done in Turkey in 2011 showed that castor oil packs combined with heat packs might be beneficial for constipation, and that the castor oil packs may increase circulation and lymphatic flow when placed topically on the abdomen.⁴ Some natural medicine websites claim that this increased circulation may also help reduce uterine fibroids,⁵ however no scientific studies have been done to quantify this. Castor oil packs are made by soaking a cloth in warm castor oil and placing it on the abdominal skin, sometimes with heat packs. The duration of application and how often it should be done varies from website to website.
Dietary Changes to Shrink Fibroids
The growth of uterine fibroids may be due to the amount of hormones circulating in a woman’s body. The liver is responsible for detoxifying blood, and may play a role in regulating hormone levels by breaking down estrogen and progesterone. As such, many dietary changes that are said to positively affect liver health are said to be beneficial for uterine fibroids. Foods and supplements listed by many websites include olive oil, lemon, garlic, green leafy vegetables, and whole grains.³ Some supplements such as milk thistle may play a role in estrogen metabolism, and when ingested, could reduce estrogen levels. Clinical studies have not been done to test any of this, however, and evidence so far is only anecdotal.⁶
Conclusion: Can Natural Remedies like Apple Cider Vinegar Shrink Fibroids?
Various natural remedies for shrinking uterine fibroids exist, both on the internet and by word of mouth. Proper medical research has not been conducted for the majority of these natural remedies, which put their efficacy in question. And while these remedies are unlikely to cause negative health effects when used in moderation, waiting for a miracle cure to take effect may prolong your journey to finding real fibroid relief from symptoms. There are a handful of other fibroid treatments including non-surgical uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) and dietary supplements that do have some clinical evidence to support their use, and we encourage our readers to look into them.
If you’re seeking immediate relief from your fibroids, you may want to consider seeing a specialist. A quick, clinically proven, non-invasive fibroid treatment may help you find relief from your fibroids.
About the Author
Dr. Michael Lalezarian is a practicing interventional radiologist with the Fibroid Specialists of University Vascular in Los Angeles, CA. In addition to patient care, Dr. Lalezarian teaches and supervises medical students, residents, and fellows as a full time teaching Professor in the Department of Radiology at UCLA. He is regarded as an expert in uterine fibroid embolization. You can view Dr. Lalezarian's full bio here.
This blog post was written with research and editorial assistance from OnChart™.
 Masic I, Miokovic M, Muhamedagic B. (2008) Evidence based medicine - new approaches and challenges. Acta Inform Med 16(4):219–225.
 WebMD: “Apple Cider Vinegar and Your Health”
 Women’s Wellness Clinic: “How to Shrink Fibroids”
 Arsalana, G.G., Eser, I. (2011) An examination of the effect of castor oil packs on constipation in the elderly. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice 17:58-62.
 Dr. Axe: “Fibroids”
 Reid, R., Casteleijn, D. (2014) Oestrogen modulation in the management of uterine fibroids: A potential role for herbal medicine. Australian Journal of Herbal Medicine, 26(4): 145-149, 167.
The Materials available on the FibroidSpecialists.org blog are for informational and educational purposes only and are not a substitute for the professional judgment of a healthcare professional in diagnosing and treating patients.