Plant Estrogens

For Acute PMS and Menopause

Plant Estrogens, Health, Healthy Living Magazine

Plant Estrogens, Health, Healthy Living Magazine

Women fear hot flashes, perspiration, mood swings—but what can they do about either condition without resorting to tranquilizers and other medications?

Phytoestrogens or plant estrogens are capable of exerting estrogenic effects by inducing production of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). Phytoestrogens are capable of helping adapt to estrogen excesses or deficiencies. If estrogen levels are low, since phytoestrogens have some estrogenic activity, they will cause an increase in estrogen effect; if estrogen levels are high, since phytoestrogens bind to estrogen receptor sites, thereby competing with estrogen, there will be a decrease in estrogen effects. Because of the balancing act of phytoestrogens, it is common to find the same plant recommended for conditions of estrogen excess such as premenstrual syndrome as well as conditions of estrogen deficiency such as menopause. In addition to their mild estrogenic effects, several of these plants—most notably dong quai—exert a natural effect on the vascular system that is extremely useful in reducing both the frequency and intensity of hot flashes and night sweats.

It is also possible that phytoestrogens present in fiberrich food such as grains, beans and those discussed below, “may be protective with regard to estrogen dependent and perhaps other types of cancer,” note researchers in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry. Indeed, the researchers went on to say “many plant lignans have anticarcinogenic, antiviral and fungicidal properties.”

1 Fennel
Although few studies have characterized this herb’s endocrine activity, in the first century AD, Dioscorides observed: “Fennel herb itself is of the force to draw down milk, as doth the seed being drunk [and] it expels the menstrua.” Even as late as 1916, the National Standard Dispensatory noted that an infusion of fennel can be “given to increase the lacteal secretion, and to establish the menstrual flow.”

2 Licorice
Researchers from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Boston, writing in the Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association noted more than 40 years ago: “Licorice root was found to contain an estrogenic hormone in appreciable quantity.”

3 Dong Quai
This plant has a long-standing tradition in Asia as a remedy especially suited to women. Dong quai has been used in conditions such as dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), amenorrhea (absence of menstruation), metrorrhagia (abnormal menstruation), menopausal symptoms (especially hot flashes) and to assure a healthy pregnancy and easy delivery. The pharmacology of dong quai is related to its high coumarin content. Some of the pharmacologic effects demonstrated include estrogenic activity, antibacterial activity, analgesic activity, antiallergy and immunomodulating activity, in addition to cardiovascular and smooth muscle relaxing.

4 Japanese Angelica Sinensis
This herb has demonstrated uterine tonic activity, causing an initial increase in uterine contraction followed by reaction. Administering Angelica sinensis to mice resulted in an increase of uterine weight and increase in both the DNA content and glucose utilization in the uterus and liver. Because of these and other effects, angelica has been reported as a uterine tonic.

5 Gamma-Oryzanol
This component of rice bran oil contains plant sterols such as beta-sitosterol and campestrol. Japanese researchers have found gammaoryzanol to be effective in the treatment of menopausal symptoms, amenorrhea and certain ovarian disorders. Dr Y. Murase and co-investigators studied the effects of gammaoryzanol on menopausal and postmenopausal women. They found that a dose of 20 mg/day given orally for 38 days produced a decrease of 50% or more in the Kupperman Menopausal Index in 67% of women with an effective rate of 75% for postmenopausal subjects. (The Kupperman Index is based subjectively on symptoms including hot flashes, chills, tachycardia, dizziness, insomnia, tinnitus, fatigue, hyperhidrosis, nausea, diarrhea and constipation.) Even more significant results were reported by researchers using higher dosages. As reported in the Asia-Oceania Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 1984 that dosages of 300 mg/day for eight days resulted in an 85% improvement in the Kupperman Index along with decreased levels of blood lipids in patients with hyperlipidemia.

6 Chasteberry
The berries of the chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus), native to the Mediterranean, have long been used as a women’s remedy. Its name, chaste, signifies its use in suppressing the libido. Scientific investigation has shown chasteberry has profound effects in supporting normal hormone levels in the body. Specifically it has been shown to increase the secretion of luteinizing hormone by the pituitary while reducing the secretion of follicle-stimulating hormone. As a result, the ovaries put out more progesterone, a goal in cases of premenstrual syndrome and many menstrual disorders. Clinical studies have shown a good effect on premenstrual acne flare-ups and water retention. Chasteberry has also been used to promote and prolong breast feeding.

7 Vitamin E
This was once thought to be an important supplement for women who are going through menopause. Rita S. Finkler, MD, tested vitamin E therapy in 66 selected and controlled patients who complained of the characteristic symptoms of menopause. Good to excellent results were obtained in 31 women, and fair results in 16. In 19 patients the treatment was ineffectual. Discontinuance of the vitamin E preparation was attended by prompt recurrence of symptoms, with their cessation immediate on reinstitution of the medication.

8 Boron
In a study of 12 women between the ages of 48 and 82, the effects of magnesium and boron were examined for major mineral metabolism; women who supplemented their diets with 3mg/daily of boron had markedly reduced losses of calcium and magnesium, reports Forrest H. Nielsen and co-investigators from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Research Center in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Women who took supplemental boron had the same levels of 17β-estradiol in their serum as women who were on estrogen therapy. The investigators further noted: “The findings suggest that supplementation of a low-boron diet with an amount of boron commonly found in diets high in fruits and vegetables induces changes in postmenopausal women consistent with the prevention of calcium loss and bone demineralization.” Boron also is needed in order for vitamin D to convert to its most active form within the kidney. Boron deficiency accentuates vitamin D deficiency in an animal study resulting in abnormal bone formation and elevation of alkaline phosphatase.

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