If you suffer from hot flashes, vaginal dryness or bladder problems, take heart. Pueraria mirifica is a new, safe and effective alternative to potentially dangerous pharmaceutical hormone replacement therapy.
Just when health practitioners and women were adjusting to the idea that hormone replacement therapy is not a good idea, a new report suggests that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is beneficial to younger women.1
It seems that one day HRT is beneficial, and the next it is a health hazard… and on and on. When the media constantly blasts headlines that induce fear and doubt, it’s easy to get confused about the best way to deal with premenopausal and menopausal symptoms.
It’s important to note that the contradictory reports about HRT are almost always based on the use of conjugated estrogens isolated from mare’s urine, typically sold as the pharmaceutical drug Premarin. These estrogenic hormones have been shown to promote various types of cancer, blood clots and other health problems, and are not proven to be safe.
Play it safe
The studies on the herb Pueraria mirifica (PM) are impressive and encouraging to the millions of women throughout the world who are experiencing the discomforts of premenopause or menopause.
In addition to helping relieve annoying symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats, and serious symptoms such as bone loss (osteoporosis) and cardiovascular disease, Pueraria mirifica has also been shown to reduce risk of breast cancer.
The extract was used in a recent study that showed the phytoestrogens in PM inhibited the growth of breast cancer cells in-vitro.2
The role of phytoestrogens in women’s health, particularly in the area of breast health, has been the subject of debate for the past decade. This study showed that there is increasing evidence that phytoestrogens may be beneficial even to women with estrogen sensitive cancers.
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PM offers support for women who experience symptoms ranging from hot flashes and night sweats to decreased libido and emotional distress. In a Phase III study funded by an agency of the Thai government, Pueraria mirifica demonstrated great promise in helping to offset the discomforts associated with menopause. Sixty-six premenopausal women with hot flashes, night sweats, urogenital and psychological symptoms were randomly given 50 mg of PM, or a daily dose of conjugated equine estrogen (Premarin) with or without 2.5 mg of progesterone.
At the end of the six-month study there were no significant differences in the two groups of the participants’ levels of the female hormones estradiol, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). The researchers concluded that PM has an estrogenic effect similar to the estrogen pharmaceutical drug (Premarin), and is able to effectively alleviate premenopausal symptoms safely without side effects.3
What are phytoestrogens?
Pueraria mirifica is a source of bioavailable phytoestrogens for premenopausal and postmenopausal women. Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that mimic and support human estrogens. Numerous studies point toward their inhibitory effect against breast and prostate cancer.4
Pueraria mirifica contains three types of phytoestrogens:
- The Miroestrol and Deoxymiroestrol group contains potent phytoestrogens unique to PM; their structural configuration is very close to the structural configuration of the female hormone estradiol-17B.
- The Isoflavonoid group includes daidzin and daidzein, and genistin and genistein, which are also found in soy, and puerarin, which is found in the kudzu plant.
- The Coumestan group includes coumestrol.
Why is Pueraria mirifica unique?
The Pueraria mirifica plant, also known as Thai kudzu, grows at a high altitude in only two provinces of Thailand—Chiang Mai and Sararaburi. It is the only known plant that has the unique phytoestrogen called miroestrol and it is especially interesting that the word “mirifica” means miracle in Latin.
PM is reputed to “make the skin smooth like a six-year-old child and allow you to live 1,000 years, while enhancing memory.” (Anusarnsoondhorn, L. The Ingredient of Pueraria Tuberous Root., 1931)
Frequently asked Questions
Who should take Pueraria mitifica?
Women who are experiencing premenopausal or menopausal symptoms.
Is Pueraria mitifica safe?
Yes. No signs of toxicity or adverse effects were reported by researchers who conducted three studies on women in Thailand and in Japan.14
Women young than 18 should not take PM. Menstruating women can take low doses (under 100 mg) on a continuous basis. However, women taking doses over 100 mg should not take it during the week they are menstruating. Pregnant and nursing women should not take PM.15
What is the recommended daily dose of PM?
A study that compared dosages of 25 and 50 mg found that both dosages were similarly effective and safe in treating 52 women who had had hysterectomies, and were having menopausal symptoms.16
However, Dr. Gary Gordon recommends that women in menopause take 80 mg of PM twice a day. Most women find relief in a week or less.
You can also calculate that you need 2 mg per kg (2.2 lbs.) of body weight. For example, if you weigh 130 pounds you’d divide 130 by 2.2 = 59.09 x2 mg=118 mg. Take between one and three doses per day.15
Although Pueraria mirifica has been used in Thailand for centuries as a rejuvenating adaptogenic herb and to help manage breast cancer, it is mostly unknown
in the western world. It’s particularly interesting that according to Dr. Passwater, Ph.D. (a biochemist and author of 40 books), breast cancer in the United States is more than 10 times that of the Chang Mai Province in Thailand where PM is widely consumed.6
Make sure you know what you are getting
There are more than 13 related species of Pueraria, but only Pueraria mirifica contains distinct estrogenic activity. Since the active ingredients are concentrated in the root and can only be identified at certain times of the year, and since the estrogenic effect varies based on seasonal changes,5 many of the Pueraria products being sold contain biochemicals that have been misidentified. These ingredients don’t have the beneficial effects of Pueraria mirifica, so it’s important to purchase the herbal supplement from a reputable company that guarantees the product contains the correct bioactive constituents in the correct ratio, according to scientific studies.
How does it work?
Phytoestrogens bind to estrogen receptors, and the phytoestrogens in PM help correct estrogen insufficiency in the body and relieve any resulting symptoms without negatively affecting other cells.
Pueraria mirifica’s phytoestrogens miroestrol and deoxymiroestrol help restore vaginal tissue, and provide other numerous benefits to menopausal women.7
Researcher Sayan Sawatsri, MD has said that PM may constitute a safe, new type of treatment with natural SERMs (selective estrogen receptor modulator) properties. It has the ability to bind to specific tissues in order to maintain a balance of estrogen levels, without negatively affecting other cells. This has been shown to occur in both in vitro and in vivo models.8
According to Dr. Garry Gordon, cofounder of the American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM), founder/president of the International College of Advanced Longevity (ICALM), and father of EDTA chelation therapy (see Garry Gordon Discusses Chelation Therapy), explains it this way: “Miroestrol occupies the estrogen receptors more safely. If the estrogen level is high, miroestrol will compete with receptors weakening the effect of the hormones. If the estrogen level is low, miroestrol will exert its estrogenic effect of potentiation.”6
Relieves vaginal dryness and improves vaginal atrophy in healthy postmenopausal women.
Researchers at a university in Thailand conducted a randomized, doubleblind, placebo-controlled study of healthy postmenopausal women aged 45 to 60 years to determine how PM affects vaginal health. The women received 20, 30 or 50 mg of Pueraria mirifica in capsules or placebo once daily for 24 weeks.
Fifty-one of 71 women randomly received one of the three doses of Pueraria mirifica, and the remaining 20 received placebo. After 12 weeks of treatment, most measures of vaginal health in the Pueraria group were significantly higher than in the placebo group. The exceptions were vaginal elasticity and pH. Vaginal dryness in the PM group decreased after 12 weeks of treatment.
The researchers concluded that Pueraria mirifica helped to alleviate vaginal dryness symptoms and painful intercourse, improve signs of vaginal atrophy, and restore the atrophic vaginal tissue in healthy postmenopausal women. There was no significant difference of adverse effects between the PM and placebo groups in this study.9
Alleviates hot flashes and night sweats.
The Phase II and Phase III studies sponsored by the government of Thailand found that PM helps alleviate hot flashes and night sweats. In the Phase II trial 20 out of 37 women took a daily dose of 50 mg of PM, and 17 out of 37 took 100 mg. The results were similar to those of the Phase III trial, which was explained earlier in this article. Night sweats, hot flashes, emotional ups and downs and urogenital symptoms were all alleviated among the women in the two groups that took the PM supplement.10
Pueraria mirifica helps support healthy cholesterol levels
Having high blood lipids is often a problem during menopause because of the loss of the protective benefits of estrogen. This puts women at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. However, researchers found that the phytoestrogens in PM can have a positive effect on blood lipid levels by activating estrogen receptor sites.
In one study 23 participants were given either two tablets containing 25 mg of PM or a placebo, in the morning and afternoon for two months. The women who took the PM supplement experienced a significant rise in HDL (34%) (“good” cholesterol) and a decrease in LDL (17%) (“bad” cholesterol). They showed a decrease in plasma follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) concentrations suggesting that the effects on lipid profile were caused by an increase in estrogens. After they stopped taking PM all blood lipid measures returned close to where they were at the beginning of the study.
The women in the placebo group exhibited no positive changes in blood lipid measures. Overall, the changes in lipid profiles were equivalent to those reported in studies of statin therapy (Lipator, Lescol, Zocor, Crestor, etc.), which has a long list of potential side effects. Such significant results suggest a potential place for this herb in treating menopausal and postmenopausal women with lipid profiles that may predispose them to cardiovascular disease.11
May help reduce bone loss in menopausal women
Osteoporosis is a health risk that is directly linked to menopause. Up to 20% of expected lifetime bone loss occurs within the first five to seven years after menopause. The reason is that low levels of estrogen cause the cells that build new bone (osteoblasts) to be less active than the cells that remove old bone (osteoclasts).
In other words, the old bones are torn down faster than the new bones are built.Pueraria mirifica, at a dose of 20, 30 and 50 mg per day, was given to 51 women aged 45 to 60. The other 20 women in the study were given a placebo.
The PM group showed a significant decrease in bone-specific alkaline phosphatase levels after 24 weeks of treatment compared with the placebo group. The researchers concluded that the herb produced an estrogen-like effect on bone turnover rate, which would help protect bone density and protect against osteoporosis.12
Urinary incontinence is not a symptom of getting older. Yet, millions of women experience a leaky bladder as a result of menopause, a traumatic birth, hysterectomy or just plain old weakened pelvic floor muscles. A recent study of female laboratory rats that had their ovaries removed suggests that PM can help support a healthy bladder.
Four groups of animals were given estradiol, 100 or 1,000 mg of PM per kilogram of body weight, or a placebo. After 28 days of treatment the groups that took the estradiol and PM had significantly higher numbers of vaginal and urethral superficial cells compared with the control group. And although the animals’ bladder capacity and amount of urine that leaked after voiding did not change, according to a urodynamic study the leak point pressure increased showing that Pueraria mirifica at 100 and 1,000 mg/kg/day showed an estrogen-like effect on the vaginal and urethral tissue of ovariectomized rats. PM can potentially help strengthen the bladder wall, and help prevent urinary incontinence.13
- Stram DO, Liu Y, Henderson KD, Sullivan-Halley J, Luo J, Saxena T, Reynolds P, Chang ET, Neuhausen SL, Horn-Ross PL, Bernstein L, Ursin G.Age-specific effects of hormone therapy use on overall mortality and ischemic heart disease mortality among women in the California Teachers Study.Menopause.2010 Sep 27. [Epub ahead of print]
- Ramnarine S, MackCallum J, Ritchie M. Phyto-oestrogens: do they have a role in breast cancer therapy? Proceedings of the Nutrition Society (2009), 68 (OCE), E93. Scottish Section of The Nutrition Society, 7-8 April 2009.
- Chandeying V, Sangthawan M. Efficacy comparison of Pueraria mirifica (PM) against conjugated equine estrogen (CEE) with/without medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA) in the treatment of climacteric symptoms in menopausal women: phase III study.J Med Assoc Thai. 2007;Sep;90(9):1720-6.
- Rice S, Whitehead SA. Phytoestrogens inhibit mRNA expression and activity of aromatase in human granulose-luteal (GL) cells. Endocrine Abstracts (2004) 8 P82.
- Cherdshewasart W, Sriwatcharakul S, Malaivijitnond S.Variance of estrogenic activity of the phytoestrogen-rich plant.Maturitas.2008 Dec 20;61(4):350-7. Epub 2008 Nov 5.
- Passwater, R. “Pueraria mirifica: Just for Menopause or the Herb of the Decade?” Part I,Whole Foods Magazine, February, 2007.
- Cherdshewasart W, Sriwatcharakul S.Major isoflavonoid contents of the 1-year-cultivated phytoestrogen-rich herb, Pueraria mirifica.Biosci Biotechnol Biochem.2007 Oct;71(10):2527-33. Epub 2007 Oct 7.
- Natural Products Insider, Bio-Botanica’s Puresterol Wins US Patent. Feb. 18, 2010.
- Manonai J, Chittacharoen A, Theppisai U, Theppisai H.Effect of Pueraria mirifica on vaginal health.Menopause.2007 Sep-Oct;14(5):919-24.
- Lamlertkittikul S, Chandeying V.Efficacy and safety of Pueraria mirifica (Kwao Kruea Khao) for the treatment of vasomotor symptoms in menopausal women: Phase II Study.J Med Assoc Thai.2004 Jan;87(1):33-40.
- 1. Okamura S, Sawada Y, Satoh T, Sakamoto H, Saito Y, Sumino H, Takizawa T, Kogure T, Chaichantipyuth C, Higuchi Y, Ishikawa T, Sakamaki T.Pueraria mirifica phytoestrogens improve dyslipidemia in postmenopausal women probably by activating estrogen receptor subtypes.Tohoku J Exp Med.2008 Dec;216(4):341-51.
- Manonai J, Chittacharoen A, Udomsubpayakul U, Theppisai H, Theppisai U.Effects and safety of Pueraria mirifica on lipid profiles and biochemical markers of bone turnover rates in healthy postmenopausal women.Menopause.2008 May-Jun;15(3):530-5
- Manonai J, Seif C, Böhler G, Jünemann KP.The effect of Pueraria mirifica on cytologic and urodynamic findings in ovariectomized rats.Menopause.2009 Mar-Apr;16(2):350-6.
- Chandeying, V., Kuramoshi, T. and Schauss, A., Personal Communication 2001.
- Passwater, R. “Pueraria mirifica: Just for Menopause or the Herb of the Decade?” Part 2,Whole Foods Magazine, March 2007.
- Virojchaiwong P, Suvithayasiri V, Itharat A.Comparison of Pueraria mirifica 25 and 50 mg for menopausal symptoms.Arch Gynecol Obstet.2010 Sep 26. [Epub ahead of print]