Pueraria mirifica and hormonal health:
- There is a sensitive balance between estrogen and progesterone during a womans life and imbalance between these can cause many health issues. This imbalance may be especially prevalent during peri-menopause.
- Pueraria mirifica is a unique phytoestrogen that may act as a hormonal balancer for women, conferring the benefits of estrogen without the negative side effects as seen in excess estrogen or with pharmaceutical estrogen hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
What is the function of estrogen?
Estrogen is a hormone that serves as a chemical messenger in the body. For women, it helps control their menstrual cycle, breast growth, maintain healthy bones and a healthy heart. From puberty to menopause, the ovaries produce estrogen. In addition to estrogen the ovaries also produce progesterone, that works in counterbalance with estrogen during the menstrual cycle.
The balance between estrogen and progesterone can be upset by many factors and this imbalance becomes more pronounced during the five-year or so period of bodily transition before full menopause, called “peri-menopause.” During this period, estrogen and progesterone levels in the body can fluctuate unpredictably (in both excess "dominance" or in deficiency) until ultimately declining. These fluctuations cause a variety of uncomfortable symptoms, such as hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and vaginal thinness. Women may also notice decreased libido, a decrease in arousal and orgasmic response, fatigue, weight gain, joint pains, mood swings, sleep disturbance, and hair loss. It also marks the beginning stages of an increased risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. Once menopause sets in, the ovaries no longer make estrogen or progesterone. Instead, body fat becomes the primary source for estrogen and the adrenal glands the source of low levels of progesterone, however this can be blocked in adrenal exhaustion.
Pueraria mirifica - Nature's most potent phytoestrogen
Despite the increased sales in phytoestrogen products in recent years, especially those containing soya phytoestrogens, many have reported that the positive effects are too slow or only very mild. This is because some phytoestrogens work better than others. Recent scientific studies have shown that the most potent and safe phytoestrogen found in nature comes from a tropical rain forest plant in Southeast Asia called Pueraria mirifica. This herb has been used for centuries by both women and men in Thailand. The key ingredient in Pueraria mirifica is a unique phytoestrogen named miroestrol. Miroestrol is similar to the safest human estrogen estriol. Miroestrol is 3000 times stronger than the estrogenic activity exhibited by soy isoflavones (genistein). In addition to miroestrol, Pueraria mirifica contains substantial amounts of other phytoestrogens including daidzein, genistein, puerarin, and mirificin. When miroestrol enters an estrogen receptor it modulates the effect on the receptor, either increasing its effects when the estrogenic activity is low or diluting its effects if the receptor estrogenic activity is high.
Because of this, Pueraria mirifica is considered an estrogen balancer in both estrogen deficiency and estrogen dominance. What is important to understand is that the phytoestrogens such as miroestrol help to balance or modulate the estrogen receptor. If the estrogen levels are too high (estrogen dominance) then the phytoestrogen can protect the receptor from overstimulation and if the estrogen levels are too low then the phytoestrogen will exert estrogenic activity without actually increasing the amount of estrogen in your body.
There are three types of estrogen found in humans: estrodial, estrone and estriol. Of the three, estriol, which is produced in high levels during pregnancy, and in small amounts in non-pregnant women, is the weakest. Its weakness, however, is actually its strength. Clinical trials have shown no links between estriol and cancer, and women who have taken it reported few side effects compared with those who took estrodial or estrone as hormone replacement therapies. This is why estriol has sometimes been referred to as “the friendly estrogen.” However, miroestrol, which functions in the same way and provides the same benefits as estriol, is found only in Pueraria mirifica and has also been shown to be completely safe in clinical trials. Once again, it is important to emphasize here that Pueraria mirifica does not make the body produce more estrogen. It doesn’t need to as mirosterol is performing the same function on the cell receptors without the harmful side effects. Mirosterol is the key compound that sets Pueraria mirifica apart from any other plants or herbal remedies. Pueraria also contains many other phytoestrogens that have also been shown to have beneficial health effects. Among them are the isoflavones and coumestans. Isoflavones also compete with estrogen for the same cell receptors. Isoflavones are what makes soy such a healthy food. Two of the most beneficial isoflavones found in soy are also found in Pueraria mirifica: genistein and daidzein. In addition, Pueraria mirifica has its own unique isoflavones named puerarin and mirificin.
The safety of Pueraria mirifica for natural hormonal replacement therapy has been extensively studied. While pharmaceitical hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is now in decline because of its links to cancers, the same is not true for Pueraria mirifica. The reason is that in drug hormone replacement therapy, estrogen is added to the body after it has naturally stopped producing it. Estrogen aids cell division. Cancerous tumors are cells that are dividing and replicating at a pace that is out of control. Pueraria mirifica inhibits the growth of estrogen-sensitive cancer cells by depriving them of natural estrogen. Northern Thailand, where Pueraria mirifica has been used as a traditional medicine for centuries, has the lowest rate of breast cancer in the world and low rates for other cancers as well.
Pueraria mirifica benefits:
- Prevents breast sagging
- Improves breast tone and fullness
- Improves collagen production and skin firmness
- Improves female hormonal balance
- Improves joint health and prevents osteoporosis
- Improves energy and memory
- Improves sleep
Benefits for pre and post menopausal women
- Natural gentle alternative to hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- Reduction in menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, depression, loss of sex drive headaches etc.
- Moisturizes and hydrates the skin keeping it young, supple, and vibrant
- Reverses urinary incontinence symptoms
In traditional Thai herbal medicine, menstruating women are recommended to stop for one week from the beginning of menstruation. For post-menopausal women, Pueraria mirifica may be taken daily for best results. As with most herbs they are not to be taken during pregnancy.
Kacip Fatimah (Labisia pumila) is another rainforest phytoestrogen that's used in traditional medicine in Malaysia and Borneo. It's widely used for women's reproductive complaints and low energy and has thus been the subject of multiple laboratory, animal and human clinical studies in recent years. This research has shown a safe and effective phytoestrogenic effect that may have a protective role for post-menopausal women as well as potential in weight control management.