Japanese herb for hot flashes fails in U.S. trial

Jul 22, 2011, 11:51 a.m.

HRT has been controversial since 2002, when a massive U.S. government-sponsored clinical trial found that women on hormones had higher rates of heart attack, stroke, breast cancer and blood clots than placebo users.

Experts now advise that if women use HRT for menopausal symptoms, they should take the lowest possible dose for the shortest time possible.

There are several herbal products marketed for easing menopause symptoms, including black cohosh, red clover and dong quai. But there is little evidence from clinical trials on whether they work, according to the North American Menopause Society.

Black cohosh is probably the best studied, but trials have come to mixed conclusions about whether it is helpful.

While keishi-bukuryo-gan is a prescription drug in Japan, it's available as an unregulated supplement in the U.S. -- generally as a capsule or a powder to make tea. The cost varies depending on the formulation and daily dose, but typically starts at about $30 for a one-month supply.

The North American Menopause Society recommends that if women want to try any botanical remedy, they let their doctor know to be safe -- especially if they are on any medications. Some herbs can interact with certain drugs.

SOURCE: Menopause, online June 28, 2011.

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