Vaginal dryness? Try this Thai plant

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September 22, 2007  
Filed under Women's health

CM NEWS – A special herb which contains much higher plant-based female sex hormone than soy does shows positive results in alleviating vaginal dryness in postmenopausal women, a new study finds.

pueraria-mirifica2.jpgThe study was published in the Sep/Oct 2007 issue of Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society. The objective was to evaluate the effect of Pueraria mirifica (, gen, ??) on vaginal symptoms, vaginal health index, vaginal pH, and vaginal cytology in healthy postmenopausal women with a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.

Pueraria mirifica is a plant native only to Thailand, although various species of the plant have been found in other Asian countries. It has a local name “White Kwao Krua”. Pueraria mirifica contains high levels of phytoestrogen, or plant-based female hormone estrogen. Because of its high phytoestrogenic levels, Pueraria mirifica has also been advertised as a breast enlarging agent, a claim still waiting to be verified scientifically.

The tuber of Pueraria mirific contains phytoestrogens such as miroestrol, deoxymiroestrol, and coumestans. Miroestrol and deoxymiroestrol are found only in Pueraria mirifica. They are much stronger than soy or red clover isoflavones, and are under investigation for possible use in hormone replacement therapy.

What’s so special about Pueraria mirifica? The compounds that make Pueraria mirifica so special and different from other phytoestrogen plants are miroestrol and deoxymiroestrol. These two compositions posses highest estrogenic activity among the known phytoestrogens, due to structural similarity to estradiol of the main human estrogen in women’s body.

Pueraria mirifica also contains other chemicals that belong to isoflavones, e.g. genistein, daidzein, daidzin, genistin and coumestrol that are usualy found in soybeans. However, the estrogenic activity of miroestrol is much more potent than that of soy isoflavones.

Miroestrol is the second most estrongenic plant compound on earth. Recently its metabolic precursor deoxymiroestrol has been found to be even more potent than miroestrol.

A dedicated Thai scientist who has studied the plant for over a decade was able to prove that 200mg and 100mg of Pueraria mirifica could make improvements to wide ranging menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, frustration, sleep disorder, skin dryness, high blood cholesterol, oligomenorrhoea and amenorrhea.

The results from researchers shows that White Kwao Kreu promote estrogenic and mammogenic effects to various tissues and organs such as uterus, ovary and skin and breast.

Soya and Alfalfa are the eastern and western health food products, respectively, to contain phytoestrogens. But both of them contain lower amount of phytoestrogens especially there is no miroestrol and its derivatives. Their benefit is thus far less than that of Pueraria mirifica.

Researches confirm that these chemicals prevent breast cancer, prostate hyperplasia, colon cancer, osteoporosis and also cardiovascular disease via the potent reduction of blood cholesterol and also anti-menopausal syndrome.

Isoflavones enriched in Pueraria mirifica also supports cardiovascular system, enhances breasts and skin appearance, supports healthy prostate function and healthy bone structure.
In the present study, healthy postmenopausal women, age 45 to 60 years old, were enrolled voluntarily and randomly received 20, 30, or 50 mg of Pueraria mirifica in capsules or placebo in identical capsules once daily for 24 weeks.

After 24 weeks of treatment, 71 women were evaluated. 51 of 71 randomly received one of the three doses of Pueraria mirifica, and the remaining 20 received placebo.

Vaginal dryness is often due to deficiency of the female hormone estrogen. Sometimes vaginal dryness is a result of skin conditions of the genital area. Often no specific cause of vaginal dryness can be identified.

The results of this study indicated that the mean vaginal dryness symptom in the Pueraria mirifica group decreased after 12 weeks of treatment. Pueraria mirifica increased vaginal maturation index (parabasal:intermediate:superficial cells) from 46:43:11 to 11:65:24 after 24 weeks of treatment. There was no significant difference of adverse effects between the Pueraria mirifica and placebo groups in this study.

What is vaginal dryness? When the vagina isn’t properly lubricated, it can feel itchy and irritated. Vaginal dryness may make some daily activities uncomfortable, and it can make sexual intercourse less pleasurable. In fact, during menopause, vaginal dryness is a common cause of discomfort or pain during sex (dyspareunia).

Vaginal dryness is a common condition. It can affect women of all ages, though vaginal dryness most often occurs during and after the menopausal transition. An estimated 10-40% of women who’ve reached menopause have signs and symptoms related to vaginal dryness.

Aside from dryness, some of the signs and symptoms include:

  • Itching
  • Burning
  • A feeling of pressure
  • Pain or light bleeding with sex
  • Urinary frequency or urgency

A variety of conditions can cause vaginal dryness. Potential causes include:

Decreased estrogen levels – Reduced estrogen levels are the main cause of vaginal dryness. Estrogen, a female hormone, helps keep vaginal tissue healthy by maintaining normal vaginal lubrication, tissue elasticity and acidity. These factors create a natural defense against vaginal and urinary tract infections. But when your estrogen levels decrease, so does this natural defense, leading to a thinner, less elastic and more fragile vaginal lining.

Estrogen levels can fall for a number of reasons:

  • Menopause or perimenopause
  • Childbirth
  • Breast-feeding
  • Effects on the ovaries from cancer therapy, including radiation therapy, hormone therapy and chemotherapy
  • Surgical removal of the ovaries
  • Immune disorders
  • Cigarette smoking

What is vaginal maturation index? The body manufactures three main kinds of estrogen: estradiol, estrone, and estriol. Estrogens are promoters of tissue growth, stimulating the proliferation of cells in the reproductive organs of women, particularly in the endometrium, the blood-rich lining of the uterus that is shed during menstruation. The collective effect of estrogen (the “estrogen effect”) in a woman’s body can be estimated through evaluation of the squamous cell layer that lines the vagina in a test known as a maturation index (MI).

An MI is a ratio obtained through performing a random count of three major cell types (parabasal cells, intermediate cells and superficial cells) that are shed from the squamous epithelium. The cell count is expressed as a percentage that reads as follows: MI= % parabasal cells, % intermediate cells, % superficial cells.

Parabasal cells are the least mature cells having not been affected by estrogen or progesterone. Intermediate cells display mild maturation, having been affected by progesterone, and superficial cells display the most maturity, having been affected by estrogen.

A predominance of parabasal cells indicates an absence of estrogen stimulation, and second is that a predominance of superficial cells indicates estrogen stimulation. Intermediate cells have little clinical usefulness. The maturation index is useful for the evaluation of therapies designed to treat vaginal hormonal symptoms.

The study concluded that Pueraria mirifica was proven to exhibit estrogenicity on vaginal tissue, to alleviate vaginal dryness symptoms and dyspareunia, to improve signs of vaginal atrophy, and to restore the atrophic vaginal epithelium in healthy postmenopausal women.

[Menopause. 14(5):919-924, September/October 2007]


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