Herbs with estrogen-like effects: Royal Jelly

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Excerpt from Dr. Susan Lark’s Healing Herbs for Women

Royal jelly—the food of the queen bee—has been used for centuries to promote reproductive health and longevity and ease menopausal symptoms. Doctors from France have reported that women who ate royal jelly during menopause had a complete remission of symptoms, and some were even able to conceive again! Other doctors have found that royal jelly had a libido-increasing effect and helped promote vaginal secretions. Additionally, royal jelly has been found to be a natural antibiotic, fat metabolizer, immune booster, and metabolic catalyst, and even supports adrenal health.

Suggested Dosage: I recommend using ¼ teaspoon of the liquid form of organic royal jelly twice a day. Royal jelly can be purchased at most health food stores.

Recent reports have shown that royal jelly imported from China has been found to contain trace amounts of a dangerous antibiotic called chloramphenicol. To avoid this concern, be sure to purchase royal jelly that is produced by bees from the United States under healthy, organic conditions. In addition, women who are allergic to bees or have asthma should not take royal jelly.

For more information about royal jelly or other herbs with estrogen-like effects, see my book Dr. Susan Lark’s Healing Herbs for Women available from Barnes and Noble

Herbs with estrogen-like effects: Yin Herbs

Excerpt from Dr. Susan Lark’s Healing Herbs for Women

Traditional Asian medicine maintains that health and well-being are believed to be a balance of two equally important, but opposing, principles—yin and yang. Yin is associated with attributes such as femininity, receptivity, calmness, coolness, and moisture. Yin also regulates the fluids, blood, and tissues of your body, as well as its structural components, including flesh, tendons, and bones. Yang, on the other hand, is associated with masculinity, aggression, heat, and dryness. It also regulates your body’s energy, which acts as the spark plug to your structural elements.

Balance between yin and yang is essential if you are to achieve and maintain optimal health and well-being. In younger, healthy women, the balance between this duality seems to be maintained almost effortlessly. Young women can become either very yin or very yang in response to the demands and stresses in their lives. They can study hard, work overtime, eat anything they want, and still have the ability to return to the balanced middle point, where yin and yang co-exist as a unified reality.

Maintaining an optimal yin-yang balance becomes much more difficult once you reach middle age and menopause, when it’s common to experience symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, tissue dryness, insomnia, mood swings, and thinning of skin, hair, bones, and connective tissue. In the traditional Asian medical model, these symptoms occur, in part, because yin becomes deficient.

To help bring your body back into balance, I suggest using a variety of yin herbs that work on the kidney network to improve blood and fluid circulation, ovarian health, and your sleep-wake cycle. In particular, I like royal jelly, dong quai and saffron.

For more information about yin herbs or other herbs with estrogen-like effects, see my book Dr. Susan Lark’s Healing Herbs for Women available on AmazonAmazon Kindle, and Womens Wellness Publishing.

Herbs with estrogen-like effects: Saffron

Excerpt from Dr. Susan Lark’s Healing Herbs for Women

Saffron is a bright yellow Indian spice that is derived from the flower of the crocus sativus. Each saffron crocus grows to be 8 to 12 inches high and bears up to four brightly colored flowers.  The dried stigmas of the flowers make up the spice saffron that is used both as a coloring and flavoring agent in cuisines in many parts of the world. It is one of the costliest herbs by weight and is very labor intensive to gather.

Saffron is also revered for its medicinal properties. It is used to reduce menopausal symptoms, enhance calmness, and reduce irritability. To preserve its medicinal properties, stir saffron into hot, cooked food.

Suggested Dosage: Use 1/10 of a teaspoon or less per day, as higher amounts can be toxic, causing stomach and intestinal maladies, and even death. In addition, too much saffron can have a narcotic effect, causing sedation and sleepiness.

For more information about saffron or other herbs with estrogen-like effects, see my book Dr. Susan Lark’s Healing Herbs for Women available on AmazonAmazon Kindle and Womens Wellness Publishing.

 

Herbs with estrogen-like effects: Red Clover

Excerpt from Dr. Susan Lark's Healing Herbs for Women

Red clover can be beneficial for easing hot flashes and improving cardiovascular health. Red clover contains four phytoestrogens (estrogen-like plant compounds thought to have an effect on menopause-related symptoms such as hot flashes) called genistein, daidzein, biochanin, and formononetin, and has become increasingly popular among menopausal women here in the United States.

While some studies have questioned the efficacy of red clover, comparing it to that of a placebo, it does appear to help reduce hot flashes. According to a review of five studies published in The American Journal of Medicine, red clover helps to significantly reduce the frequency of hot flashes. 

Other research has shown that the herb is also beneficial for cardiovascular health. Both the aging process and menopause itself reduce the elasticity of major arteries (called arterial compliance). This tends to make blood vessels more rigid and less flexible. Over time, these changes can lead to high blood pressure, or hypertension, and increase the workload on the heart. In one placebo-controlled study reported in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, red clover improved arterial compliance. Other known potential cardiovascular benefits of red clover isoflavones include the inhibition of platelet clumping or aggregation, which can clog arteries, and the herb’s action as a potent antioxidant, which also helps reduce buildup of “bad” LDL cholesterol in arteries.

Suggested Dosage: If you would like to try Red Clover, I recommend taking a standardized extract that contains 40 mg of total isoflavones. 

For more information about red clover or other herbs with estrogen-like effects, see my book Dr. Susan Lark’s Healing Herbs for Women available on AmazonAmazon-Kindle and Womens Wellness Publishing.

Herbs with estrogen-like effects: Black Cohosh

Excerpt from Dr. Susan Lark’s Healing Herbs for Women

One of the most effective of the estrogen-like herbs is black cohosh. Native to America, black cohosh was well known and accepted in Native American herbal medicine and was widely prescribed in colonial times as a treatment for menstrual cramps and menopausal symptoms.

The effectiveness and safety of black cohosh are well documented. Clinical studies have shown that black cohosh reduces PMS symptoms such as mood swings, anxiety, tension, and depression. It also relieves the symptoms of pain and discomfort due to menstrual cramps. Other studies have focused on the symptoms of menopause and have found that black cohosh relieved hot flashes, night sweats, heart palpitations, headaches, and vaginal dryness and atrophy. It is also effective in relieving other symptoms such as depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and a decline in libido. Black cohosh is considered a safe and effective therapy.

Currently, in Germany, a special extract of black cohosh is the most thoroughly studied and widely used natural alternative to hormone replacement therapy. This research has prompted at least six well-publicized studies on the standardized extract of black cohosh and its ability to treat menopausal symptoms. According to a review of five key studies on black cohosh from the American Journal of Medicine, black cohosh is most effective at easing hot flashes.

In one of the largest studies on black cohosh, women with menopausal complaints received 40 drops of liquid black cohosh extract twice a day for six to eight weeks. Within four weeks of treatment, a distinct improvement was seen in nearly 80 percent of the women. After six to eight weeks, all symptoms had completely disappeared in half of the women.

Another study found similar results. Scientists gave women with menopausal symptoms either high- or low-dose black cohosh for a 12-week period. At the conclusion of the study, approximately 80 percent of both patients and physicians rated the treatment as “good to very good.” The investigators reported no differences in either effectiveness or adverse reactions between the two groups.

Other studies have focused on black cohosh and its relationship to breast cancer. One in particular concluded that black cohosh actually inhibits the growth rate of breast cancer cells due to the herb’s lack of estrogen-like effects in certain breast cancer cell lines whose growth is dependent upon estrogen.

Laboratory experiments have shown that black cohosh inhibits the effects of estrogen induced stimulation and actually binds to those receptors. By doing so, it does not increase production of endometrial cells, nor does it change the makeup of vaginal cells. Also, it does not exert estrogen-like effects on the endometrium or breast, nor does it exhibit any toxic, mutagenic, or carcinogenic properties.

Given its apparent safety, I consider black cohosh a safe therapy for women who suffer from the acute symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats, sleeplessness, vaginal dryness and mood swings. I am particularly fond of Klimadynon from BioNorica. Compelling research from several different journals, including Maturitas: The European Menopause Journal and Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society has shown that Klimadynon (CR BNO 1055) safely and effectively eases hot flashes and night sweats, promotes plumping of the vaginal wall, decreases vaginal dryness, and even promoted bone growth. Moreover, Klimadynon did not cause proliferation of the uterine lining or of breast cells. This means that it, very likely, does not increase your risk of uterine or breast cancer.

I think that it is important to mention, however, that a recent study from the Australian Adverse Drug Reactions Bulletin found that, in rare instances, black cohosh can cause liver toxicity. More common and minor effects include occasional gastrointestinal disturbances, headaches, heaviness in the legs, and possible weight problems. There are no known drug interactions and the only contraindication is in pregnancy, with the possibility of premature birth due to overdose.

Additionally, an article in the Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry found that some three of 11 tested black cohosh supplements didn’t even contain the herb! Instead, they contained less expensive extracts of a similar Chinese herb. To be sure this doesn’t happen to you, I suggest buying black cohosh from a reputable retailer or look for BioNorica’s Klimadynon brand.

Suggested Dosage: To treat your menopausal symptoms safely and effectively, I suggest taking 40–80 mg of a standardized extract of black cohosh such as Klimadynon twice a day. This dose should contain 2 to 4 mg of the active components (triterpenes, calculated as 27-deoxyacteine). You should see results within four weeks. In my practice, I have seen women experience relief from hot flashes and mood swings in as little as two days to one week.

For more information about black cohosh or other herbs with estrogen-like effects, see my book Dr. Susan Lark’s Healing Herbs for Women available on AmazonAmazon Kindle, and Womens Wellness Publishing.