The Dangers of Pueraria Mirifica

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It is important to consult your doctor before taking Pueraria mirifica. (Image: kjekol/iStock/Getty Images)

Pueraria mirifica is a plant native to Thailand that has medicinal properties. It is marketed as a natural and safe alternative to hormone replacement therapy because it contains phytoestrogens, which are plant hormones. Traditional hormone replacement therapy has benefits, as well as associated side effects and risks. However, herbal remedies should not replace traditional medical care, and because all herbs have the capacity to cause side effects, it is important to consult your doctor before taking Pueraria mirifica.

HRT

Replacing female hormones after menopause with synthetic hormones is called hormone replacement therapy, or HRT. Your ovaries produce two primary hormones, estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are important during your reproductive years, but decrease as you enter menopause. HRT is often taken to relieve menopausal symptoms associated with decreased female hormones such as hot flashes, irritability, insomnia and moodiness.

HRT Benefits and Risks

HRT side effects include upset stomach, appetite loss and vomiting, but there are benefits. HRT benefits include relief from some menopausal symptoms, including vaginal dryness and itching. However, long-term therapy is no longer recommended, due to increased risk of heart disease, breast cancer, stroke and blood clots, according to MayoClinic.com. It is these risks that have led many women to seek natural alternatives and brought the safety of man-made hormones into question.

Plant Estrogens

Pueraria mirifica contains miroestrol and deoxymiroestrol, which are phytoestrogens, or plant estrogens. They are part of a group of plant compounds known as isoflavones. Soy is commonly known for its beneficial isoflavones. Phytoestrogens are known to exert weak hormone-like activity, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Though studies show plant estrogens may exert similar effects as synthetic estrogen, as of 2011 there was no clinical data showing that plant estrogens are safer or reduce your risk of conditions such as breast cancer.

Pueraria Mirifica Safety and Efficacy

Most clinical studies have been done primarily on mice, rats and monkeys. However, a study published in the September 2007 issue of "The Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand" evaluated pueraria mirifica use for menopausal symptoms in perimenopausal women, compared to conjugated equine estrogen, which is the synthetic estrogen used in HRT. The study concluded that the phytoestrogens had estrogenic effects similar to CEE, the synthetic estrogen, and alleviated menopausal symptoms. The study reported no serious side effects. The study maintained that pueraria mirifica showed great promise for treatment of menopausal symptoms.

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