February 28, 2006

Herbal combo eases menopause complaints

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Pairing up two commonly used
herbal medicines is "very effective" for easing physical and
psychological symptoms of menopause, German researchers report.

St. John's wort is widely used to treat mild to moderate
depression, while women have traditionally taken black cohosh
for menopausal complaints, Dr. Joerg Gruenwald of Analyze &
Realize, a Berlin-based botanical consulting company, and
colleagues write in the February issue of Obstetrics &

To see if a fixed combination of the herbal medicines could
offer an alternative to hormone replacement therapy, the
researchers studied 301 women who had been experiencing
menopausal symptoms for at least three months, along with
depressed mood. Half took the St. John's wort and black cohosh
combo, while the other half took placebo pills.

In each tablet, the black cohosh contained 1 milligram of
the substances that are believed to be responsible for the
herb's activity, triterpene glycosides, while the St. John's
wort component contained 0.25 milligrams of the active
ingredient hypericine.

Study participants took the two tablets twice a day for the
first eight weeks of the study, and once daily thereafter.

After 16 weeks, women who took the two-herb combination
showed a 50 percent reduction in symptoms such as hot flashes
and sweating, compared to 19.6 percent for those on placebo.
Scores measuring depression fell by 41.8 percent among women on
the herbal medicines, compared to 12.7 percent for those on

Among patients on the herbal medicines, 62.2 percent rated
the treatment as "good" or "very good" at the end of the study,
compared to 25.6 percent of patients on placebo. There was no
significant difference between the groups in the number of
adverse events or side effects seen from the medicine.

The improvement in menopausal symptoms was similar to that
seen among women taking hormone therapy for three months,
Gruenwald and his team point out. They conclude that the
treatment is safe and effective for easing both depression and
menopausal complaints.

SOURCE: Obstetrics & Gynecology, February 2006.