Estrogenic activity discovered in several commonly used medicinal botanicals
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Plant extracts are often used to relieve gynecological conditions such as menopausal symptoms as well as depression and other chronic illnesses. Although used widely, many of these remedies have not been thoroughly examined. Researchers at UPCI are studying several plant extracts to learn more about their safety, potency and hormonal properties. In one such study, UPCI researchers found evidence that some of these extracts interact with estrogen receptors and induce strong estrogenic responses in female rats whose ovaries were removed.
Our results indicate that some herbal remedies demonstrate measurable estrogenic activity, in spite of the fact that they are not traditionally used as such, said Patricia Eagon, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and principal investigator of the study. This is important since it suggests that some extracts may not be appropriate for women who have a family or personal history of cancers that are linked to higher levels of estrogen, including breast and uterine cancer. While plant extracts can alleviate symptoms for a variety of conditions, women should practice caution when using them and may want to avoid their use for conditions in which estrogens are contraindicated. Of the extracts studied, motherwort leaf, saw palmetto berry, rhodiola rosea root and red clover blossom were the most potent in terms of their estrogenic activity, and extracts of maca root, cramp bark and tumeric root were the least potent.