Red Clover Extract Reduces Hot Flashes
Postmenopausal women may be able to reduce the frequency of their hot flashes by taking a standardized extract of red clover, according to a study in Maturitas (2002;42:187–93).
The benefit of red clover in reducing hot flashes is likely due to its relatively high content of isoflavones, a group of compounds that have weak estrogenic effects. Other benefits of isoflavones include lowering the risk of heart disease and possibly preventing osteoporosis. In light of a recent study that suggested conventional hormone replacement therapy may increase the risk of breast cancer and heart disease, red clover extract may be a suitable alternative for controlling hot flashes.
Researchers assigned 30 women between 49 and 65 years old to receive either 80 mg per day of red clover isoflavones or placebo for three months. Women were questioned every four weeks about the frequency and duration of hot flashes, and about their overall menopausal symptoms. Participants were asked to eliminate products from their diets that contained a significant amount of isoflavones, to ensure the results would not be affected by differences in diet.
After three months of treatment, women taking red clover isoflavones had a 44% reduction in the frequency of hot flashes, whereas women taking the placebo experienced no improvement. Overall, menopausal symptoms were also slightly reduced in the group taking isoflavones, although the reduction did not quite reach statistical significance. The maximum decrease in hot flashes was attained after eight weeks of treatment and was maintained during the last four weeks of the study.
Isoflavones are also present in other plants, particularly soy. Studies have shown that taking 50 to 100 mg per day of soy isoflavones or consuming 50 to 60 grams per day of isoflavone-rich soy protein produces a similar reduction in hot flashes as that seen in the new study of red clover. Other studies suggest taking 20 to 40 mg twice per day of a standardized extract of black cohosh (Cimicifuga recemosa) may also decrease hot flashes, although the beneficial effect of this herb does not appear to be due to isoflavones.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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