Pollen Extract Eases Hot Flashes
Femal, an extract derived from the pollen of different grasses, may be useful for relieving hot flashes associated with menopause, according to the journal Climacteric (2005;8:162–70).
A woman is considered to have gone through menopause if one year has passed since her last menstrual period, usually at about age 50. This natural transition can be accompanied by some unpleasant symptoms—hot flashes, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and decreased libido—which may interfere with quality of life for several years around the time of menopause.
Until recently, hormone replacement therapy was used extensively to relieve menopausal symptoms. Concern over increases in the rates of breast cancer and cardiovascular disease among hormone replacement therapy users, however, has prompted the search for safer alternatives.
Femal is a standardized combination of the pollen and flowering parts of members of the grass family. The formula eases premenstrual syndrome, and preliminary studies suggest that it may also be useful for menopausal symptoms.
The new study investigated the effect of Femal in 54 menopausal women suffering from hot flashes. Two times per day for three months, the women were given either a placebo or two tablets of Femal containing a total of 80 mg of pure pollen extract and 240 mg of combined pollen and pistil (a part of the grass flower) extract. The participants kept a daily record of their hot flashes. They also met one time each month with a researcher to give an overall evaluation of their hot flashes and other symptoms, including vaginal dryness, urinary incontinence, joint pain, tiredness, depression, mood swings, irritability, heart palpitations, sleep disturbances, changes in sex drive, vaginal bleeding, dizziness, and headaches. Blood samples were taken before and at the end of treatment to measure hormone levels and to assess the safety of the supplement.
After two months of treatment, the women taking Femal had 23% fewer hot flashes than they did at the start of the study and 38% fewer hot flashes than the women receiving the placebo. Fatigue, dizziness, headaches, irritability, emotional sensitivity, and mood swings all showed significant improvement during treatment and the women taking the Femal rated their overall quality of life as significantly improved. Few side effects were reported with the use of Femal; two women complained of temporary constipation and one woman complained of nausea.
Blood hormone levels and the symptoms of vaginal dryness and bleeding were not affected by Femal supplementation. Based on this, and on information derived from previous studies, the researchers judged that Femal does not have hormonal activity in the body.
The results of this study suggest that Femal is useful for treating hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause. Its lack of hormonal effects makes it a good candidate for women who are at high risk for certain hormone-sensitive cancers, such as breast or uterine cancer; however, more studies are needed to confirm its safety and effectiveness.
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp practices as a birth doula and lectures on topics including whole-foods nutrition, detoxification, and women’s health.
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