A new botanical supplement on the U.S. market called Estrovera offers a potential alternative to women who suffer from hot flashes or night sweats but do not wish to take estrogen or other hormones.
The key ingredient in Estrovera is a phyto-estrogen from the Siberian rhubarb plant known as ERr 731. ERr 731 has been shown to:
• Reduce the number and severity of hot flashes and night sweats about as effectively as low-dose estrogen.
• Reduce other menopausal symptoms including sleep disruption, mood changes, vaginal dryness and musculoskeletal symptoms.
A random, placebo-controlled study published last year in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine looked at the effect of ERr 731 in 112 perimenopausal women with moderate to severe menopausal symptoms, 45 to 55 years old. Half the women got one tablet of ERr 731 per day for 12 weeks, while the other half got a placebo.
Researchers measured how much the women's menopausal symptoms improved using the menopausal rating scale. The scale assesses multiple symptoms associated with menopause, including hot flashes, sleep and mood disturbances, anxiety, sexual problems, bladder symptoms, vaginal dryness, joint and muscle pain, and physical and mental exhaustion.
By the end of the 12 weeks, women taking the ERr 731 had seen a 50 percent reduction in their scores on the scale, while women getting the placebo continued to have significant symptoms.
Benefit was noted within the first week of taking the ERr, and symptoms continued to gradually improve throughout the 12 weeks of the study. ERr was well tolerated by the majority of women, and there were no significant adverse effects.
Several other studies have confirmed the efficacy of ERr 731 in reducing menopausal symptoms; one study lasted close to two years and showed persistent benefit over that period of time, as well as ongoing safety.
Some studies have also shown no changes in uterine or vaginal tissue with this extract, suggesting that Estrovera is probably safe for women concerned about breast or uterine cancer, although the incidence of such diseases in women using Estrovera has not specifically been studied.
Although ERr 731 has been widely used in Germany since 1993, it has only recently become available in the United States. In March, Metagenics became the exclusive distributor of this product in North America and is selling it under the trade name Estrovera. (Note: This is not the same product as Estroven, another menopausal supplement on the market.)
You can purchase Estrovera through a compounding pharmacy that carries Metagenics products or through an online natural pharmacy such as www.bbpharmacy.com. And as always, we recommend that if you want to try Estrovera, you talk it over with your doctor.
Drs. Kay Judge and Maxine Barish-Wreden are medical directors of Sutter Downtown Integrative Medicine program in Sacramento, Calif.