Do Natural Breast Enlargement Pills Work?

Dong quai in dish
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Natural breast enlargement pills are advertised on the Internet, television, and in women's magazines. Some of the ads focus on women's insecurities about their breasts, especially after childbirth, weight loss, and the removal of breast implants.

Women in search of an alternative to breast enlargement surgery may be tempted to try these herbal pills, without realizing that there is little-to-no evidence about the safety of breast enhancement pills. Most websites selling natural breast enhancement pills do not list any potential risks. 

Could Natural Breast Enlargement Pills Work?

Natural breast enlargement pills could possibly affect breast size because some of them contain herbs that have known estrogen-like effects on the body.

Birth control pills are thought to temporarily increase breast size in the same way—estrogen causes fluid retention in the breasts and may have an effect on breast tissue.

Are Breast Enlargement Pills Safe?

There is no evidence that these herbs are safe. Adriane Fugh-Berman, M.D., professor of complementary and alternative medicine at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, said in an article published in Obstetrics and Gynecology, "The use of bust-enhancing products should be discouraged because of lack of evidence for efficacy and long-term safety concerns."

If breast enlargement pills do have estrogen-like effects in the body, there are some safety concerns. Estrogen given on its own stimulates the growth of tissue in the uterus and is believed to promote uterine cancer, which is why birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy normally contain progesterone to counter estrogen's effects on the uterus. We don't know if natural breast enhancement pills stimulate the growth of uterine tissue.

There is also no evidence about whether natural breast enlargement pills interfere with fertility, menstruation, or the effectiveness of birth control pills.

Ethnobotanist James A. Duke, Ph.D., discusses breast enlargement herbs in his book, The Green Pharmacy (Rodale, 1997). Many of the herbs Duke talks about, such as fenugreek and fennel, have centuries-old folk reputations as breast enlargers. However, there is little discussion of safety, and Duke does not address the safety concerns of taking large quantities of these herbs in pill form.

Herbs Used in Natural Breast Enlargement Pills

Here are some of the more common ingredients in natural breast enhancement pills:

Blessed Thistle: The herb blessed thistle is approved by Germany's Commission E for the treatment of loss of appetite and indigestion. It was used historically by nursing women to increase the flow of milk.

Dong Quai: Dong quai is a Chinese herb used primarily to relieve menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, reduce menstrual cramps, and regulate menstrual cycles.

Fennel Seed: Fennel has been used for centuries as both food and medicine. It was used traditionally to increase the flow of breast milk in nursing women, enhance libido, and increase menstrual flow. There are no published studies examining the use of fennel seed for breast enhancement in humans. In the 1930s, there was some interest in fennel in the development of synthetic estrogens, due to compounds called dianethole and photoanethole.

Fenugreek: Although there is an unsubstantiated claim that women in harems were fed fenugreek seeds to increase their breast size, no studies confirm fenugreek can result in breast enlargement.

Hops: Used in the brewing of beer, hops contain a potent phytoestrogen called 8-prenylnaringenin which has 0.2-20% the potency of estradiol, the main human estrogen.

Hops are sedating and are used for anxiety and insomnia. They can cause excess drowsiness, so people who are driving or who otherwise need to stay alert should use it with caution. Hops should not be used by people with depression.

Hops can affect the metabolism of prescription drugs in the liver, such as drugs for allergies, fungal infections, cancer, high cholesterol or oral contraceptives.

Pueraria mirifica: Also known as Kwao Krua, Pueraria mirifica is a plant found in Thailand and Burma and used by the indigenous hill tribe people.

The plant contains compounds called miroestrol and deoxymiroestrol, which have been found to have estrogen-like effects in the body.

Saw Palmetto: Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is a herb best known to treat urinary symptoms resulting from benign prostate hypertrophy (BPH) in men. It is thought to prevent the binding of the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) to androgen receptors and to block the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme, which converts testosterone to the more potent DHT.

Wild YamWild yam has been found to have a variety of plant-derived estrogens, such as diosgenin. It is promoted to treat menopausal symptoms and relieve premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Bovine Ovary Extract: There are no published studies of the safety or effectiveness of bovine ovary extract in humans. Unlike the other herbs discussed here, websites selling the product say that bovine ovary extract stimulates the pituitary gland resulting in an increase in prolactin and growth hormone levels.

Using Natural Remedies

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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