The Health Benefits of Pueraria Mirifica

This Thai herb may help relieve menopause symptoms

Pueraria mirifica

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Pueraria mirifica is a plant native to Thailand and Burma. The root of the plant contains compounds classified as phytoestrogens, meaning that they have estrogen-like effects. Pueraria mirifica is sometimes used as an anti-aging supplement or as a natural remedy for menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness.

Also Known As

  • Kao keur
  • Kwao krua ko
  • Thai kudzu
  • White kwao krua

Pueraria mirifica should not be confused with other plants with the "kwao krua" in its name, such as kwao krua dang (Butea superba) or black kwao krua (Mucuna collettii).

Health Benefits

Proponents of alternative medicine contend that Pueraria mirifica is a powerful antioxidant able to neutralize free radicals that cause harm to cells. These antioxidant effects, along with its pro-estrogenic properties, are believed useful in treating women's health conditions, including:

Others claim that Pueraria mirifica can help soften skin, increase breast size, promote weight loss, and prevent heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

As is often the case with herbal remedies, the evidence supporting these claims is generally poor. With that said, there have been some potentially valuable findings.

Menopause

Although research into the use of Pueraria mirifica is fairly limited, several smaller studies have found that the herb is beneficial in treating common menopausal symptoms.

A 24-week study published in Menopause In 2007 investigated the use of Pueraria mirifica in doses range from 10 milligrams (mg) to 50 mg and concluded that it was far more effective in reducing vaginal atrophy (wasting) and alleviating vaginal dryness and dyspareunia (pain during intercourse) than a placebo.

The findings supported an earlier study in the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand in which Pueraria mirifica improved vasomotor symptoms (such as hot flashes and night sweats) in 37 women experiencing menopause. After 24 weeks, women provided a daily 50-mg dose of Pueraria mirifica experienced the same level of relief as those given 100 mg per day.

More recently, a 2017 study published in Menopause reported that a vaginal gel containing Pueraria mirifica was nearly as effective as conjugated estrogen cream in preventing vaginal atrophy.

The 12-week study involving 82 postmenopausal women found that Pueraria mirifica cream was just as effective in relieving vaginal dryness and pain as estrogen cream.

Bone Health

Estrogen plays a key role in regulating bone turnover (the biological process in which old bone is broken down and replaced with new bone).

This is evidenced in part by a 2016 study in the Journal of Endocrinology in which bone loss was significantly slowed in postmenopausal monkeys with osteoporosis after being given a 16-week diet supplemented with Pueraria mirifica powder.

Similar results were achieved in baboons in a 2014 study in Phytomedicine. Further research is needed to see if the same benefits might be achieved in humans.

High Cholesterol

There is evidence, albeit weak, that Pueraria mirifica exerts positive influences on blood cholesterol levels. Most of the current evidence is based on a 2008 study from Japan in which 19 postmenopausal women were either given a Pueraria mirifica supplement for two months or a placebo.

At the end of the study period, the women provided Pueraria mirifica experienced a 17% drop in "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and a 34% increase in "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

Pueraria mirifica appears to mimic the effects of estrogen in the body, increasing the rate by which carbohydrates and sugar are metabolized. In theory, this can lower cholesterol while promoting weight loss and controlling blood sugar.

Further research is needed.

Possible Side Effects

Little is known about the long-term safety of Pueraria mirifica. Due to the herb's estrogen-like effects, symptoms such as bloating, cramps, breast tenderness, headache, weight changes, and irregular periods are possible.

(With that said, none of the abovelisted studies reported significant side effects, even with up to six months of daily use.)

Because of its estrogen-like effects, Pueraria mirifica should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding. It should also be avoided in women with estrogen-sensitive conditions, such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids.

A 2016 study in the journal Toxin reported that a 0.3% Pueraria mirifica solution significantly increased the risk of breast and endometrial cancer in female lab rats after 36 weeks.

Pueraria mirifica should be used with caution in people with liver disease since the herbal metabolites are broken down by the liver. Excessive use can place strain on the liver and potentially cause liver damage.

It is unknown if Pueraria mirifica can interact with other drugs.

Dosage and Preparation

Pueraria mirifica is sold almost exclusively in the United States as a dietary supplement. Capsule, tablet, and soft gel formulations can be found in many health food stores. There are also topical serums and creams sold online and at cosmetic counters. Most topical products are intended for the face or breasts rather than the vagina.

Oral supplements are sold in doses ranging from 100 mg to 1,000 mg. At present, there are no guidelines for the appropriate use of Pueraria mirifica. Studies investigating its use in humans found that it was just beneficial at 50 mg per day as it was at higher doses.

As a general rule, start with the lowest possible dose and increase gradually if needed. There is nothing in the current medical literature to suggest that higher doses are any more beneficial.

What to Look For

Dietary supplements are not strictly regulated in the United States. Because of this, supplements can vary in quality and/or contain ingredients not listed on the product label.

To ensure quality and safety, opt for brands that have been independently tested by a certifying body like the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab, or NSF International. Although independent certification is lacking in the supplements industry, larger companies are starting to see the benefits among consumers who are increasingly aware of supplement safety.

It is relatively difficult to find organic Pueraria mirifica supplements in the United States since the active ingredient is typically grown in Thailand or Burma. In the absence of organic certification, some manufacturers will state that their products are "premium quality." This actually means nothing.

Always be sure to read the product label before making a supplement purchase. Many Pueraria mirifica supplements have added ingredients like folic acid, selenium, vitamin B12, and biotin. While additives like these may be beneficial, others may not. This includes wheat fillers of which you may have allergies or intolerance.

Try not to be swayed by health claims that may or may not be true. A number of Pueraria mirifica manufacturers have been known to market their products as "breast enlargement supplements," a claim that is patently false. Avoid any products that make such claims or promises cures of any sort.

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