Objective: To evaluate vaginal, endometrial, and reproductive hormone effects of three herbal regimens compared with placebo and hormone therapy (HT).
Design: This was a 1-year, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 351 women, ages 45 to 55, with two or more vasomotor symptoms per day. Women were randomly assigned to (1) black cohosh, (2) a multibotanical containing black cohosh, (3) the same multibotanical plus dietary soy counseling, (4) HT, or (5) placebo. Women were ineligible if they had used HT in the previous 3 months or menopausal herbal therapies in the previous month. Data on vaginal cytology and dryness were collected (at baseline and 3 and 12 mo). Daily menstrual diaries were maintained by 313 women with a uterus, and abnormal bleeding was evaluated. Serum estradiol, follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, and steroid hormone-binding globulin were assessed (baseline and 12 mo) among 133 postmenopausal women. Gynecologic outcomes of the five groups were compared.
Results: The five groups did not vary in baseline vaginal cytology profiles, vaginal dryness, menstrual cyclicity, or hormone profiles. The HT group had a lower percentage of parabasal cells and vaginal dryness than the placebo group at 3 and 12 months (P < 0.05). Abnormal bleeding occurred in 53 of 313 (16.9%) women. There were no differences in frequency of abnormal bleeding between any of the herbal and placebo groups, whereas women in the HT group had a greater risk than those in the placebo group (P < 0.001). Among postmenopausal women, HT significantly decreased follicle-stimulating hormone and increased estradiol; none of the herbal interventions showed significant effects on any outcomes at any time point.
Conclusion: Black cohosh, used alone or as part of a multibotanical product with or without soy dietary changes, had no effects on vaginal epithelium, endometrium, or reproductive hormones.