Pueraria lobata (PL) is used as a traditional Chinese herbal remedy for menopausal symptoms, as well as an ingredient in preparations for conditions affecting menopausal women, such as osteoporosis, coronary heart disease, and some hormone-dependent cancers. The scientific basis for its action may be its action as a phytoestrogen.
To examine the effects of PL in comparison with hormone replacement therapy (HRT) on lipid profile, sex hormone levels, bone turnover markers, and indices of cognitive function. For the study, 127 community-living, postmenopausal women aged 50 to 65 years were randomized to receive HRT (n = 43), PL (equivalent to 100 mg isoflavone; n = 45), or no treatment (n = 39) for 3 months. The following measurements were carried out at baseline and after 3 months for all participants: menopausal symptoms questionnaire; neuropsychological tests covering memory, attention, motor speed, and word-finding ability; quality of life (SF36); lipid profile; urinary deoxypyridinoline; dietary phytoestrogen intake and urinary phytoestrogen; estradiol; follicle-stimulating hormone; and luteinizing hormone.
Only participants in the HRT group showed a mean reduction in cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol that was significantly different from that of the control group. No significant changes in lipid profile or follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone were observed in the PL group compared with the controls. However, both the HRT and PL groups showed an improvement in Mini-Mental State Examination score and attention span compared with the case of participants receiving no treatment. HRT and PL had different effects on cognitive function; HRT improved delayed recall, whereas flexible thinking seemed improved in the PL group.
This study was unable to demonstrate a scientific basis for the use of PL for improving the health of postmenopausal women in general. However, the effect of PL on cognitive function deserves further study.