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Effects of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine (Zhi Mu 14) on hot flushes and quality of life in postmenopausal women: results of a four-arm randomized controlled pilot trial

Nedeljkovic, Marko PhD1; Tian, Li MD1; Ji, Ping MD1; Déglon-Fischer, Agnès MSc1; Stute, Petra MD2; Ocon, Erika MD2; Birkhäuser, Martin MD, PhD2; Ausfeld-Hafter, Brigitte MD1

doi: 10.1097/GME.0b013e31829374e8
Original Articles

Objective The aim of this study was to evaluate the feasibility of a clinical trial investigating the effects of acupuncture (AP) and Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) on hot flushes and quality of life in postmenopausal women.

Methods Forty postmenopausal women reporting at least 20 hot flushes per week were enrolled in a randomized controlled trial. They were randomly allocated to receive traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) AP, sham AP, verum CHM, or placebo CHM for 12 weeks. Follow-up assessment was conducted 12 weeks after intervention. Primary outcome measures included hot flush frequency and severity. As a secondary outcome measure, the severity of menopausal symptoms was assessed using the Menopause Rating Scale (MRS) II.

Results TCM AP induced a significant decline in all outcome measures from pretreatment to posttreatment compared with sham AP (hot flush frequency, P = 0.016; hot flush severity, P = 0.013; MRS, P < 0.001). In the TCM AP group, a larger decrease in MRS scores persisted from pretreatment to follow-up (P = 0.048). No significant differences were noted between the verum CHM group and the placebo CHM group. Compared with the verum CHM group, there was a significant decrease in MRS scores (P = 0.002) and a trend toward a stronger decrease in hot flush severity (P = 0.06) in the TCM AP group from pretreatment to posttreatment.

Conclusions TCM AP is superior to sham AP and verum CHM in reducing menopausal symptoms, whereas verum CHM shows no significant improvements when compared with placebo CHM.

Supplemental digital content is available in the text.

From the 1Institute of Complementary Medicine KIKOM, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland; and 2Department of Gynecologic Endocrinology and Reproductive Medicine, University Women’s Hospital, Bern, Switzerland.

Received January 23, 2013; revised and accepted March 21, 2013.

Funding/support: This study was funded by an anonymous donation provided by Niederer Kraft & Frey (Zurich, Switzerland) solicitors. China Medical Ltd (Aesch, Switzerland) supplied the trial medication, and 3B Scientific Ltd (Hamburg, Germany) supplied acupuncture needles. Both companies had no further role in study design; data collection, analysis, and interpretation; report writing; and the decision to submit the article for publication.

Financial disclosure/conflicts of interest: B.A.-H. is an employee of the Clinic of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (Aarau, Switzerland).

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal’s Web site (

Address correspondence to: Marko Nedeljkovic, PhD, Institute of Complementary Medicine KIKOM, University of Bern, Imhoof-Pavillon, Inselspital, Bern 3010, Switzerland. E-mail:

© 2014 by The North American Menopause Society.