irst came the night sweats, followed by insomnia, fatigue, and
feelings of irritability. Fifty-seven-year-old Miami resident
Winsome Martin knew she wasnt gravely ill, but just suffering
from the symptoms of menopause.
So like many women in her situation, Martin
started taking synthetic hormones to ease her symptoms. But
they made me feel even worse, she says, noting the bloating
and other side effects of hormone therapy. Those side effects,
coupled with the possible long-term health risks of using hormones,
such as an increased risk of developing breast cancer, convinced
Martin to stopped taking them, but that still left her to deal
with her menopause.
Now, Martin and thousands of other women like
her may soon be getting some much-needed relief. University of
Miami researchers are conducting a four-month clinical trial to
test the safety and effectiveness of an herbal pill designed to
treat the symptoms of menopause. The trial is being conducted
by the schools of education and medicine. So far, 50 women are
taking part in the study, but that number is expected to grow
as more subjects sign up for the trial.
Were going to find out if this herbal
supplement can alleviate symptoms of menopause, and if it does
work, on what symptoms it is most effective, says Arlette
Perry, professor and clinical physiologist in the School of Education
and the studys principal investigator.
The trial is randomized and double-blinded;
Some of the women are taking a placebo, others the supplement.
But neither the women nor researchers know who is taking what.
The women in the trial are compiling a daily log of their symptoms,
which Perry and her team are closely monitoring. Women will take
the supplement for four months, and the results of the trial will
be reported after the study ends.
More and more women have been turning to herbal
supplements, instead of hormones, for the treatment of menopausal
symptoms. Probably at least 70 percent of women are doing
some kind of alternative therapy, says Wayne Whitted, assistant
professor of gynecology at the School of Medicine and a co-principal
investigator in the trial.
But there is little clinical, scientific evidence,
if any at all, to show that herbal supplements work, which is
why Perry decided to take on the study. Its very rare
that a nutraceutical company undergoes the scientific rigors of
clinical investigation like a pharmaceutical company would,
says Perry. We need to do this study using rigorous scientific
methods to determine if this supplement works.
The nutraceutical company funding the study
cannot be named because it could compromise the blind nature of
the research, says Perry. The unidentified pills primary
ingredients are isoflavones and a number of other natural herbal
medicines reported to be effective for menopausal symptoms.
Perry investigated each of the ingredients before
agreeing to take on the trial and learned that one of the ingredients,
found in North American plants, has been used by Native-American
women for years to combat menopausal symptoms.
She hopes the clinical trial that she is conducting
will provide credible information for the use of herbal supplements,
and more importantly, help for women who suffer from the symptoms
of menopause. The majority of women have symptoms, and many
feel that theyre just supposed to deal with them,
says Perry. But theres no reason why they should,
not when there may be alternatives out there.
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