Posts made in January, 2010

Wednesday Bubble: what’s black and red and so not over?

Posted by on Jan 6, 2010 in Uncategorized | 2 comments

How about black cohosh and red clover?

Naysayers keep bashing both of these herbs for relief of menopausal symptoms. And yet, anecdotal evidence show otherwise; I know quite a number of women who have successfully shut down their flashes and night sweats with standardized black cohosh in particular. For red clover, the results have not been quite as favourable. Still, I say this bubble ain’t over yet.

In the latest study, published in Menopause journal, researchers examined the safety and effectiveness of standardized black cohosh or red clover compared to hormone replacement or placebo in 89 menopausal women with severe hot flashes or night sweats (52 to 71 per week). Participants took one of these compounds for a year.

The results showed that while all women reported improvements, reductions in the frequency of symptoms varied by compound:

Black cohosh 34%
Red clover 57%
Placebo 63%
HRT 94%

However, contrary to previous reports, both black cohosh and red clover were found to be safe.

So, what should you do when it comes to black cohosh or red clover? As always, speak to a health practitioner about your symptoms so that you and she can make an educated decision about therapeutic strategies. Be sure that any herb you try is standardized and manufactured in a reputable facility. Finally, be aware that herbs take much longer than pharmaceuticals to start working so don’t get discouraged. The good news is that both of these products can be safe when used responsibly and under supervision. Nevertheless, like any medication, they can interact with other drugs and other conditions so you need to do your homework wisely.

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Needling your way into the ’10s

Posted by on Jan 4, 2010 in hot flash | 2 comments

As regular readers of this blog know, I’m a huge advocate of acupuncture. Yet, of late, there have been a lot of studies that suggest that acupuncture is ineffective for treating hot flashes. That is, until the ACUFLASH trial came along.

ACUFLASH compared acupuncture in addition to self care to self-care alone over a 12 week period. The findings? Acupuncture plus self-care reduced the mean frequency of hot flashes by 48% in women  compared with 28% of women using self-care methods only. This means that 50% of women receiving acupuncture experienced a 50% or greater reduction in how often their hot flashes occurred, compared to 16% of women using self-care. Significant reductions were also seen in hot flash intensity. Acupuncture also greatly improved overall reported quality of life. The difference in this trial compared to others exploring the effectiveness of acupuncture was that practitioners were able to both follow a standard protocol and add individual aspects to it – a key to finding quality in Traditional Chinese medicine practices.

In this latest study, investigators from ACUFLASH revisited study participants at 6 and 12 months, asking them about use of healthcare providers, medication and dietary supplements, and whether or not their daily habits had changed (e.g., rest, sleep, physical activity, coffee and alcohol, tobacco use). They also were asked if they had experienced any changes in menopausal symptoms, namely the intensity and frequency of hot flashes, quality of life and well-being). Additionally, women who had initially been treated with acupuncture and self-care were asked if they would recommend acupuncture to others and/or use it again.

Interestingly, at 6 and 12 months, significant differences between the study groups were no longer present; in fact, many women who had initially experienced substantial declines in hot flash frequency plateaued out. However, women who indicated that they continued to use acupuncture after the original study ended, experienced an even larger reduction in the frequency and intensity of their hot flashes through the 12 year period.

The investigators state that expectations of positive results and increased well-being definitely play an important role in reductions of vasomotor symptoms. However, they also suggest that adding self-care to acupuncture can contribute to a faster reduction in vasomotor symptoms and improvements in quality of life (which, they say, may be related to some cognitive-related triggering of mechanisms that contribute to menopausal symptoms).

One of the most important findings of this study is that in order to be effective, acupuncture treatments should be regular; they will  not impart any long-term effects.

Personally, I’m all for needling my way into the New Year. You?

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