“Over 50% of Western women use integrative medicines such as soy isoflavones, red clover, and black cohosh to treat the symptoms of menopause,” according to the group of researchers, which came from the University of Sydney, Queensland University of Technology, Research Institute Havelhöhe in Berlin, and the BRIDI Centre in Brisbane.
These popular botanical therapies are known as phytoestrogens—compounds that bind to estrogen receptors that may moderately reduce menopausal symptoms. Fenugreek, which has been used and studied for its pharmaceutical effects, may have some estrogenic activity, according to some previous studies, but it has not been analysed in depth.
For this new study, the researchers investigated how de-husked fenugreek seed extract may be effective in reducing vasomotor symptoms (hot flushes and night sweats) and its potential in improving quality of life of healthy women experiencing menopausal symptoms as an alternative to hormone therapies.
The supplementation period lasted 12 weeks, and the outcomes measured included responses in the standardized Menopause-Specific Quality of Life (MENQOL) questionnaire, a log of hot flush and night sweat frequency, as well as serum estradiol levels.
Gencor Pacific, which financed the study, also provided the proprietary de-husked fenugreek seed extract (Libifem) supplemented to the study participants.
Participants were healthy women between the ages of 40 and 65 who were experiencing menopausal symptoms, recruited through a contract research organization. A total of 115 women participated in the study. Eligibility and inclusion criteria included no history of estrogenic abnormalities, cardiovascular disease, or active substance use.
Gencor Pacific’s Libifem contained 300 mg of fenugreek de-husked seed extract, manufactured in a two-piece opaque, hard gelatin and non-marked capsule. The placebo looked similar but only contained maltodextrin.
Participants were randomly allocated to the active or placebo group and were required to take 600 mg per day (two capsules), with breakfast and dinner for 12 weeks. Compliance was monitored using both telephone and email communications
Findings: ‘Significant improvements in vasomotor, psychosocial, physical, and sexual symptoms domains’
Comparing measurements taken before the intervention began, and then at weeks 4, 8, and 12, the researchers found that participants who consumed the fenugreek de-husked seed extract had statistically significant decreases of daytime flushes and night sweats compared to the placebo group.
The researchers found “significant improvements in the vasomotor, psychosocial, physical, and sexual symptoms domains,” they wrote, based on participant responses of the MENQOL questionnaire.
However, there was no statistically significant change in serum estradiol levels from baseline to the end of the intervention period, nor between the active ingredient and control groups. “The menopausal transition period is characterized by erratic estradiol production…which is influenced by BMI,” they wrote. ”Therefore, assessing the hormonal data in short-term studies is unlikely to provide meaningful data to assess the effect of [fenugreek] seed extract on estradiol levels.”
The mechanisms of how fenugreek seed extract may attenuate menopausal symptom discomforts still needs further study, but previous studies suggest that hot flashes and other vasomotor symptom severity is attenuated by the extract’s glycemic control capabilities.
“Longer duration studies in human populations are required to establish long-term reproductive and homornal safety of [fenugreek],” the researchers added.
Source: Phytotherapy Research
Published online ahead of print, DOI: 10.1002/ptr.5856
Efficacy of a Proprietary Trigonella foenum-graecum L. De-Husked Seed Extract in Reducing Menopausal Symptoms in Otherwise Healthy Women: A double-Blind, Randomized, Plaecbo-Controlled Study.
Authors: E. Steels, M.L. Steele, M.Harold, and S. Coulson