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In the current study, patients with proven and stable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) were randomized to treatment with either N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) 600 mg twice daily or placebo, in addition to the treatments they were already using. Patients had a follow-up every 16 weeks for one year. After enrolling 120 patients with COPD who were at least 4 weeks after their last exacerbation, in the end there were 108 who completed the study with 52 in the NAC group and 56 in the placebo group. In the analysis patients were classified as a high exacerbation risk (a history of two or more exacerbations per year or a lung function forced expiratory volume < 50% or both). Those with a low exacerbation risk had a history of fewer than two exacerbations per year and a forced expiratory volume of 50% or more and no recent hospitalizationslungs xray related to COPD.

For high risk patients, this higher dose of NAC at 600 mg twice daily significantly reduced the exacerbation frequency at 8 and 12 months, a prolonged amount of time until the first exacerbation and an increased probability of having no exacerbations at one year, compared to placebo. For low risk patients, this dose of NAC did not have a significant effect.

Commentary: Chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD) includes a group of lung diseases that block airflow in the lungs and make breathing difficult. The two most common causes of COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema. In emphysema, the air sacs at the smallest end of the airway passages are destroyed. Chronic bronchitis is a chronic inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes. COPD is frequently associated with exacerbations which lead to a deterioration of lung function and quality of life. One of the primary management goals of COPD is to prevent these exacerbations. For those with a high rate of exacerbations, corticosteroid inhalers and phosphodiesterase inhibitors are frequent strategies. However, these regimens may be associated with corticosteroid inhaler induced pneumonias. Mucolytic agents have an important role in the management of COPD exacerbations because increased mucus secretions causes coughing and the mucus plugs can obstruct airways and lead to increased death.

Oral N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is known for its mucolytic effect, but also is a significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. NAC is also a free radical scavenger and a precursor of reduced glutathione which contributes to the inflammatory modulatory effect. This potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect is best achieved with 100 mg per day or more. In one previous study, 1,200 mg/day was shown to improve exercise endurance in patients with emphysema related COPD. In another (the HIACE study), 600 mg twice daily reduced COPD exacerbations and improved small airway function. In a large 3 year trial, (the BRONCHUS study) NAC did not improve lung function or result in a decline in the frequency of COPD exacerbations, however it is suggested that this was due to a dose of only 600 mg/day.

COPD exacerbations are multifactorial (mucus hypersecretions, inflamed ciliated epithelial cells in the airway, excessive migration of neutrophils, a high amount of oxidative stress and lowered vital lung capacity.) I think this leans towards a good understanding of why NAC is the perfect supplement to reduce the frequency of exacerbations and perhaps severity, due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, its mucolytic effects and its ability to inhibit the attachment of bacteria to the lung epithelium. It appears as though the effect is most significant in higher risk COPD patients.


Tse HN, Raiteri L, Wong KY, et al. Benefits of high dose N-acetylcysteine to exacerbation-prone patients with COPD. CHESE 2014;146(3):611-623.

Heavy menstrual bleeding is one of the more common gynecological reasonsginger-fresh and dried why women come to their health care provider. The experience and results of heavy menstrual bleeding can greatly impact quality of life just due to frequency of needing to attend to bleeding protection in the bathroom, restricting her desire or ability to go out of the house for daily activities or social engagements and limiting her exercise. Other consequences are the blood loss leading to iron deficiency anemia. Not only can this result in mild to severe fatigue, but changes in cognition, exercise tolerance, dyspnea and heart palpitations. The bigger picture is determining what is causing the heavy menstrual bleeding (defined as greater than 80 mL per menstrual cycle). Causes of heavy menstrual bleeding can include a simple anovulatory cycle due to stress or perimenopause, thyroid disorders, uterine polyps, uterine fibroids, adenomyosis, uterine pre-cancer, uterine cancer and von Willebrand syndrome. While some common herbs and medicines can be used to treat a particular episode of heavy menstrual flow, treating the underlying condition is particular to each of the causes mentioned.

A wide variety of over the counter, prescription and herbal medicines can be used. Some of these address the acute episode and others address the desire to control the blood loss for the next cycle. Conventional treatments include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS), oral progestins, oral progesterone, hormonal contraception (oral, transdermal, intravaginal, intra-uterine) and tranexamic acid.

Herbal therapies for acute intervention have included herbal anti-inflammatories, herbal astringents, and herbal coagulants. Ginger has proven to be an excellent women’s herb, for dysmenorrhea, morning sickness, and now a randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial.

In the current study, Iranian high school students had regular menstrual cycles and a recent history of at least one heavy menstrual cycle. These were girls who also had no gynecological disease, were not regularly taking hormonal medications or NSAIDS, did not have a vaginal or pelvic infection and were not overweight or obese. In the end, there were 46 girls in each group. Three consecutive menstrual cycles were monitored and scored for blood loss, before starting the ginger or placebo. Ginger capsules contained 250 mg of dried ginger, and took 1 capsule three times daily or placebo capsule 3 times daily starting from the day before menstrual bleeding until the third day of the menstrual period for a total of four consecutive days for the three months of menstrual cycles.

A scoring system for blood assessment was charted. Of the initial 92 participants, 71 completed the trial with 38 in the ginger group and 33 in the placebo group. The level of menstrual blood loss dramatically decreased during the three intervention cycles in the ginger group and was significantly better than in the placebo group. The average decrease in heavy menses in the ginger group started the very first month, and was even better the second month and then a little better the third month. There were no average hemorrhage changes in the placebo group. After the intervention, the ginger group decreased in mean hemorrhage by 46.6% and the placebo group by 2.1 %. Three girls had adverse events in each group: ginger= 1 heart burn, 1 abdominal pain, 1 diarrhea; placebo= 1 abdominal pain, 2 flatulence.

Commentary: I have been using ginger for acute heavy menses for years, although mostly in combination formulas with other herbs, so I am not surprised by the very good results of this study. Serum levels of Prostaglandin E2 and Prostacyclin are higher in women with heavy menstrual bleeding, which results in the vasodilatation and local platelet accumulation in addition to lower amounts of prostaglandin F2alpha which is responsible for vasoconstriction. Women with heavy menstrual bleeding also have more PGE2 receptors. It would be logical then that herbs and/or foods and/or medications that inhibit prostaglandin synthesis and leukotriene formation may provide the needed anti-inflammatory effect to decrease heavy menstrual blood loss. Other research has documented the anti-inflammatory and prostaglandin inhibitory effects of ginger. My most recent two favorite studies of ginger in women’s health has been for acute dysmenorrhea. Given that acute dysmenorrhea and heavy menses often come together, ginger becomes a leading candidate for this common combination of symptoms. However, don’t forget my earlier comments that it is always important to come to some determination as to the cause…. even if the conclusion is temporary anovulatory heavy bleeding.


Kashefi F, Khajehei M, Alavinia, et al. Effect of ginger on heavy menstrual bleeding: a placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial. Phytotherapy Research 2015;29:114-119.

happinessRhodiola rosea was recently studied for its safety and efficacy compared to a prescription anti-depressant, sertraline for mild to moderate depressive disorder. Sertraline (aka Zoloft) is an antidepressant in a class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

This phase II randomized placebo controlled clinical trial involved 57 individuals who were randomized to 12 weeks of a standardized extract of Rhodiola rosea, sertraline or placebo. The Rhodiola rosea was a 340 mg powdered extract standardized to 3.07% rosavin. Study evaluation tools used were the Hamilton Depression Rating (HAM-D), the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and the Clinical Global Impression Change (CGI/C). Changes in scores over time were used for each group and compared.

Results: While the results were considered statistically non-significant, there were modest reductions for HAM-D, BDI and CGI/C scores for all the depression conditions. The decline in HAM-D scores were greater for those taking sertraline (-8.2 with a range of -12.7 to-3.6) versus Rhodiola rosea (-5.1, with a range of -8.8 to -1.3), and placebo (-4.6, with a range of -8.6 to -0.6). The odds of improving were greater for sertraline than Rhodiola (1.9 vs. 1.39), however, there were more individuals who reported adverse events on the sertraline (63.2%) than the Rhodiola (30.3%) or placebo (16.7%).

Commentary: While Rhodiola was less effective as an antidepressant than the sertraline, there were also significantly less adverse events and it was much better tolerated. For this reason, for many patients, Rhodiola may have a more favorable risk to benefit ratio for those with mild to moderate depression.

A small trial was published in 2008 in those with a diagnosis of general anxiety disorder. Participants received 340 mg daily of Rhodiola rosea extract for 10 weeks. Significant decreases in the mean Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale were seen.

Rhodiola rosea, or “golden root”, is an herb that has been used in Russia, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and Asia for generations. It has much more recently been introduced in the West. Traditionally, Rhodiola rosea was used in folk medicine with a reputation to increase physical endurance, productivity, longevity, resistance to high altitude sickness, fatigue, depression, anemia, impotence, gastrointestinal ailments, infections and disorders of the nervous system. The roots were used as bouquets to enhance fertility in young Siberian couples prior to their marriage. The tea was used for colds and flus during the hard winters in Asia. Rhodiola was highly coveted as a trade item by outsiders, and in exchange, they gave up their fine wines, fruits and honey.

The Vikings of Scandinavia used the herb to enhance their physical strength and endurance – something they came to be famous for. All of this folklore first led to investigations of its phytochemistry in the early 1960s that identified adaptogenic compounds in the roots of the plant. These adaptogens, as well as the later discovered antioxidant and neuromodulating compounds in Rhodiola rosea, are responsible for its medicinal properties.


Reference: Mao J, Xie S, Zee J, et al. Rhodiola rosea versus sertraline for major depressive disorder: A randomized placebo-controlled trial. Phytomedicine 2015;22(3): 394-399.

vittlesThere have been only 2 randomized clinical trials addressing whether or not vitamin and mineral supplements are effective for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. One of these, the Physicians’ Health Study II did not find an association between the use of a multivitamin-mineral (MVM) supplement and cardiovascular disease (CVD) in either incidence or mortality after an average of 11 years, in male U S physicians 50 years or older. The other study, the French Supplementation en Vitamines et Mineraux Antioxydants, randomly assigned women and men (women 35-60 y.o.; men 45-60 y.o.) to receive either the daily antioxidant combination (not an MVM – vitamin C, alpha tocopherol, beta carotene, selenium and zinc) or placebo and after 7.5 years CVD incidence was not statistically different between the two arms. In 2010, a large Swedish cohort study of women found that multi vitamins,(MV) without minerals, were associated with a reduced risk of myocardial infarction, and if they used them greater than 5 years, the association was even stronger.

The current study set out to examine the association between MVN and MV use and CVD mortality in US adults who did not previously have CVD. The researchers linked the NHANES II data and the 2011 National Death Index to examine the association between MVM and MV use and mortality due to CVD. These two large surveys provide data on over 10,000 adults 40 years and older. Data points included history of myocardial infarction, stroke, coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, non skin cancers, diabetes, alcohol, smoking, height, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, triglyceride, glucose/glycolated hemoglobin testing, age, race, education, dietary supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbs) , and over the counter and prescription medications. A MVM was defined as 3 or more vitamins and at least 1 mineral. A MV was a vitamin combination without minerals. There were also 3 duration categories of < 1 year, 1-3 years and > 3 years.

Approximately 45% of the individuals evaluated had used a dietary supplement in the previous 30 days. MVMs were the most frequently used (21%) and MVs 14 %.

Results: Neither MVM nor MV use was associated with a lower risk of CVD mortality when they compared users with nonusers. However, when they looked at the length of time of use, there was indeed a significant inverse association for MVM use of > 3 years with a more than 35% reduced risk of CVD mortality in women, but not men. MV only, was not significantly associated with CVD mortality when combining men and women, although men only who had used MV for 1-3 years did have reduced CVD related mortality.

Commentary: It’s reassuring to see some positive data for MVM users and prescribers, and useful to see that longer use, in this case > 3 years is clearly associated with reduced mortality from cardiovascular disease. All kinds of critiques can be lodged against this kind of study, since it is not the gold standard randomized controlled trial. However, even RCT can be criticized because they are often of short duration and have a more homogeneous population of individuals being studied. The current study is strong in the robust diversity of individuals as well as a large sample that were older than 65, which is especially useful when looking at cardiovascular disease mortality.

There are many research studies on individual minerals, vitamins, amino acids, fish oils and herbs that show efficacy in both prevention and intervention in different areas of cardiovascular disease. Examples include magnesium intake and an inverse association with risk of strokes, reduced risk of ischemic heart disease and CVD mortality; protective CV effect of vitamin D; Hawthorne to improve outcomes of congestive heart failure; the many and diverse cardiovascular benefits in prevention and treatment for fish oils (strokes, CVD mortality, blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and more).

As a result of the current study, I will be more eager to recommend long term use of MVM for women in my practice and in my teachings.


Bailey R, Fakhouri T, Park Y, et al. Multivitamin-mineral use is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease mortality among women in the United States. J Nutrition 2015 doi:10,3945/jn.114.204743

military ptsdData on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in women military personnel was evaluated at the Veterans Administration to determine the association between PTSD within 1 year of delivery and risk or a history of a prior diagnosis of PTSD and the risk of preterm birth.

In more than 16,000 deliveries, 19% were in women with PTSD including 12% with active PTSD. The risk for spontaneous preterm delivery was higher among women with active PTSD (9%) than those with a history of PTSD (8%) or those with no PTSD (7%). The majority of the women with active PTSD had experienced sexual trauma while in the military as well as depression disorders.

In a separate study of prenatal stress, researchers randomized 64, low income, pregnant urban black women who entered the study at 16-21 weeks of their pregnancy to receive either a supplement of 450 mg of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) or placebo until their delivery. At 30 weeks gestation, those who were in the DHA group had a lower perception of stress than those in the placebo group. Those who received DHA also had lower cortisol output in response to arriving at the research facility and a better ability to modulate their response to a social stress test.

Commentary: I have to say that the aspect of these two studies that was the most striking was the high prevalence of sexual trauma experienced by women while in the military. Moving beyond that, both of these studies highlight the important impact of maternal stress and maternal well-being on birth outcomes. This study also highlights the potential of DHA in improving the maternal response to stress during pregnancy, yet one more reason for the importance of supplementing with fish oil during pregnancy. Clinicians should also conclude the importance of inquiring about traumatic experiences past and present and employ strategies to help manage trauma and stress.


Shaw J, et al. Posttraumatic stress disorder and risk of spontaneous preterm birth. Obstet Gynecol 2014 Dec ;124:1111

Keenan K, et al. Association between fatty acid supplementation and prenatal stress in African Americans. A randomized controlled trial. Obstet Gunecol 2014 Dec; 124:1080

An Italian study at a fertility center conducted a study to assess in vitro fertilization (IVF) outcomes in women who were of normal body weight, of reproductive and with adequate ovarian follicles. Women with a vitamin D serum level < 20 ng/mL (considered deficient) were compared with those having > 20 ng/mL (optimal levels = 20-40 ng/mL). Artificial insemination

Of the 335 women who participated, 154 had a serum vitamin D level < 20 ng/mL and 181 had levels of > 20 ng/mL. Women with higher serum levels had more high quality embryos even though a similar number of eggs and embryos were transferred. Women with higher serum levels of vitamin D also had a higher pregnancy rate of 31% vs. 20%. Women with a serum vitamin D level > 30 ng/mL had the greatest chances of pregnancy.

Commentary: What appears obvious to me is that women should have their serum vitamin D level tested prior to undergoing the arduous process of IVF. If their levels are < 20 ng/mL, it would seem logical to dose with vitamin D to improve serum levels, and retest in 3 months to assure > 20 ng/mL before proceeding. While this study does not prove a causal predictive relationship between serum vitamin D levels and IVF success of pregnancy it does seem plausible and worth the simple approach of assuring adequate vitamin D levels in women seeking pregnancy, especially in those seeking IVF.


Ref. Paffoni A, et al. Vitamin D deficiency and infertility: Insights from in vitro fertilization cycles. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2014; Aug 14 (e-pub ahead of print)

The diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) has been through many permutations in the last 30 years I have been in practice. The most widely used and accepted current definition of PCOS is from the consensus criteria from 2003, called the Rotterdam Criteria. The diagnostic criteria for the Rotterdam diagnosis of PCOS require the presence of two of the following:


1. oligomenorrhea/anovulation-as manifested by a cycle length of > 35 days

2. hyperandrogenism: indicated by hirsutism or male pattern baldness, or elevated serum androgen levels (testosterone, androstenedione or dehydroepiandrosterone) clinical

3. polycystic ovaries on ultrasound ( > 12 small follicles in an ovary)

Other etiologies must be excluded such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia, androgen secreting tumors, Cushing syndrome, thyroid dysfunction and hyperprolactinemia

The first step in the diagnosis is to determine if both hirsutism and oligomenorrhea are present based on a medical history and physical exam. If both these issues are present, then an ultrasound is not necessary and a diagnosis of PCOS is likely and treatment can begin, because approximately 95% of women with hirsutism and oligomenorrhea have multifollicular ovaries on a pelvic ultrasound.

If only one or the other, hirsutism or oligomenorrhea, is present, the additional tests need to be done. If hirsutism is the singular presenting symptom (without oligomenorrhea or amenorrhea), then a pelvic ultrasound should be ordered. If there are then 12 or more small follicles, i.e. multifollicular ovaries then a diagnosis of PCOS can be stated. If oligomenorrhea is the only symptom with no hirsutism, then it is recommended that serum androgens be ordered as well as a pelvic ultrasound. If there are elevated serum androgens and/or a multifollicular ovary are found, then a diagnosis of PCOS is concluded.

Women with amenorrhea should have other tests after a comprehensive medical history and physical exam, including serum prolactin, thyroid stimulating hormone, and after a comprehensive history and physical exam- a progesterone challenge test. Other tests may also include follicle stimulating hormone. Amenorrhea in women who have a history of at least one previous menses, has numerous causes and PCOS is just one of them. Others include hypothyroid, prolactin secreting tumors, stress, premature menopause, and something called hypothalamic amenorrhea (ex/ eating disorder). Women with PCOS who are overweight or obese, should have additional testing including those for prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, and hyperlipidemia.

PCOS is a complex endocrinological disorder and women should seek care from a clinician who is well versed in underlying causes, the multiple body systems it affects, and optimally uses an integrative medicine approach utilizing the benefits of nutrition, exercise, herbal and nutrient supplements and selected pharmaceutical prescriptions as needed.

Please see other blog postings for PCOS treatments utilizing natural therapies including green tea, N-acetyl cysteine and more.


1. Revised 2003 consensus on diagnostic criteria and long-term health risks related to polycystic ovary syndrome. Fertil Steril 2004;81:19–25

2. Legro R, et al. Diagnosis and treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome: An Endocrine Society clinical practice guideline. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2013 Dec; 98:4565

The perception of dry mouth (known as xerostomia) affects up to 40% of adults in the U.S. and can have a significant effect on quality of life. Causes can include medications, diabetes, Sjogren syndrome and hormonal changes such as menopause. Previous animal and laboratory studies provided evidence that green tea polyphenols could be beneficial for xerostomia.

The current human study used a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized design comparing green tea to xylitol. The study involved 60 individuals (58 green tea powderwomen and 2 men) with the complaint of dry mouth and had Sjogren syndrome mediated salivary gland hypofunction, with 30 taking the placebo and 30 taking the green tea medicine. The green tea proprietary formula contained green tea catechins and other ingredients (amounts not given; but internet search reveals the following information: Xylitol, Sorbitol, Natural Flavors, Green Tea (Leaf), Acadia Gum, Jaborandi Extract (Leaf), Magnesium Stearate, Silicon Dioxide, Sucralose). The placebo contained 500 mg xylitol and other non-plant ingredients. Participants took 1 lozenge every 4 hours for a maximum of 6 lozenges per day, over an 8 week period. Quality of life assessments and saliva collection with volume determined were used to evaluate response.

After 8 weeks of therapy, the xylitol-containing placebo failed to affect saliva output while the green tea catechin containing formulated resulted in a statistically significant increase in saliva output with a 3.8 fold increase in unstimulated saliva output and a 2.1 fold increase in stimulated saliva output, compared with baseline. This occurred within 1 week. Both groups experienced a quality of life scored demonstrating significant improvement with no significant difference between groups.

Commentary: Most commercial products for xerostomia contain xylitol although it has not been known if xylitol does in fact play a role in saliva output. A xylitol chewing gum, a sorbitol containing lozenge and a xylitol containing spray previously showed no efficacy in stimulating saliva in patients with xerostomia. Other research using a maltose-containing lozenge found a potential benefit for xerostomia and another with a 1% malic acid spray did show a modest increase in salivary flow rates. It is not clear why there is a discrepancy between salivary output-increase in the treatment medication compared to placebo vs. the similar effects on subjective quality of life measures. A longer study with more participants would hope to clarify and produce greater results in the treatment group not only in objective measures of salivary output but also in subjective quality of life values.


De Rossi S, Thoppay J, Dickinson D, et al. A phase Ii clinical trial of a natural formulation containing tea catechins for xerostomia. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol 2014;118:447-454.

black cohosh, freshThis randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial was conducted in Iran with a total of 84 postmenopausal women. Women were randomly assigned to one black cohosh tablet per day (n=42) or one placebo (n=42) per day for 8 weeks. The severity of vasomotor symptoms and number of hot flashes were recorded in the pre-treatment phase and 4 and 8 weeks after intervention. In Iran, black cohosh is supplied by Goldaru Pharmaceutical Company under the name of Cimifugol and each tablet contains 6.5 mg of dried extract of black cohosh root, equal to 0.12 to 0.18 mg of 27 deoxy ectoine.

Participants were postmenopausal women ages 45 to 60 years old were included in the study if no menses for 12 consecutive months, normal blood pressure, a minimum score of 2 for vasomotor symptom severity; no history of breast or cervical cancer, liver disease, abnormal postmenopausal bleeding, depression or hyperthyroidism and no psychiatric medications or hormones or herbs used for treating menopausal symptoms. In addition, no smoking and no alcohol use were also inclusion criteria.

The primary outcome was the effect of black cohosh or placebo on vasomotor symptoms severity, using the FDA and Green climacteric vasomotor scale for both hot flashes and night sweats. For daytime hot flashes, a score of 1 = mild, without sweating. A score of 2 = average sensation of heat with sweating but no interruption of daily task functions. A score of 3 = severe, extra intense sensation of heat and sweating with dysfunction and interruption of daily tasks. For night sweats, 1= mild and they do not wake the woman up and only wake up if they realize they are sweating; 2 = average, they wake up due to heat and sweating but no change of clothing or sheets is needed; 3= severe and they wake up due to heat and sweating and do need to change their cloths or get out of bed or open windows. A minimum Green vasomotor score is 1 and the maximum is 6. There was a considerable decline in vasomotor symptom severity and number of hot flashes after 4 weeks and 8 weeks in particular, compared with placebo.

Commentary: Vasomotor symptoms are seen in approximately 75% of perimenopausal and postmenopausal women and can last from 1-10 years and even more than 10 years for some women. Hot flashes can not only be very uncomfortable if moderate to severe, they can make many women anxious, self-conscious in their work environment and can significantly interfere with sleep resulting in fatigue, poor cognitive function and labile moods. Treating the vasomotor symptoms successfully can improve and potentially even alleviate all these issues. This is not the first study where I’ve run into these very low doses of extracts of an herb, and it is difficult comparing them to products in the U.S.


Shahnazi M, Nahaee J, Moammad-Alizadeh-Charandabi S, Bayatipayan S. Effects of black cohosh on vasomotor symptoms in postmenopausal women: A randomized clinical trial. J Caring Sciences 2013;2(2):105-113

Menstrual cramps are one of most common menstrual related problems that women face. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDS) are the most common self-treatment that women use, but they don’t always work adequately or at all, and some women have side effects from them. I have written previous blogs on natural solutions for menstrual cramps, including ginger and valerian. This double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial investigated the use of fenugreek seed powder during menses, in women with moderate to severe menstrual cramps.fenugreek seeds

Iranian women of similar age, body mass index (BMI) and pain level of menstrual cramps were enrolled in this study and given either ground fenugreek seed capsules at 900 mg three times per day or placebo for the first 3 days of menses and for two consecutive menstrual cycles. If the woman felt she needed pain medication, she was instructed to take this 1 hour or more after consumption of the study medicine/placebo.

Patients reported additional medications used for pain, pain severity, and any other menstruation symptoms. A visual analog scale (VAS) was used to assess pain during the first 3 days of menstruation in addition to the time of day the pain was most prominent. A score of 1-2 indicated mild pain, 3-7 was moderate, and 8-10 was severe.

A total of 106 patients were enrolled and 101 completed the study. There were 51 in the fenugreek group and 50 in the placebo group. At study entry, there were no significant differences in age, age of menstruation, menstrual pain, pain severity, or BMI. At the end of the study, the severity of pain significantly decreased in both groups after the second menstrual cycle as compared to baseline (fenugreek group=3.25 vs. 6.4, placebo group=5.96 vs. 6.14). After each cycle, pain severity in the fenugreek group was significantly less as compared to placebo (cycle 1=4.32 vs. 6.03, and cycle 2=3.25 vs. 5.96). The duration of pain was significantly decreased in the fenugreek group and the average use of pain medication in the fenugreek group significantly decreased by the end of the study compared to the placebo group.

Commentary: The results of this study point to a meaningful response of fenugreek seed powder compared to baseline at 900 mg three times daily the first 3 days of menses for women with moderate to severe menstrual cramps. The use of fenugreek was more effective than placebo in reducing severity of pain, duration of pain and a decrease in the use of pain medications. This approach to moderate to severe menstrual cramps is easy and safe to try as an alternative treatment for menstrual cramps.


Younesy S, Amiraliakbari S, Esmaeili S, Alavimajd H, Nouraei S. Effects of fenugreek seed on the severity and systemic symptoms of dysmenorrhea. J Reprod Infertil. January 2014;15(1):41-48.

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