Ei yi yi. Every supplement maker on earth is selling some kind of all-natural-miracle-cure in a bottle with smiling, peaceful, slender women sitting in lotus position in a Japanese monastery, with sunlight slanting through the bamboo forest.
But if you actually check to see if this product is, I don't know, effective, then you are totally off-script.
That's what just happened with keishi-bukuryo-gan (great name, by the way ... I can just SEE this marketing piece on a supplement bottle), a mix of cinnamon bark, peach pit and several other botanicals -- also known as TU-025.
What The Study Studied
These scientists randomly assigned 178 postmenopausal women to take either keishi-bukuryo-gan tablets or a placebo every day for three months.
In the end, the researchers found that while women on the herb saw improvements in hot flashes, sleep problems and other symptoms, so did women on the placebo. So there was no clear advantage of the herbal product, the team reports in the journal Menopause.
Here's the Data
Of women in the placebo group, hot flash frequency and severity dropped by a significant degree in 34 percent. The same was true of 40 percent of women taking a lower dose of keishi-bukuryo-gan (7.5 grams per day) and 38 percent using a higher dose (12.5 grams).
The differences among the three groups were not statistically meaningful, according to the researchers, led by Dr. Gregory A. Plotnikoff, who directs the Institute for Health and Healing at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis.
What's more, 20 percent of the women using keishi-bukuryo-gan reported diarrhea as a side effect. Now THAT's a picture you never see in the "health food" section of your grocery store. Wouldn't that be great? Instead of sitting on the sacred stone table of some Asian Monastery, the people on this supplement bottle would be shown ... hmm, not sure how effective that marketing message would be.
To Be Fair
It may be that this herb was not given within the context of traditional Japanese medicine, which is a system known as Kampo, which considers each individual patient's "constitution." Based on that system, the researchers note, keishi-bukuryo-gan is best for women who normally tend to feel cold (when they're not having hot flashes or night sweats), and are deemed to have stagnant qi (pronounced "chee"). Qi is a concept in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine that refers to the flow of energy through the body.
But supplement makers are NOT trying to sell this herb within the context of traditional Japanese medicine. PLUS, keishi-bukuryo-gan is a prescription drug in Japan, but it's available as an unregulated supplement in the U.S. -- generally as a capsule or a powder to make tea.
Japanese herb for hot flashes fails in U.S. trial | Reuters