Author: Rositsa Tashkova, Master of Molecular Biology and Microbiology
Osteoporosis is a disease that mainly affects women after menopause. Unfortunately, only then do we start thinking about it, and measures can be taken much earlier. For example, active sports at a young age is a factor that is often overlooked, but in fact has a strong positive effect on bone density and therefore their strength later in life.
Role of herbs in the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis
Studies are also being carried out on various herbs and medicinal plants that can be used to increase bone density and combat osteoporosis. They may serve as a complementary medicine to the main treatment, especially in postmenopausal women.
Some of these plants have estrogen-like properties that are important for bone health. It is good to keep in mind that herbal treatments are supportive and have a slow effect, and therefore it is recommended to use them for prevention and maintenance, and not as a single treatment.
Herbs can exert an impact on inflammatory processes and metabolism, reduce bone destruction and help preserve calcium in the body.
Eleuthero (Acanthopanax senticosus)
The herb is also called devil's bush, Siberian ginseng, ciwujia, Devil's shrub, shigoka, touch-me-not, wild pepper, or kan jang. A study by Hwang et al. has found that taking 3 grams of powdered extract of the herb per day for 6 months leads to positive effects on bone structure in menopausal women. [ref.1]
Red clover (Trifolium pratense) contains estrogen-like compounds
It is believed that red clover contains estrogen-like compounds, which may be due to its potential positive effect on bone density observed in some studies. [ref.2]
Unfortunately, these estrogen-like compounds may interact adversely with other medications, as well as not be suitable for some patients suffering or prone to other diseases (for example, estrogen-dependent breast cancer) therefore a preliminary consultation with a doctor is necessary.
Soybeans (Glycine max) may have a protective effect on bones
Soybeans contain isoflavons - they also resemble estrogen, and it is believed that for this reason they can have a protective effect on bones against loss of density.
Many different studies have found such an effect of taking soy isoflavons. But here is also the same warning about the likelihood of interaction and adverse effects in some patients. [ref.3]
Phytoestrogen genistein also belongs to the group of isoflavons and has an oestrogen-like effect. For the first time, the substance is isolated from the plant dyer's greenweed or dyer's broom (Genista tinctoria), from whose Latin name comes the name of the substance.
Genistein is also found in soybeans (Glycine max), lupine (Lupinus), broad beans or fava bean (Vicia faba), Psoralea, kudzu (Japanese arrowroot or Chinese arrowroot), coffee.
Various studies [ref.4] establish the effectiveness of this phytoestrogen in osteoporosis, and the mechanisms and contraindications are similar to those described above.
Chinese traditional medicine and herbal combinations
A number of herbal combinations of Chinese traditional medicine have shown effectiveness against osteoporosis. [ref.5] Here we will focus on some of them:
- Yang Huo San Zi Tang - contains seeds of white mustard (Sinapis alba), shiso seeds (Perilla frutescens), daikon turnip seeds (Raphanus sativus var. Longipinnatus);
- Yigu of capsules - contains common wheat (Triticum aestivum), dried fruits of Psoralea corylifolia, sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua), Xanthium sibiricum, bitter apricot nuts, ricebean (Vigna umbellata).
- Bo-gu Ling;
- Classic Yin and Yang Tonic Formula - contains a variety of phytoestrogens, such as isoflavones, lignans and coumarin;
- Xian Ling GuBao - consists of 9 herbs, among which Еpimedium, psoralen, Rehmannia root, danshen or also known as red sage (Salvia miltiorrhiza), Anemarrhena asphodeloides and others.
Some herbs and herbal combinations have a positive effect on osteoporosis, especially in menopausal women. However, due to the similarity of the active substances in these medicinal plants with the hormone estrogen, which are due to their effects, it is necessary to carefully monitor the therapy and the approach to each patient should be individual, according to their medical history, diseases and medications they use.