Hot flushes, a distressing side effect of the menopause, affect over 75 per cent of women. These flushes can be distressing and can severely affect quality of life with many women seeking medical treatment to alleviate symptoms.
However, there has been growing interest in the use of phytoestrogens as a treatment for hot flushes. The backdrop to this interest is in part historical – hop flowers, which have also been used for centuries as a preservative and for flavouring in beer, are also known to have powerful oestrogenic activity. When hops used to be hand-picked they were known to disturb the menstrual cycles of female workers. Hop baths have also been used to treat gynaecological disorders and a study in 1990 reported that hop extracts could reduce hot flushes in menopausal women.
Professor Stuart Milligan and a team of researchers explored the effects of the hop derived phytoestrogen (8-prenylnaringenin, or 8-PN) and whether this compound could reverse menopausal flushes in laboratory rats. This study demonstrated the ability of hop phytoestrogen to regulate ovariectomized rats. It was also effective in alleviating menopausal symptoms.
Encouraged by the research, the authors would like further studies of 8-PN to explore its potential as an alternative therapy to HRT.
- Prof Milligan J Endocrinol January 2008