Pueraria mirifica is a rejuvenating dietary supplement extracted from the plant of the same name. With its naturally high content of specific phytestrogens (miroestrol et dioxymiroestrol), it is traditionally used for reducing the effects of the menopause and increasing breast size. However, the scientific literature shows it also offers many additional benefits for health.
What is Pueraria mirifica ?
Also known as ‘kwao krua’, pueraria mirifica is a plant indigenous to Thailand, the benefits of which are largely attributed to its exceptionally high content of phytestrogens, natural molecules able to mimic the action of estrogen sex hormones.
Pueraria mirifica contains 3 types of phytestrogen (1-2): isoflavones (genistin, genistein, daidzein, daidzin, kwakhurin, tuberosin, puerarin, mirificin, and puemiricarpene), coumestans (coumestrol, mirificoumestan, mirificoumestan glycol) and chromenes (miroestrol, dioxymiroestrol, et isomiroestrol). These compounds are all structurally similar to the hormone oestradiol which is necessary for maintaining fertility and secondary sexual characteristics in women. Oestradiol is important for:
- developing and maintaining the breasts;
- maintaining bone strength and density;
- primary feedback in the brain concerning sex hormone production.
Miroestrol is the phytestrogen with the most significant estrogenic activity. It is chemically very similar to oestriol, the estrogen considered to be the safest for men (3-5).
Attention: Pueraria mirifica should not be confused with Kudzu (Pueraria hirsuta) which has different properties and uses.
What benefits can you expect to see from taking Pueraria mirifica?
In their comprehensive guide, ‘Pueraria mirifica: benefits of the wonder herb‘, Drs Richard Passwater and Margaret Ritchie describe in detail the scientifically-validated properties of this plant.
- Alleviating menopause symptoms. After the menopause, oestradiol levels fall dramatically, and while there’s considerable variation between individuals, this can lead to some very unpleasant symptoms. Some women are fortunate enough to escape altogether, but for others, they’re a significant blight to daily life. While these symptoms tend to lessen over time, a quarter of all women will still be affected a decade on from their last period. Such symptoms include hot flushes, intense sweats, headaches, chronic fatigue, sleep problems, vaginal dryness, urinary problems (urgent need to pass water, cystitis …) and joint pain.
Increasing numbers of women, keen to avoid the highly controversial route of hormone replacement therapy, are turning to phytestrogen supplements to compensate for the sudden loss of estrogen and to ease its accompanying symptoms. In this regard, supplements should only be taken while symptoms continue.
Note: when the body produces too much estrogen, phytestrogens can block its adverse effects. However, when the body stops producing it, they partly compensate for the sudden shortfall and thus help reduce the associated symptoms.
- Strengthening bones. Estrogen also plays a role in bone remodelling and osteoporosis. In its absence, bone demineralisation accelerates, increasing the risk of fractures.
- Reducing the risk of cardiovascular problems. Estrogen has a clear, protective effect on the arteries, particularly during the 10 years following a woman’s last period. In particular, it influences HDL cholesterol levels, inflammation, insulin resistance and weight loss mechanisms.
- Fighting oxidative stress. With its high flavone content, Pueraria mirifica offers significant antioxidant effects.
- Increasing libido. Pueraria mirifica indirectly helps to restore sexual activity which tends to diminish after the menopause due to the acute decline in production of sex hormones.
Last but not least, the scientific literature has also identified very interesting anti-aging properties for this plant (6).
How should Pueraria mirifica be taken?
Some of the phytestrogens in Pueraria mirifica, such as daidzein, may be converted into more active molecules when they come into contact with gut flora. However, this conversion depends on the composition of this microflora, and appears to be more effective in vegetarians. (7).
Taken under the guidance of a skilled therapist, the supplement Pueraria mirifica may be considered as a safer and more effective alternative to hormone replacement therapy, the potency of which can lead to an increased risk of blood clots and even certain cancers. Pregnant women should not take phytestrogen supplements.
To boost its effects against menopause symptoms, it can be combined with a natural liposomal progesterone cream (extracted from wild yam) while symptoms persist. It can also be combined with the bone-strengthening supplement Bone Health to reduce bone loss, or with the aphrodisiac Damiana extract to add extra spice to your sex life.