Advocates for naturopathic remedies state their treatments may help fight menopausal symptoms, depression and also cancer. For example, “bio-identical hormone therapy” looks promising for relieving the symptoms of menopause, one study found, while an age-old herbal treatment for cancer is proving effective — at least in the laboratory and in pets. That’s according to naturopathic physicians presenting their research at the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians annual meeting, held previously this month in Portland. Ore. Naturopathic physicians are trained in “natural” health care at certified medical colleges, based on the AANP. Their approach is based on the belief that it is the nature of all things to return to balance. Remedies include dietary changes, counseling for lifestyle modification, organic medicine, natural supplements and homeopathy.”Bio-identical hormones,” a natural option to synthetic hormone alternative therapy, were effective in reducing the symptoms of menopause and perimenopause, said lead researcher Dr. Jan M. Seibert, a naturopathic doctor in Pleasant Prairie, Wis. She gave the hormone regimen, which includes estradiol/estriol via a face care cream or in drops, and also a progesterone cream and a multivitamin, to 50 ladies who were either menopausal or perimenopausal. Seibert’s group then followed the women’s improvement for one yr.”Eighty-two percent of the women showed improvement in estrogen-related symptoms, such as warm flashes,” she said. “Seventy-four percent showed improvement in progesterone-related symptoms such as irritability and fluid retention.”Seibert also looked at symptoms linked to low thyroid functioning, which can affect women at menopause. “When the thyroid begins to have complications, it can cause a state of depression and weight gain,” she described. In the analysis, “44 percent showed improvement with thyroid-related symptoms and 8 percent got worse. The additional 48 percent got no change.”What’s needed following, Seibert said, is a big, randomized trial of organic hormone therapy to find if it works as well as synthetic hormone therapy without the medial side effects. Long-term hormone alternative therapy (HRT) with synthetic estrogen and progesterone boosts dangers for breast cancer and stroke, as the large-scale Women’s Wellness Initiative study found.
That research was stopped early in 2002, and its troubling results caused many older women to abandon HRT. “This is a great start in conditions of providing preliminary proof benefits for menopausal concerns,” stated Dr. Wendy Weber, a study assistant professor of naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University, Seattle, who was simply not involved with Seibert’s study but knows its findings.”Based on this study, it seems there may very well be benefits, but we are still lacking [data upon] the efficacy and basic safety.” And, she mentioned, the study didn’t have a control group, which could have allowed a primary head-to-head comparison of bio-similar and synthetic hormones. The analysis is “interesting” however, not surprising, added Dr. Rick Frieder, a gynecologist at Santa Monica–UCLA INFIRMARY and a medical instructor of obstetrics and gynecology at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine.”It generally does not convey anything new,” this individual said. Whether hormone replacement can be synthetic or the more organic “bio-identical” compounds, he stated, they are regarded as effective in enhancing the symptoms of menopause, such as incredibly hot flashes. One drawback to the analysis, he said, can be that they studied several items and doses, rather than have a more scientific strategy, such as comparing one dose of bio-identical hormones to the same dosage of synthetic medications. In another study presented at the meeting, the herbal formula Essiac — utilized by cancer patients for decades — was found to involve some antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity along with the ability to kill cancer cells in the laboratory, said Deborah Kennedy, the lead author of the laboratory study and a co-author of another study looking at the result of the remedy in animals. The research had been funded by the maker of Essiac. Kennedy found that the formula, when applied to ovarian and prostate malignancy cellular lines, did kill the cellular material. “We were able to slow down and cause the ovarian and prostate malignancy cell lines to die,” she said. When the formula was used in animals, they discovered it protected the stomach but did not boost the disease fighting capability considerably.”The in vivo [lab] study discovered antioxidant activity,” noted Dr. Christine Girard, chief medical officer at the Southwest University of Naturopathic Medication in Tempe, Ariz., who chaired the research committee for the conference. She called the outcomes “encouraging,” and noted that the formula also seemed to have an anti-inflammatory effect.”It’s a good first step,” she said, but added that it’s tough to translate animal leads to humans. In the animal study, the formula did demonstrate gastric protection and protection to the liver, she stated. Not everyone is convinced Essiac fights cancer.
The American Cancer Society declined comment, noting that the study hadn’t undergone peer review and was merely submitted for presentation at a gathering. On its Site, however, the ACS cautions that, “There have been no published clinical trials showing the effectiveness of Essiac in the treatment of cancer.” Although it notes that some of the herbal products in the blend have shown anti-cancer effect in lab studies, it notes that no scientific evidence exists to aid its use in humans with cancer. Research after research, conducted in pets by researchers at the U. S. National Cancer Institute and various other prestigious institutions, possess concluded there is no evidence the formula functions, based on the American Cancer Society. In other presentations at the meeting:A researcher
at the University of Toronto warned that St. John’s wort, a favorite herb used to treat depression symptoms, should be used in combination with caution by pregnant and breast-feeding women, as it can interact with some medications prescribed during pregnancy and may cause colic or drowsiness in infants. The analysis received no outside funding. Another Canadian study discovered that naturopathic care — acupuncture, relaxation exercises and diet and lifestyle changes — relieved low back pain better than standard care in a report of 80 Canadian postal workers. Low back discomfort declined by 20 percent in the naturopathic group after the 12-week research but improved 8.8 percent in a group receiving standard care. The study was sponsored by the Canadian authorities and the postal employees union. A team at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine discovered that three common herbs — Echinacea purpurea, Astragalus membranaceus and Glycyrrhiza glabra — helped increase crucial lymphocytes in the blood, which are the basic building blocks of the disease fighting capability. In the analysis, 16 healthy individuals were assigned to obtain an herb only, all three, or a placebo. Each got a 7.5 milliliter dose twice daily for a week. Blood tests showed all three herbs boosted the immune system. The study was funded by a grant from the American Medical Association.