July 9, 2003 -- A red-clover extract may help symptoms of vaginal dryness in healthy, postmenopausal women.
The finding comes from a study of 29 women who took a red-clover supplement sold as Promensil by Novogen Ltd., Sydney, Australia. For eight weeks, half the women took Promensil and half took an identical looking placebo. After a two-week washout period, the women switched treatments for another eight weeks.
When the women were taking Promensil, they had less vaginal dryness. Estrogen does the same thing -- but it also increases postmenopausal cancer risk by thickening the inner layer of the uterus. The red clover supplement did not have this effect.
Malcolm Whitehead, MD, director of the gynecology/endocrinology unit at King's College Hospital, London, England, reported the results of the study at the recent annual meeting of the British Menopause Society.
According to the supplement's manufacturer, red clover is rich in four compounds -- isoflavones -- known to be biologically active. Soy contains only two of these compounds.
Whitehead and colleagues note that larger studies are needed to confirm the positive effects of red clover extract.