Rhubarb May Cool Hot Flashes

Rhubarb Extract May Treat Symptoms of Perimenopause in Women

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on September 15, 2006
From the WebMD Archives

Sept. 15, 2006 -- A pill made from rhubarb may help treat the symptoms of perimenopause, including hot flashes, according to a new study.

Researchers found 12 weeks of treatment with a pill containing extract of Rheum rhaponticum, the vegetable more commonly known as rhubarb, significantly reduced the frequency and severity of hot flashes in perimenopausal women.

Perimenopause is the transition period to menopausemenopause during which women begin experiencing irregular menstrual cycles. During this phase, women can develop symptoms including hot flashes, sweating, sleep disturbances, and mood swings.

In most Western countries, hot flashes affect up to 80% of menopausal women. For nearly one in three menopausal women, the hot flashes are severe and frequent enough to seriously disrupt their daily lives.

Alternatives Needed for Treating Hot Flashes

Until recently, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was the most common treatment for menopausal hot flashes. But in the wake of studies that suggest HRT may increase the risk of heart diseaseheart disease and breast cancer , they are currently recommended only for short-term use.

Therefore there is much interest in finding safe, alternative treatments for hot flashes and other symptoms caused by menopause.

Researchers say a special extract of rhubarb has been used for many years to treat menopausal symptoms in Germany and elsewhere. The extract, known as ERr 731, doesn’t contain estrogens. It's not entirely clear how ERr 731 performs its actions in the body, write the researchers.

Rhubarb Reduces Hot Flashes

In the study, researchers examined the effectiveness of the rhubarb extract in treating 109 perimenopausal women with frequent hot flashes. About half of the women took a tablet containing 4 milligrams of the rhubarb extract and the other half received a placebo for 12 weeks.

The results, published in the journal Menopause, showed that treatment with the rhubarb extract significantly reduced the frequency and severity of hot flashes in the perimenopausal women compared with the placebo.

Researchers found a clear decrease in the number hot flashes and symptoms in women who had taken ERr 731. A difference in response to treatment was evident within the first four weeks of treatment with ERr 731 compared with a placebo. For example, on day 28 women taking the rhubarb extract reported an average of 5.5 fewer hot flashes than women in the placebo group, who experienced no decrease.

At the end of the study, women treated with the rhubarb extract also reported improvements in quality of life.

Researchers Marianne Heger, MD, of Health Research Services Ltd. in St. Leon-Rot, Germany, and colleagues say the rhubarb extract appeared to be safe and was well-tolerated. They say the results suggest ERr 731 may be a viable alternative treatment for women experiencing severe hot flashes associated with menopause and perimenopause.