A natural phytoestrogen flavonoid from the hardy perennial plant epimedium, also known as horny goatweed, helped women in late menopause preserve bone, according to findings from a new study.
Researchers from the Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, recruited 85 women who were in late natural menopause for 10 to 18 years and who had low bone mineral density (BMD) of the lower spine. Doctors call this low BMD condition osteopenia, when the BMD score is -1 to -2.5 below the norm. BMD scores that fall -2.6 or more below the norm signify osteoporosis. The women in the study had BMD scores of -2 to -2.5.
Participants took a placebo or an herbal preparation containing 60 mg of icariin—the phytoestrogen flavonoid from epimedium—and two isoflavones (15 mg of daidzein and 3 mg of genistein) per day for two years. Both groups also took 300 mg of calcium per day. At the beginning of the study and at 12 and 24 months, doctors checked the blood for signs of bone loss, estrogen levels and measured the thickness of the uterus lining. Women who had taken the phytoestrogen preparation had gained 1.6% BMD at the hip and gained 1.3% BMD at the lower spine. Women in the placebo group had lost 1.8% BMD at the hip and lost 2.4% BMD at the lower spine. Signs of bone loss in women who had taken the phytoestrogen decreased 39%, but did not change in the placebo group. The thickness of the uterus lining and estrogen levels in the blood did not change in either group. The doctors concluded that phytoestrogen flavonoids help prevent bone loss in late menopausal women.