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   Sep 27

Researchers validate herbal treatment for menstrual abnormality, infertility

Infertility and irregular menses are major problems faced by women, which many resort to using herbs to correct. One of the major causes of these problems is hyperprolactinemia, which experts have confirmed, can be treated using herbs, reports Sade Oguntola.

Infertility is one of the major health problems in Nigeria, in spite of the fast growing population. In women, infertility is often caused by a hormonal imbalance which prevents ovulation. In fact, even the most subtle imbalance can affect a woman’s fertility.

Hyperprolactinemia, or the excessive production of the hormone prolactin, is one such imbalance that can lead to irregular ovulation and infrequent menstruation or cause the breasts to start producing milk, a condition called galactorrhoea.

Prolactin is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland, the gland that sits at the bottom of the brain. Though prolactin plays a role in the growth and development of the breasts, its primary function is in milk production after a child is born. Normally, it is found in both men and non-pregnant women, and generally circulates at low levels in the bloodstream. But it is kept under control by another hormone called a prolactin inhibiting factor (dopamine).
In pregnancy, prolactin levels increase significantly. However after the baby is born, the combination of high prolactin levels and the abrupt drop in oestrogen and progesterone occurring after birth enable the body to produce milk for breastfeeding.

Hyperprolactinemia, a relatively common cause of menstrual abnormalities and infertility, is one condition for which experts have verified the effectiveness of local herbs in its treatment.

In a study designed to investigate the effects of a poly herbal mixture on the treatment of hyperprolactinemia, scientists at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, indicated that the polyherbal preparation was able to reverse excess of prolactin in the blood and its associated changes in a manner comparable to bromocriptine, the conventional standard medication for its treatment.

The scientists are Samuel T. A from the Department of Biochemistry, College of Medicine, University of Lagos in collaboration with Okonkwo C. L.: Ezeazuka S. K. and Ekpoiba A. J.

Infertility due to hyperprolactinemia is one of the major health problems, which herbal treatment has been employed to treat for a long time. The traditional healers lack the scientific understanding of hyperprolactinemia but they often diagnose it by one of its major symptoms, galactorrhoea.

Several herbal preparations have been employed by people from various races and tribes to treat hyperprolactinemia, and these preparations have been claimed to be effective. One of the main herbal remedies for hyperprolactinemia is a decoction of five different local plants – Bambusa vulgaris, Momordica charantia, Rauwolfia vomitoria, Ficus sur and Clerodendrum capitatum, which has been in use in the south-western part of Nigeria for a long time, with many success stories.

Bambusa vulgaris is known as bamboo (English), and by other tribes in Nigeria as Oparun (Yoruba), Iko (Bini) and Atosi (Igbo).Bamboo leaves have been claimed to be used as ophthalmic solution and febrifuge (drug used for reducing fever). In Nigerian folklore medicine, bamboo is claimed to be used as a drug to promote or regulate menstrual flow, cause abortion (abortifacient), improve appetite and for managing respiratory diseases as well as gonorrhoea.

Momordica charantia (African cucumber, bitter melon or balsam pear in English, daddagu in Hausa, akban ndene in Ibo, Ejirin in Yoruba) is an annual creeping or climbing stem with long stalk leaves and a warty gourd oblong fruits. The fruit juice or tea is employed for the treatment of diabetes, colic, sores and wound, worm and parasite infections, measles, fever and hepatitis.

In numerous studies, bitter melon has been demonstrated to be helpful in the management of diabetes because of its blood sugar-lowering properties, while it boosts body’s immunity and lowers fevers.

Rauwolfia vomitoria is a natural medicinal herb which has been used over the years in folklore medicine in Nigeria for treating hypertension, stroke, insomnia, convulsion and mental disorders. In Yoruba it is called asofeyeje, ira in Igbo, and wadda in Hausa.

Ficus sur, known as fig tree, ewe opoto in Yoruba and Uwar Yara in Hausa, is used in traditional African medicine in the treatment of epilepsy, pain and inflammations. Other reported uses include treatment of dysentery and wound dressing, circumcision, leprosy, rickets, infertility, gonorrhoea, oedema and respiratory disorders.

The fruit of African star apple, also known as Chrysophyllum albidum, udala in Igbo and agbalumo in Yoruba is a very rich in ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) and several components of the tree including the roots and leaves are reportedly used for medicinal purposes. Until now, the bark is used as a remedy for yellow fever and malaria while the leaves are used as for the treatment of skin eruption, diarrhoea and stomach ache.

In this research, the researchers fed the decoction of these leaves to albino rats whose prolactin levels were made to be significantly elevated. Some of these rats also served as control for the study. At the end of the treatment period, blood samples were obtained from the albino rats to ascertain such things as hormonal profile, total plasma protein and the lipid profile.

The researchers, publishing their findings in the June, 2103 of the Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy reported that the administration of the herbal preparation had a dose-dependent effect on prolactin reduction. Also the Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Luteinizing Hormone (LH) levels too were found to rise, with the most significant effect found in the group given the highest dose of the extract.

In addition, the administration of the polyherbal preparation caused a dose-dependent reduction in the bad cholesterol but a significant increase in the levels of both total cholesterol and HDL.

The researchers, although substantiating the folkloric claim of this polyherbal preparation in treatment of hyperprolactinemia, said, however, that more research was still required to be able to find out which particular plant is responsible for which effect and also to know which plant constituents are responsible.

They wrote: “The effect seen in the polyherbal mixture might be a synergistic one which could only have been obtained in the mixed form. There is also the possibility that zeroing down on a particular plant or plant component might be more effective.”

Source: The Nigerian Tribune

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