What is Pueraria mirifica?
Pueraria mirifica (P. mirifica) is a plant found in northern Thailand. It is also called Kwao Krua or white Krao Krua. There are two other varieties of Pueraria mirifica, or P. mirifica. They are red and black, and they all boast a variety of uses, from breast enhancement to bone health to assistance with the symptoms of menopause.
P. mirifica is closely related to a plant that grows abundance in the southeast of the United States. P. lobata, also known as kudzu, was planted there to help prevent soil erosion. Pueraria mirifica is from the legume family, and more specifically, the bean branch. It is related to soybeans and has some of the same characteristics – for example, both contain phytoestrogens.
The root of P. mirifica, which is the part of the plant that is utilized, consists of small round tubers connected by rootlets. The shape of these tubers and rootlets may differ slightly due to the terrain from which they were grown.
While most records show that P. mirifica has only been in use for around one hundred years, documents such as texts on palm leaves that survived the attack of Kublai Khan, found in the 1930s, indicate that this plant was used by monks in Burma (Mayanmar) during and before the thirteenth century. The recipe from this particular text is one for rejuvenation, and contains, among other things, milk.
The West became interested in the plant in the 1930s and extensive studies have been executed. J. Kerr reported it in the Journal of the Siam Society in 1932; this publication is still in existence, and represents one of the first Western documentations of the herb.
The women of Thailand are the primary users of this herb, though men have also found it helpful. Traditional uses include for breast enhancement, skincare, memory improvement, appetite stimulant, and dealing with the symptoms during perimenopause and after menopause. It is openly sold in Thai markets, and culturally, it is known that women who ingest P. mirifica proudly indicate the firmness and size of their bosoms.
Studies and Uses
This article attempts to outline the various uses and potential side effects of P. mirifica as a herbal supplement. These uses and side effects are supported by scientific studies done on the herb, as well as anecdotal stories to further elaborate on the topic. This article serves as an all-encompassing account of the herb P. mirifica, and begins with a focus on breast size & firmness, as well as the history of the importance of breast size in human society.
Many formal studies done on P. mirifica have been about its effects on the mammary glands (breasts) and on other parts of the reproductive system.
The first studies completed were done in order to determine the chemical components of the plant. Their findings showed a high amount of phytoestrogens within the plant, which are substances found in plants that produce effects similar to the hormone estrogen when ingested.
In order to understand the impact of this, it is necessary to know that estrogen isn’t one substance. Rather, it is a group of related chemicals. The human body produces three types of estrogen; estradiol, estrone and estriol. Estriol, for example, is almost undetectable in women who are not pregnant, and it is produced in large quantities in women who are pregnant.
In the case of P. mirifica, it contains a high concentration of a phytoestrogen called miroestrol. Miroestrol has the greatest estrogenic activity among all phytoestrogens extracted from the plant, and it is considered the safest estrogen for humans.
Breast size and firmness
Given that P. mirifica contains these phytoestrogens, studies have been done to test their effects. A study done on rats showed a multitude of effects. For example, a four-week administration of P. mirifica to non-operated rats at a dose of 3% showed significant elevation of cell proliferation in the mammary glands.
Secondly, P. mirifica administered to ovariectomized animals at doses of 0.03%, 0.3%, and 3% of body weight in a phytoestrogen-low diet for 2 weeks caused significant increase in uterus weight.
A human study was done in Japan, with results showing an increase in breast firmness and size after 12 weeks of taking the supplement. The double-blind study involved fifty women between the ages of 20 and 49 years old. Daily doses of 100mg to 600mg were administered. The findings showed that 70% from each group had an increase in breast size and firmness.
Similarly, tests done by Chulalongkorn University in Thailand found out that P. mirifica usage was able to increase breast size by as much as 80%.
The authors of The Chemistry Between Us use biology and neurology to explain the fascination with the female breast, both from the male and female perspectives.
Part of the fascination with breast augmentation stems from the mother/child bond created during birth and breastfeeding. The hormones released, oxytocin and dopamine, help create this bond and it causes chemical changes in both the mother and the child that encourages a nurturing relationship. How this translates to the male is that this nurturing is then share with him by association of living in close proximity with his spouse and child.
Another theory posed is what makes up the female breast. A good portion of the breast is made of fat. Large breasts suggest good health and the likelihood of being able to have and care for children. This is not necessarily a conscious thought, but an idea that is implanted in the brain through natural selection.
This explains why women have wanted to develop large breasts for generations. The better the curves the more male attention a woman receives as they are perceived as a more suitable partner.
Breast augmentation is not new. There have been a variety of ways women in the past have made their breasts look larger with corsets, by wearing pads, and also push-up bras. At least one story exists of a woman using a wax bosom to make her breasts appear larger.
The question is how to increase breast size in modern times. There are three options, and here we explore the benefits, disadvantages, and also why P. mirifica is a viable option for women seeking breast augmentation.
Mothers have taught daughters this exercise through the ages. Take a bath towel, hold one corner in one hand, the other long end corner in the other hand. Lift it up over the head and as far behind the back as it will go. Repeat. There are also other methods that require gym equipment.
Does it actually increase breast size? It can, and it depends. It won’t increase fat, but it will make the pectoral muscles larger if done often enough. On the other hand, exercise can also cause weight loss, which reduces the fat in breast tissue, demonstrating the delicate balance when dealing with exercise.
Breast augmentation surgery began when two surgeons, Frank Gerow and Thomas Chronin performed the first such surgery in 1962. It started with the observation that a bag of blood felt a great deal like a woman’s breast. Experiments followed. A paper on this first successful surgery was presented to the International Society of Plastic Surgeons in 1963 and the continuation of this can be seen in today’s culture.
For example, breast augmentation surgery is the number one cosmetic surgery worldwide. It even outstrips liposuction and nose jobs (also known as rhinoplasty.) Two types of implants are available. One contains silicone gel and the other a saline solution. They can be a great boon for those that need reconstruction surgery after a mastectomy but they are not without problems.
All surgeries are potentially risky. Things can go wrong during surgery and there is always a risk of infection. Other problems have been noted, both with saline and silicone. The implant can slip, wrinkle, rupture and/or become asymmetrical. Scarring and changes in nipple sensation are also side effects.
Women have been fearful that silicone gel leaking into the body can cause harm. The FDA states categorically that there is no evidence of this happening. However, not all of the people who have had implants are reporting symptoms to the manufacturer, doctor, or the FDA – as many as 40% do not report symptoms.
There are many herbs that claim to help with breast enhancement. Chasteberry, which got its name because Europeans prior to the 17th century believed that it decreased a woman’s libido, is usually found in multi-herb supplements for breast enhancement. While it does not help change breast size, it is useful for some menstrual problems and may increase a mother’s milk flow.
Several compounds in black cohosh can, in combination, have an estrogen-like effect. They are not true estrogens, and so may be more useful for women who cannot take products containing the substance. Black cohosh is better known for relieving symptoms of menopause. In the past it was used to encourage drawn-out periods of labor; this practice is no longer common.
Saw palmetto has become an ingredient in breast enhancement products. This is not a good use for the herb as it is a diuretic, amongst other things. It will more likely decrease breast size. However, it is potentially useful for men suffering from BPH (benign prostate hypoplasia). So far, studies by the pharmaceutical industry aren’t convincing, but there is empirical evidence that shows it helps.
Before the discovery of P. mirifica, fenugreek was the most commonly used herb for both breast enhancement and increasing milk flow in nursing mothers. It contains diosgenin, which is a phytoestrogen. The best practice for using this herb is to sprout the seeds. It is also a well-known cooking herb and is often used to replace maple in products.
That brings us to Pueraria mirifica. While it is relatively new to the Western herb market, it has been used for a long time by the women of Thailand and breast augmentation is one of its main purposes. As previously mentioned, the phytoestrogen in this herb is considered the safest kind.
Stories often offer insight into understanding a topic. They also shed new light from a different angle that provokes the learner to think. While these stories are fiction they are based on science and experience.
Studies done with P. mirifica and its benefits were also done on monkeys. The study published in the Journal of Pharmacological Sciences in 2003 involved investigation of how P. mirifica acts on the menstrual cycle. To do this they had four groups of female monkeys. One was a control group, the other three were given 10, 100, and 1,000 mg/d of P. mirifica starting on the first day of the menstrual cycle. The treatment lasted for 3 cycles.
The study results showed that the first two groups taking the herb, those at 10 and 100 mg/d, had menstrual cycle lengths that increased significantly. The menstrual cycles in the group taking 1,000 mg/d of P. mirifica disappeared completely.
It shall also be noted that there is a protocol for proper care of test monkeys described by the study authors. They were fed monkey chow in the mornings and fresh fruit in the afternoons. The housing provided was appropriate to the conditions the monkeys would normally thrive in.
A human study was done to test the herb’s actions on endometrial tissue, in part for stem cell research. The study did not include whether or not it changed the cycle length but it did conclude that there was more endometrial proliferation especially at 1,500 and 2,000 mg doses. No change was found in those with 10, 100, 500 or 1,000 mg doses.
This test was not done on live humans but on test cells. It was in this way that the rate of cell growth could be more easily monitored.
It should be noted that the suggested dosages of the herb do not have undue effects on the menstrual cycle of humans.
One of the things that women fear about menopause is developing osteoporosis. Brittle bones break a lot easier and they don’t mend as quickly. Sometimes just putting a foot down wrong will break bones.
A lot of work has been done on this topic because not only is it painful, but it can also be deadly. Broken bones can lead to being immobilized which leads to all kinds of complications. In earlier times a broken hip in an elderly person was almost always terminal.
According to a 2008 study published on Ovid, there is evidence that the estrogen components of P. mirifica can help bones make calcium. The bone turnover rate, as it’s called, was significantly higher in women taking the herb than in those taking the placebo. This particular study involved 71 women between the ages of 45 and 60 years. 54 of them took 10, 50 or 100 mg of the plant.
One of the major problems after menopause is the lack of secretions in the vagina. This lack isn’t just uncomfortable; it can lead to significant health problems including atrophy. A 2017 study published in Ovid compares the use of PM cream to that of estrogen cream. Both groups improved with no side effects. What’s more, this improvement did not last after treatment stopped.
Hot flashes, etc.
There are a lot of symptoms during perimenopause and menopause that cause inconvenient complications for women. Hot flashes and mood swings are two examples of this. It can be often times quite embarrassing to be the only person perspiring and red-faced in a roomful of people.
This is one reason many women seek hormone replacement therapy. One woman, having heard that orthodox HRT comes from pregnant horse urine said that she was “ready to drink it from its source” if it stopped the problem.
A study published on Pubmed, a branch of the National Library of Medicine, finds that the women participating found relief from symptoms of menopause, like hot flashes, while taking the herb. This study had 48 women enrolled. 11 were disqualified after the initial workup.
Of the 37 remaining, 20 were given 50 mg of P. mirifica once a day for 6 months. They saw a decrease in hot flashes from 35 episodes per group to 15 episodes. The second group received 100 mg. They saw a decline from 32 episodes to 13.
However, many women don’t approve of the methods for obtaining the drug and it is known to cause a significant increase in the rate of reproductive cancer, with breast cancer being the most common. P. mirifica has been shown to reduce breast cancer in small doses. However, studies show that at higher doses, there is basis for concern as P. mirifica acts like estrogen and can cause estrogen-related cancers and tumors.
A study was done to show that postpubertal administration of soy isoflavones at estrogenic doses promotes mammary and endometrial carcinogenesis in Donryu rats. This data questions the safety of long-term exposure to phytoestrogens like P. mirifica.
There are reports stating that P. mirifica will reduce the rate of graying hair and that it will reverse or prevent hair loss. The only study found on the issue of graying was from a related plant to P. mirifica, P. lobata. This study showed that it can reduce the rate of graying but does not bring back color to hair already present.
As for hair loss, keep in mind that this herb contains several types of estrogen. Both male and female pattern baldness are caused by an imbalance between estrogen and testosterone. This does not mean that women start producing more testosterone. It is about maintaining balance.
During perimenopause and after menopause the levels of naturally produced estrogen decrease. When this happens there is in imbalance that allows the naturally occurring testosterone to damage hair follicles. Plants containing phytoestrogens are a natural way of combating this issue.
Wrinkles, crow’s feet and laugh lines are all a common part of aging for both men and women. In men, it’s said to give them character. Women, on the other hand, aren’t given as much leeway. There have been a number of ways women (and some men) have countered this. A well-known actor of the past had his wife reach behind and pull his neck skin back when he was on camera so that he looked younger.
Facelifts, tape and botox have all been used as well as many assortments of creams and oils. However, they can leave scars, they are short-lasting, and at times can be dangerous.
P. mirifica contains more than just estrogenic compounds. It contains antioxidants and the combination, as found by a study published in the Journal of Fertility and Sterility in 2005, can help reduce wrinkles. Other studies, done on an informal basis, have shown the same thing. To note, women can also develop excess facial hair because of the hormone imbalance.
The number of people over the age of sixty is growing rapidly. As this happens, eldercare is becoming a more important issue. Not only are families dealing with it; insurance companies, state governments and even the federal government have an interest.
Aside from those mentioned above there are two other problems the elderly of both genders face that can be helped with this plant. One is memory, and the other is the problem of poor appetite combined with weight loss.
Loss of memory is more than just forgetting why someone went to the kitchen. It robs people of many other things like their relationships and life lessons, things they have spent time and effort developing. A spouse will forget the name of their partner, their children’s names and even that they have children. It can be dangerous if the person goes out on their own and becomes lost.
Loss of memory is tested by several professionals when it reaches a point where the elder cannot handle their own affairs. It is a grueling five hour test with as many different professionals. At least one family member or caregiver has to be present for the testing.
Several herbs have shown some benefits when it comes to aiding the memory. Gingko biloba and ginseng have both been touted for those purposes and they have been found to be useful.
They both have several side effects to be taken into consideration. Gingko is a blood thinner, and ginseng has adverse effects on those suffering from rheumatoid diseases.
P. mirifica does not have either of those problems. In a controlled study of mice it was found that the use of the main constituent of the herb, miroestrol, helped mice with cognitive impairment improve their ability to learn. Empirical data from Thailand also suggests this is a positive use.
There are two ways this plant, and estrogen in general, affect the appetite. In small doses it may inhibit it and thus help with weight loss. However, in therapeutic doses, it is much more likely to increase appetite. While this isn’t good news to younger people who want to lose weight the easy way (there isn’t one), it is good news for older folks.
After interviewing a geriatric nurse and several caretakers, several signs that this will be a problem have arisen. Catching it before it gets serious is imperative to avoid complications. Phrases like, “I don’t want that,” and “I’m not hungry, why don’t you eat it” are common. So are actions such as picking at food, not coming when called to dinner and also simply forgetting to eat.
All of these can lead to malnutrition, severe weight loss, and dizziness. Malnutrition can cause deficiency diseases and decrease immunity. Being dizzy can lead to dangerous falls, especially for the elderly. It can also lead to an impaction of the colon and the possibility of a rupture. For these reasons, a proper appetite is important alongside any herbal supplement.
There are several herbs that can help boost appetite, but many of them can cause problems. One herb used is capsaicin. However, the elderly usually cannot tolerate the heat, and there are also drug/herb interactions one must consider. Wine is another alternative, and again it poses its own risks as well.
The antioxidants and estrogens in P. mirifica do not carry those risks. In fact, the estrogens, when taken in slightly larger quantities, boost the appetite. This in turn encourages the person to eat sufficiently.
There are two ways to extract the useful constituents of P. mirifica for topical use. The best one involves oil. Take 1 cup of olive oil, add 1 TSP powdered P. mirifica and allow it to sit for six weeks in a cool, dark area. Strain before using as the powder won’t totally dissolve.
You can add ¼ TSP vitamin E oil and a few drops of a skin friendly essential oil as well. These oils include rose, bergamot and frankincense.
If the oil is unpleasant it can be mixed with cocoa butter or shea butter at a 50/50 ratio.
The second best method uses vodka. The reason for this choice is that it is an undenatured alcohol but it also isn’t likely to cause alcohol poisoning. Use the same technique and amounts as with olive oil extraction.
Clinical studies suggest 200-400 mg per day for most people. Manufacturers suggest 250 mg twice daily. This information is based on the body mass of an average woman. If you are larger or smaller than the average, then discuss dosage with your doctor.
Like prescription medications, no herb is without side effects, drug interactions and interactions with illnesses. Studies of P. mirifica have shown it to be safe for most people. Also, it should be noted that safety may not mean life threatening. It can just mean an effect that is undesirable.
Men and P. mirifica
Yes, men can take this herb. However, several things may occur that are not desirable. What makes a woman’s breast grow larger will make a man’s breasts grow larger. The estrogen levels may also reduce male libido.
Transgender men are beginning to look into phytoestrogens as a means of growing breasts. This can happen but care must be taken with dosage. Overdosing on any estrogen product can cause serious side effects, including deep vein thrombosis. DVTs are blood clots in large veins usually in the leg. If they are dislodged they can move to the heart, lungs or brain and potentially cause death.
In regards to P. mirifica, studies indicate that it actually inhibits cancer growth and might prevent some hormone related cancers. However those same studies show that it can also encourage cancer growth in some people.
This is a problem with anything that is ingested. The body can react against it, causing an allergic reaction. Allergic reactions can be minor; hives, sneezing, headaches, etc. However, severe allergic reactions can cause anaphylactic shock which is deadly without immediate treatment. This causes the tongue and throat to swell, which can cause asphyxiation and potentially death.
According to the Breast Enhancement Options website there is a small chance of cardiac complications. Some people with heart problems have reported increased angina. Those who have heart conditions are recommended to avoid this herb.
Weight loss drugs do not go well with P. mirifica. The combination can cause problems with the heart. It is also suggested that it shouldn’t be taken with birth control medications.
Corticosteroids, hydantoin medications and thyroid medications can also interact poorly with P. mirifica and should be avoided in combination.
Because overdose of this herb can lead to the following health issues those who suffer from them should also avoid using it. Individuals with epilepsy, diabetes myelitis, asthma, migraines and lupus should also avoid using P. mirifica as it can all be aggravated by use of this herb.
At least one study has shown that there may be a relationship between P. mirifica and increased triglyceride levels. This is also true, in that study, of those who took regular HRT drugs. If lipid levels are a concern, ingestion of P. mirifica should be avoided.
Excessive menstrual flow
This is not an uncommon side effect and usually stops after taking the supplement for a while. It can be disconcerting. If symptoms of anemia occur, then check with your doctor.
Most of what is known of overdose comes from animal studies. Increased length of the menstrual cycle, an increased risk of reproductive cancers and more growth of endometrial cells are examples. One person reported having a deep vein thrombosis.
How is this product available
Thailand has been taking steps to keep the growing and production of this plant legal within the country. Like other countries, they are worried that foreign investors will patent the plant and reap the profits. This includes selling their products to the people of Thailand at a higher price. Thus far, Thailand is the only place it grows.
However, products made from P. mirifica are available all over the internet. It comes as a powder (best mixed into smoothies), as well as in creams, tablets and capsules.
There are some who recommend P. mirifica to be a prescription-only product. This isn’t the case in the United States but it might be in other countries. For this reason, local laws should always be adhered to.
It is very important to talk to someone who knows your medical history, what you are already taking, and who also has knowledge of the chemical constituents of any herb you plan to take. The first person to talk to is your doctor. Many doctors have started to study herbs and their potential. Others have a computer database to draw conclusions from.
Even if your doctor has this information, be sure to talk to your pharmacist. Pharmacists often catch drug/drug interactions that doctors miss and are just as important for drug/herb interactions.
The third person you should consult is a qualified herbal practitioner. Those who are qualified have studied more than just the herb’s effects. Courses include botany, chemistry, interactions and other information about herbs. All three are important to safeguard your health.
This article is not to take the place of any of the above. It is for information only and should be taken as such. Self-diagnosis and self-medicating are not encouraged in this article.