Recent news reports have focused on health damage to users of a supplement made from the root of a Thai plant with properties similar to the female hormone estrogen. The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about this supplement.
Question: There was news about an herbal supplement from Thailand that was making people sick, wasn’t there?
Answer: Yes, Pueraria mirifica. It’s a flowering vine in the Fabaceae — or the legume — family. The powdered roots of the plant are sold as a health supplement.
Q: What health benefits does the powdered root have?
A: The roots of Pueraria mirifica contain a chemical that is similar to the female hormone estrogen. In Thailand, the supplement is apparently mainly used as a folk remedy for menopause. However, in Japan it is claimed to increase breast size and aid in weight loss, among other things.
Q: What’s the problem with it?
A: The estrogen-like effects of the plant are fairly powerful. Plants like soy beans also contain isoflavones, which also act similarly to estrogen. However, the effects of…