Since the Women’s Health Initiative came to an abrupt halt 10 years ago with findings that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) increased the risk of heart attack, stroke, blood clots, and breast cancer, the search for alternative antiosteoporotic phytoestrogens has intensified. Flax seed, soy, red clover, and hops are some of the most researched phytoestrogens. But over the past several years an herb called Labisia pumila has been more aggressively examined for it’s phytoestrogenic properties and possible role in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. Labisia pumila, commonly known as Kacip Fatimah, has been used for centuries in South East Asian countries (predominantly in Malaysia) to promote healthy sexual function, ease menstrual pain, induce labor, and recover from childbirth.

Here are some of the recent findings and conclusions by researchers concerning the possible role of Labisia pumila in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.

  • Supplementing rats for 8 weeks “was able to prevent the changes in bone biochemical markers [reduced CTX, a bone resorption marker] but failed to prevent the bone calcium loss induced by ovariectomy.”    Shuid et al., 2011. The effects of Labisia pumila var. alata on bone markers and bone calcium in a rat model of post-menopausal osteoporosis. J Ethnopharmacol 133(2):538-542.
  • “…has the potential as an alternative to ERT for prevention of postmenopausal osteoporosis.”  Fathilah et al., 2012. Labisia pumila protects the bone of estrogen-deficient rat model: a histomorphometric study. J Ethnopharmacol 142(1):294-299.
  • “…has the potential to be used as an alternative treatment for postmenopausal osteoporosis. All in all, it is the anti-inflammatory, phytoestrogenic, and antioxidatve properties of LP [Labisia pumila] that make it an effective natural medicine in treatment and prevention of osteoporosis.” Nadia et al., 2012. The anti-inflammatory, phytoestrogenic, and antioxidative role of Labisia pumila in prevention of postmenopausal osteoporosis. Advances in Pharmacological Sciences doi:10.1155/2012/706905.
  • “…has beneficial effect to reduce the triglyceride (TG) values. Thus, it may be a useful phytosupplement for maintaining cardiovascular health in menopausal women. However, there was no effect on the hormonal profiles.Kadir et al., The effect of Labisia pumila var. alata on postmenopausal women: a pilot study. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine doi:10.1155/2012/216525.
  • “…has the potential to prevent osteoporotic fractures in the postmenopausal or estrogen-deficient state. I may be taken as supplements by postmenopausal women who are afraid of the side effects of estrogen. [Labisia pumila] seemed to be safer than Premarin as it exhibited no reproductive toxicity in animal at forty-five times higher than the dose used in the present study.”  Fathilah et al., 2012. Labisia pumila prevents complications of osteoporosis by increasing bone strength in a rat model of postmenopausal osteoporosis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine doi:10.1155/2012/948080.

Although many people assume natural alternative medicines such as Labisia pumila to be safe, there have actually been no long-term human safety studies with this herb. That said, the fact that Labisa pumila has been used for centuries to treat disease with no documented adverse effects, its use in the treatment of post-menopausal osteoporosis appears promising.