Women who took pomegranate seed oil pills to relieve symptoms of the menopause, such as hot flashes, were found to receive no significantly better benefits than those who were given a placebo pill which contained sunflower oil, researchers from the Medical University of Vienna wrote in the journal Menopause. The authors added that theirs is the first (albeit small) proper clinical trial to test pomegranate seed oil for the symptoms of menopause.

The researchers explained that more than four in every five females experience hot flashes during the menopause.

Hot flashes refers to a sudden wave of body heat rushes of hormonal changes that occur in a woman – her levels of various hormones, particularly estrogen, decrease. These flashes can occur at any time of day, and can go on from just a few seconds to about thirty minutes. They occur because the blood vessels dilate and constrict. The woman has a sensation of warmth (flushing), which spreads to various parts of her body – it is usually followed by sweating, an accelerated heartbeat, and a feeling of anxiety. These symptoms usually appear when the female is in her forties, and may come and go for up to ten years. As time goes by, they occur less frequently. Experts say hot flashes are due to fluctuating hormone levels, rather than simply low hormone levels.

Lead researcher, Leo Auerbach, said that over a 12-week period pomegranate seed oil does not seem to make any significant difference to menopausal symptoms. However, in order to determine what the long-term effects and/or benefits might be, further studies are required.

Auerbach and colleagues set out to determine what impact pomegranate oil seed might have on 81 females aged between 45 and 60 years; they were all postmenopausal. They had all been experiencing at least five hot flashes per day for over 12 months since their final menstruation.

They were randomly divided into two groups:

  • The pomegranate seed oil group – they took two 30-milligram pomegranate seed oil capsules per day for 12 weeks
  • The placebo group – they took two identically-looking capsules per day during the 12 weeks. However, the capsules were dummy ones (they had no active ingredient in them)

All the participants’ hormone levels were tested at the beginning and end of the study.

The following findings were reported in the journal:

  • The pomegranate seed oil group
    The women had an average of 11.1 hot flashes per day at the start of the 12 weeks
    They had an average of 6.8 hot flashes per day at the end of the 12 weeks – a 39% drop
  • The placebo group
    The women had an average of 9.9 hot flashes at the start of the 12 weeks
    They had an average of 7.3 hot flashes per day at the end of the 12 weeks – a 26% drop

Menopausal symptoms tend to respond well to placebos anyway, the authors wrote. They had expected to see a drop in symptoms in both groups (a placebo effect was expected).

They explained that the difference between the two groups does not represent a significant benefit, i.e. a 13% difference is too small.

Hormone levels at the beginning and end of the 12-week period were not statistically different between the two groups, the researchers said.

However, those in the pomegranate group did report considerably better quality sleep.

In an Abstract in the journal, the authors concluded:

“In postmenopausal women, PGS does not significantly reduce hot flashes within a 12-week observation period, but further studies are needed to investigate the long-term effect.”

PEKANA, a German herbal supplement maker and marketer, funded the study and provided the supplements.

The US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has only approved hormone therapy for the treatment of hot flashes.

Written by Christian Nordqvist