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HERBAL BREAST SUPPLEMENTS

Katy Serowka

Introduction

            Pamela Anderson, Brittany Spears, Dolly Parton represent just a few on a list that continues to grow. Today’s culture emphasizes a specific ideal of feminine beauty, and even today, a time when the quest for thinness reigns high, large breasts are promoted as the essence of a woman’s sex appeal. The importance of breasts can be seen in all areas of pop culture. Angela Love, a member of the Arts and Science Department at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh discusses the portrayal of women characters in animation, “Female characters are being portrayed as more capable; they’re no shrinking violets -- and they all have double D breasts.” (http://bit.yahoo.com/prnews/020625/phtufns1_1.html). Even some video games today that have women as the main character have a “breast bounce” option that can be turned either on or off.

            The breast obsession in pop culture can be traced to one plain truth which is that, “men have traditionally preferred women possessing all of the requisite feminine curves.” (http://personal.riverusers.com/~thegrendel/wtscam.html). This truth is not only true today but can be traced back through most of history. “As late as the nineteenth century female fashion emphasized womanly curvature, with the ’hourglass figure’ (small waist, large breasts and hips) as the ideal shape. Those unfortunate under endowed women wishing to enhance their appeal wore stays and bustles.” (http://personal.riverusers.com/~thegrendel/wtscam.html). Therefore, it was only natural for retailers to try and profit from women’s shortcomings. The options have grown to include surgeries, hypnosis, creams, gels, body suits, and now even herbal supplements.

 

What are Herbal Breast Supplements?

            There are many types of herbal breast supplements currently available on the market. One can purchase anything from Bloussant to AddBust to Natural Curves. While each one has its own unique blend of herbs, they are generally comprised of the same all-natural organically grown herbs. These herbs are as follows: Saw Palmetto, Fennel Seed, Dong Quai, Damiana, Black Cohosh, Blessed Thissle, Dandelion Root, Watercress, Wild Yam, Red Raspberry, Passion Flower, and Senna. (http://www.salonweb.com/breast enhancement/quick_bust/) According to many of the products, each herb serves its own unique function, and the supplements claim not only to promote breast enlargement but also to promote total well being. So far no negative side effects have been documented; however, several positive side effects include decreased PMS symptoms, increased libido, improved mood, healthier skin, shinier/healthier hair, and stronger nails. (http://www.addbust.com/product_info.htm).

What Does Each Herb Claim to Do?

            SAW PALMETTO - To increase the size of the mammary glands and assist in  thyroid regulation of reproductive organs

           

            DONG QUAI   - To balance hormones, assist in breast enlargement, improve gland activities, and improve blood circulation

           

            WILD YAM - To stimulate hormone production

           

            DAMIANA - To restore bodies vital energy, treat hormone imbalance, improve poor mammary gland development, increase sex drive

           

            BLESSED THISTLE - To relieve pain associated with menstrual cycle

           

            DANDELION ROOT - Used to treat breast cancer, female organ disorders, prevent PMS, excess weight gains, and yeast infections

           

            RED RASPBERRY - To balance hormones, promote breast health, ease menstrual problems (nausea, headaches, cramps, and acne)

            PASSION FLOWER - A calming agent that adds to total well being

                       

            SENNA - To increase absorption and effectiveness of herbs, eliminate toxins

(http://www.addbust.com/product_info.htm#ingredients)

           

            FENNEL SEED - To prevent PMS symptoms (bloating and cramps)

           

            BLACK COHOSH - To prevent menstrual irregularities and PMS

           

            WATERCRESS - To increase energy, high in iron

(http://www.egregore.com/misc/herbindx.htm)

How do Herbal Breast Supplements Work?

           

            The Herbal Breast Supplement websites claim that they work by balancing the female hormones. Each woman has a genetically determined size, however, during puberty they claim that there are many factors that can prevent a woman from reaching her total potential by throwing off her hormone levels. These factors include bad dieting habits, shortage of minerals and vitamins, high levels of stress, lack of exercise, and over exercise during puberty. The blend of herbs in each Herbal Breast Supplement claim to reactivate the estrogen receptor sites in order to achieve the same hormone levels that were reached during puberty so that new breast tissue is created. The hormone imbalances that occur during puberty can also occur as a woman ages, which can cause sagging and shrinking. The Herbal Breast Supplements also claim to prevent these imbalances. (http://www.addbust.com/product_info.htm)

How Effective do Herbal Breast Supplements Claim to Be?

            When used as directed the herbal supplements claim to be anywhere from 80% to 85% effective; however, certain lifestyle choices can effect the total effectiveness such as smoking, caffeine intake, and alcohol consumption. After thirty (30) days most supplements say that breasts should feel firmer, after sixty (60) days the consumer should see enlargement, and after ninety days (90) they will obtain maximum growth. (http://www.salonweb.com/breastenhancement/quick_bust/) Each individual company offers its own money back guarantee that ranges anywhere from 30 to 90 days.

Is the Growth Permanent?

            While the advertisements promote the growth as permanent after completing the recommended dosage or reaching desired size the companies recommend a maintenance dosage to maintain firmness and delay aging effects. For example Natural Curves recommends taking it 2-3 weeks every 3-4 months. (http://www.salonweb.com/breastenhancement/natural_curves/).

How Safe Do the Herbal Breast Supplements Claim to Be?

            None of the Herbal Breast Supplements are approved by the FDA because “the FDA does not evaluate or test herbal products,” however, all of the herbs used are listed on the FDA’s GRAS (Generally Recommended as Safe) list. The only warning available by the herbal community is that Black Cohosh, which may be used in some supplements such as Bloussant, is only intended for women after menopause.

Scientific Reasearch

            There have currently been no clinical trials on the effects of Herbal Breast Supplements published, however, there have been numerous studies about the effects of some of the herbs that are commonly found in most Herbal Breast Supplements.

Scientific Analysis of Dong Quai

            The active constituents of Dong Quai are Vitamin B12, Folic Acid, Nicotinic Acid, and Ferulic Acid. Because Dong Quai contains these constituents there is scientific rationale for improvements in anemia, PMS, irregular menses, and other menstrual complaints. Citing mainly animal models Hardy (2000) claims that Dong Quai produces a progestational effect which may relieve many cases of PMS, however, no direct estrogenic activity has been observed. Also, there have been no serious side effects reported in any of the studies conducted. Hardy concluded from her studies, “when used in a traditional multiple herb formula it may have some efficiency for treatment of PMS” (2000, p. 238).

Scientific Analysis of Black Cohosh

            The active constituents of Black Cohosh, including triterpene glycosides or saponins, formononetin, and organic acids such as isoferulic and salicylic acid, have had varying effects of the horomone levels of animals and have appeared to reduce utilizing hormones in humans. However, there has been no appearance of Black Cohosh stimulating the hormones prolactin or estrogen in humans (Hardy, 2000). There has also been questions raised among the medical community in reference to the safety of Black Cohosh with respect to breast cancer. The manufacturer of Remifemin tested Black Cohosh root extract on estrogen-sensitive breast cancer cell lines and found that it did not stimulate growth of the cancer cells (Hardy 2000). This experiment suggests that Black Cohosh actually might have an anti-estrogenic effect.

            Clinical studies have shown that Black Cohosh may be an effective treatment for menopause because its endocrine activities relieve hot flashes and can improve vaginal atrophy (Burke, B.E.; Olson, R.D.; Cusack, B.J., 2002). The German Commission E, an expert panel that the German government puts together to asses herbs, approved Black Cohosh for the treatment of PMS, dysmenorrhea, and menopausal neurovegetative symptoms, however, they do not recommend the herb during pregnancy, lactation, or for those with low blood pressure. They warn that gastrointestinal discomfort is a noted side effect, and do not recommend using it for longer than 6 months due to a lack of studies investigating long-term effects.

Scientific Analysis of Saw Palmetto

            Saw palmetto was mainly used in traditional medicine as a mild diuretic and for chronic cystitis, however, there are cited usages of it being used to enhance sperm production, breast size, or libido (Ernst, E., 2002). Since the 1960’s numerous clinical trials have shown that saw palmetto is a sensible treatment for men with benign prostatic hypertrophy, otherwise known as BHP. According to the Yale School of Nursing (Cohen, S.M., Rousseau, M.E., Robinson E.H., 2000) these clinical trials have shown positive results such as increased urinary flow, decreased nocturia, and decreased post void residual urine. Today, the foremost use of saw palmetto is to treat BPH.

Scientific Analysis of Damiana

            Damiana in ancient Mexico was believed to have aphrodisiac properties. Cabrera (1958) believes this is because of Damiana’s tendency to stimulate cerebral circulation (Lowry, 1984). Then in 1969 Lucas described Damiana as, “a diuretic and aphrodisiac, especially when combined with extracts of kola and saw palmetto berries” (Lowry, 1984, p.267). In 1974 Lust suggested mixing Damiana with quaking aspen bark, birthroot, cramp bark, cassia bark, squaw vine, and blazing star root for “menstral problems” (Lowry, 1984). However in 1982 Farnsworth, a Research Professor of Pharmacognosy at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a long-time student of natural aphrodisiacs, stated “no pharmacological studies have been published that in any way would substantiate the alleged aphrodisiac effects” (Lowry, 1984, p. 267). In 1977 Der Marderosian listed the active ingredient of Damiana as being caffeine (Lowry, 1984). Lowry (1984, p. 268) concludes that the case for Damiana’s aphrodisiac effect is “not proven.”

Scientific Analysis of Remaining Herbs

         

Conclusions

            The claims that Herbal Breast Supplements make are general and not based on proven scientific evidence. By making their claims extremely broad it allows the Herbal Breast Supplement companies to make their products seem more appealing. For example, the claim made for passion flower is that it is a calming agent that promotes well being. This is general in that the scientific data shows that passion flower is more than an calming agent but can be classified as a sedative. The general claim also omits the data that has shown that passion flower can have an intoxication effect on people.

            Besides being extremely general the claims made by the companies selling Herbal Breast Supplements also tend to be based on anecdotal usages of herbs and not on scientific data. An example of this is Damiana which was well known to ancient Mexicans as an aphrodisiac. The Herbal Breast Supplement Companies claim that this herb is added to the mix to, along with other things, to increase your sex drive; however, there have not been any studies that have proven Damiana to have aphrodisiac properties. In fact, well known experts in aphrodisiacs vouch that it would be very difficult to prove any claim of aphrodisiac effect.

            Because many women desire to have larger breasts without having to undergo the aspects of surgical enhancement there is a large market for products that will produce enhancement without surgery. Whenever there is a consumer demand for a product, there will be entrepreneurs who will try to step in and fill it. They create convincing advertisements that include everything from testimonials to scientific explanations on how they work. Herbal Breast Supplements are unfortunately like many other herbal products, too good to be true. The companies may claim that their product can increase breast size, but until there are scientific studies that produce reliable scientific data a woman may find her best investment is a wonder bra.

Works Cited

Burke, B.E., Olson, R.D., Cusack, B.J. (2001). Randomized, controlled trial of             phytoestrogen in the prophylactic treatment of menstrual migraine. Biomedicine             and Pharmacotherapy, Dec;56(6), 283-288.

Cohen S.M., Rousseau, M.E., Robinson, E.H. (2000). Therapeutic Use of Selected Herbs. Holistic Nursing Practice, Apr; 14(3), 59-68.

Ernst, E. (2002). The Risk-Benefit Profile of Commonly Used Herbal Therapies: Ginkgo,   St. John’s Wort, Ginseng, Echinacea, Saw Palmetto, and Kava. Annals of Internal        Medicine, Jan;136(1), 42-53.

Hardy, Mary L. (2000). Herbs of Special Interest to Women. Journal of the American             Pharmaceutical Association, Mar-Apr;40(2), 234-242.

Lowry, Thomas P. (1984). Damiana. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Jul-Sept;16(3),             267-268.

Malini, T., Vanithakumari, G., Megala, N., Anusay, S., Devi, K., Elango, V., (1985).             Effect of Foeniculum Vulgare Mill. Seed Extract on the Genital Organs of Male       and Female Rats. Indian Journal of Physiol Pharmacology, Jan-Mar;29(1),21-26.

Peschlow, L.E. (1999). Alternatives in the Treatment of Chronic Constipation. Review of             Gastroenterol Peru, Oct-Dec;19(4), 296-306.

Solbakken, A.M., Rorbakken, G., Bundersen, T., (1997). Nature Medicine as Intoxicant.             Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen, Mar;117(8),1140-1141.

Stickel, F., Seitz, H.K., Hahn, E.G., Schuppan, D., (2001). Liver Toxicity of Drugs of             Plant Origin. Z Gastroenterol, Mar;39(3),225-232,234-237.

 

 

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