Jan. 26, 2010 -- An extract from green tea may be useful in treating uterine fibroids, a condition that affects 25%-30% of U.S. women, new research indicates.
Fibroids of the uterus, a condition called uterine leiomyoma, can be debilitating, leading to excessive vaginal bleeding, anemia, and fatigue.
Dong Zhang, MD, and colleagues from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn., say they've found that an extract of green tea could kill uterine fibroid cells in test tube studies and reduce the size and weight of fibroids in mice.
Their work is published this week in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
The researchers injected 20 mice with fibroid cells. Ten mice were given epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) mixed with their water, and 10 mice were given plain water. EGCG is a polyphenol in green tea and is a compound found in vegetables and fruits.
The mice were followed for up to eight weeks. At both four weeks and eight weeks after treatment, fibroid growths were smaller and weighed less. The researchers note that one mouse in the EGCG group had no tumor seen at the end of eight weeks.
In test tube studies with rodent fibroid cells, cells treated with EGCG grew more slowly and were smaller after 48-72 hours. EGCG also prompted fibroid cell death. The researchers write that it is "highly encouraging that, in our work, a relatively modest dose of EGCG ... that was delivered in drinking water was successful in inducing a dramatic and sustained reduction in fibroid tumor size up to eight weeks after treatment."
The researchers say their study suggests that EGCG "might be particularly useful for long-term use in women with a low fibroid tumor burden to arrest tumor progression and avoid the development of severe symptoms that necessitate major surgery."
Ayman Al-Hendy, MD, PhD director of Clinical Research at Meharry, says in the news release that women who suffer from uterine fibroids may lose time from work, have higher medical bills, and might need advanced treatment in order to become pregnant.
The condition disproportionately affects African-American women, who are four times more likely to have fibroid tumors than women from other ethnic groups.
The researchers say they are now recruiting participants for human trials.