Systematic Review of the Efficacy of Herbal Galactogogues
Mehta, Supriya D.
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Exclusive breastfeeding has been linked to many positive health outcomes yet its widespread adoption as the primary mode of providing nutrition to infants remains challenging. The most common reported reason for early breastfeeding cessation is perception of inadequate milk production. To augment breast milk production, a substantial number of women turn to herbal galactogogues despite the limited scientific evidence of their efficacy and safety. We conducted a systematic review of published literature to evaluate the efficacy of herbal galactogogues. PubMed was searched from inception to October 2012 using an iterative search process that proceeded from broad categories to specific herbs. Manuscript references were also reviewed. Only experimental studies with objective outcome measures were included. Six (6) trials met our search criteria. Each trial was evaluated for potential sources of bias in design and reporting using an adapted version of the CONSORT checklist. Shatavari, torbangun, fenugreek, milk thistle and a Japanese herbal medication were the 5 herbal preparations studied. Five (5) trials found an increase in breast milk production. Several limitations exist that affect the validity of the results of the trials, including small sample size, insufficient randomization methods, poorly defined eligibility criteria, use of poly-herbal interventions, and variable breastfeeding practices among enrolled subjects. Given the insufficiency of evidence from these trials, no recommendation is made for the use of herbs as galactogogues. Well-designed and well-conducted clinical trials that address the above limitations are necessary to generate a body of evidence as a basis for recommendations regarding herbal galactogogues.