Phytoestrogens: a review of the present state of research

Phytother Res. 2003 Sep;17(8):845-69. doi: 10.1002/ptr.1364.


Phytoestrogens are a diverse group of plant-derived compounds that structurally or functionally mimic mammalian estrogens and show potential benefits for human health. The number of articles published on phytoestrogens has risen dramatically in the past couple decades. Further research continues to demonstrate the biological complexity of phytoestrogens, which belong to several different chemical classes and act through diverse mechanisms. This paper discusses the classification of phytoestrogens, methods of identification, their proposed mechanisms of action and botanical sources for phytoestrogens. The effects of phytoestrogens on breast and prostate cancers, cardiovascular disease, menopausal symptoms and osteoporosis will also be examined including research on benefits and risks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Hot Flashes / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Isoflavones / adverse effects
  • Isoflavones / pharmacology
  • Isoflavones / therapeutic use*
  • Osteoporosis / prevention & control*
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Preparations / adverse effects
  • Plant Preparations / pharmacology
  • Plant Preparations / therapeutic use*
  • Plants, Medicinal*
  • Receptors, Estrogen / drug effects
  • Research Design


  • Isoflavones
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Plant Preparations
  • Receptors, Estrogen