Hormone replacement therapy may cause various side effects, including enhancing the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in postmenopausal women. Here, we investigated the effect of red clover and hop extract combination (RHEC) on estrogen receptor (ER) binding and endothelial function of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) to develop an herbal agent for reducing the risk of CVDs. In ER competitor assay, RHEC showed binding affinity toward ERα and ERβ with IC50 values of 5.92 µg/ml and 1.66 µg/ml, respectively. In HUVECs, RHEC significantly increased the cell viability and reduced the reactive oxygen species production against oxidative stress-induced damage. We also showed that RHEC increased the NO production through upregulating the endothelial nitric oxide synthase expression via ER activation in estrogen depleted condition. In particular, RHEC showed greater efficacy with increase in NO and decrease in endothelin-1 than red clover or hop treatment alone. Additionally, 0.3-0.5 mg/ml of RHEC-induced vasorelaxation of rat aortic rings precontracted by phenylephrine. PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS: Recently, a large interest has grown in the synergistic effects of phytochemicals for better therapies to treat various diseases. Red clover and hop are well-known edible plants which are widely used to help relieve postmenopausal symptoms including CVD. However, their combination has not been studied so far. For the first time, we demonstrated that RHEC, a new herbal combination comprising the extracts from red clover and hop, appeared to be effective in protection of endothelial function against oxidative stress and estrogen depletion. Therefore, RHEC could be a potent herbal agent for reducing the risk of endothelial damage.
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