Many women prefer to try natural remedies for hot flashes rather than taking hormone therapy. After all it seems to be against the course of nature to put hormones into our bodies when we know that we naturally have very low levels after the menopause.
Other people argue that just because something is natural, doesn’t mean we should just let it happen … many natural occurrences are undesirable. But er ... what exactly is the meaning of "natural"?
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When science remains so controversial about the risks of menopause hormone therapy, many women feel that the stakes are too high. What after all is wrong with a few flushes?
Of course that all depends on how bad your hot flashes are!
So what else is out there?
Herbal hot flash remedies
Placebo effect or real?
There’s a quite a variety of herbal or natural remedies for hot flashes on the market. But the truth is that the scientific evidence about their effectiveness is unclear.
Some herbal, homeopathic or other remedies may help in reducing the frequency and/or severity of flushes, but it’s also possible that the placebo effect may explain this.
Placebos (sugar pills) reduced menopause hot flashes by as much as 35% in some studies, and nobody really knows why this is so. Is it a statistical gremlin, a study design problem, or were the flushes going to get better anyway. Could it be ... mind over matter?
One of the most promising natural remedies for hot flashes currently on the market is red clover. You can read about red clover for hot flashes here.
A high soya diet may also reduce hot flush severity and frequency. Japanese women have few hot flushes and have an exceptionally high soy intake. You can read more about menopause in other cultures here. Trials of soya in Western populations have had disappointing results, but samples have been small, soy intake relatively short lived and doses not equivalent. Nothing conclusive but worth a try if you like soya!
Caution with herbs
It’s important to remember that some natural remedies for hot flashes may cause uncomfortable or in rare circumstances, even dangerous side-effects.
Just because something seems or is labelled “natural” doesn’t make it safe.
Remember: If a herb or other compound has an active beneficial effect on the body, then it’s perfectly possible that it has an active harmful effect too. For example, black cohosh has been reported to cause liver damage in a few rare cases.
That’s why it’s very important for all remedies to be tested properly in good scientific studies.
If placebos are partially effective and the way we feel about our flashes affects their severity, it seems reasonable to think that our attitude matters. So you wouldn’t be that surprised to find that psychological techniques can help hot flashes … and this is exactly what the research shows.
There is some evidence that mindfulness, meditation, yoga and deep breathing may help control hot flash symptoms. Read more about mindfulness exercises for hot flashes.
Non-hormonal remedies for hot flashes from your doctor
There are a few conventional medicine options for hot flashes that don’t contain hormones. There’s no conclusive evidence about these products for hot flash therapy. These treatments either don’t work very well in reducing hot flashes, have unknown long-term side-effects or have known side-effects that outweigh benefits.
One drug, called escitalopram has had some promising results, but it’s still early days. You can read more about this drug in hot flash treatment here.
Published August 2012