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A lot of women, after experiencing hot flashes that are embarrassing, annoying, or downright unbearable, are seeking natural remedies for hot flashes.
Many of these women wonder (maybe after trying something) if there is any one hot flash remedy that really works. The first thing you need to know is this: There is nothing “Guaranteed to Stop Hot Flashes”. Including HRT.
We don't even know what causes them! There are various theories and speculations about it, ranging from decreased estrogen levels to higher Leutinizing Hormone and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (LH and FSH respectively), to the RELATIVE DIFFERENCE between estrogen and progesterone in the body after hormones start fluctuating.
And, what's most fascinating to me, is the difference in numbers of women in the US that have hot flashes compared to those in Japan or China. Again, we don't know why. Some people have speculated about various hot flash remedies, or that it has to do with older women gaining more respect and position in eastern societies, compared to the US, where we lose position as we age.
So here's the bottom line if you're looking for a hot flash remedy: what works for one (or many) women may or may not work for you. I know someone who swears by Maca Root – says it's her top hot flash remedy - it didn't do a thing for me. Many women will tell you progesterone cream is a great hot flash remedy...There were times when I wouldn't do without my progesterone cream, but it did nothing for my hot flashes.
If you run across someone who claims that any particular substance will eliminate your hot flashes, be suspicious.
My Experience of Hot Flashes and Natural Remedies
When I first got hot flashes they were so intense all I could think of when I got one was finding the biggest fire hose around and having it filled with ice water to flood my head and body with as fast as possible.
At that time I was already taking progesterone cream (a popular hot flash remedy) and had been for a couple of years.
I was also taking a full complement of vitamins (including lots of Vitamin E), minerals and cod liver oil, so I tried another hot flash remedy - black cohosh. At first I didn't notice anything. Then I added dong quai and wild yam (dioscorea) to the black cohosh and was able to reduce the intensity quite a bit.
Update: July, 2012
I am now five years post-menopause, and still having hot flashes. I went camping last week and realized how much easier it is to tolerate a hot flash when I am sitting in a camp chair relaxing, surrounded by tall trees and green plants.
Unfortunately I have very little opportunity to experience these relaxing days, but I encourage you to try it – being in nature is my favorite relaxation method, but I imagine taking a spa day or just getting a massage would help as well.
My own flashes have varied from extremely intense, as I mentioned above, to so mild that they don't even feel like “flashes” any more...just a general feeling of being uncomfortably warm...for a minute or two...and then....I'm not so warm...Also, when they were more intense, I used to get cold right before and right after...like chills. For more about hot flash symptoms, see Hot Flash Symptoms.
According to Lonnie Barbach, Ph.D. in her book, The Pause (1993), "For most women, hot flashes last a year or two, but about 25% find they last for more than 5 years, and a few continue to have them sporadically for decades."
So what can you do? Experiment. Not only will a different hot flash remedy work for different women, the same substance (or combination) won't necessarily continue to work for the same woman at different times. The good news is, most of these hot flash remedies don't cost much and, used correctly, won't hurt you, even if you don't need them. If you notice they help with some of your symptoms (not just hot flashes), GREAT! If not, no problem, just try something else.
I know it can be frustrating for those of you (like me) that have flashes that interrupt what you're doing or cause a lot of discomfort. Embarrassment is not a problem for me, I am lucky enough to be around a lot of menopausal women...we recognize each other by our constant removal of layers of clothes, followed by putting them back on a few minutes later.
But discomfort has been a big problem...I work in an office that is stuffy and overheated most of the time, and it gets very hot in the summer where I live. I have found that using a spray bottle filled with cool water helps tremendously at night, and I have a small fan at my desk. Every time I leave the fan I notice the heat, but at least when I am at my desk I have relief.
Different foods can trigger hot flashes. Some of these include coffee or other caffeinated drinks, sugar, and spicy foods.
Hot flashes decrease some vitamins and minerals, including B and C, calcium and magnesium. Eating lots of vegetables and foods high in the B vitamins will help keep you nourished.
Some vitamins have proven to be effective with hot flashes. See Vitamins for Hot Flashes to find out how Vitamin E, C and cod liver oil can help reduce hot flashes.
There are many herbs that can help with hot flashes.
Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa/Actaea racemosa) is the most well-known. Note. You have probably heard that black cohosh has not been proven safe or effective. I encourage you to read ---- before you make up your mind about this. It helps to have all the information.
Other herbs that may help by balancing hormones include
Chaste tree berry (Vitex)
Dong quai (also spelled tang kwei, dang gui, botanical name Angelica sinensis)
Wild Yam (Dioscorea)
These are all herbal medicines (stronger than tonics, intended for short-term use as needed), not herbal tonics (more food-like herbs safe for long-term, continuous use)
Other ways to use herbs are through relaxation. Some of these include motherwort and scullcap. See herbal remedies for stress for more about using herbs as a hot flash remedy.
Other Natural Remedies for Hot Flashes
Exercise and yoga are very health supportive, and may be a natural remedy for hot flashes as well.
Acupuncture has been helpful for many women.
Clary Sage is an essential oil that can help with hot flashes. For more about essential oils, see aromatherapy
And bioidentical hormone therapy may be worth investigating if you are not having success with diet, vitamins, herbs and other lifestyle changes.
Here are some products that many women swear by.
No one knows what causes hot flashes (although that won't stop writers and medical people from assigning a cause, like lowered estrogen levels). There are many ways to reduce hot flashes. I'd love to know about what's working for you. Sharing your story could help the rest of us.
Click below to see contributions from other women to this page...
Also see Hot Flashes After Menopause