Menopausal hot flashes are one of the most common symptoms that women experience in their forties and fifties. From our older sisters or our mothers we may learn a treatment for hot flash that is effective. If we go to the doctor, he/she may recommend hormone replacement, though not as commonly as at one time. We can visit the pharmacist or the herbalist, a nutritionist or a therapist. They all have different recommendations.
Researchers studying the effectiveness of numerous treatments for menopausal hot flashes have found some interesting results. Nutritional supplements containing soy isoflavones are an effective treatment for hot flash, but dietary flaxseed and soy flour are not effective. Acupuncture may reduce the severity of night sweats. Mindfulness based stress reduction decreased the severity of hot flashes by 40% in women studied over an 11 week period. Gingko and ginseng are effective, but black cohosh appears to be the most effective herbal treatment for hot flash, equal to results achieved using hormone replacement therapy, with no ill side effects. And then there are the studies that say more studies need to be done.
Some experts suggest that adding soy to the diet or eating more soy is more effective than nutritional supplements that contain soy isoflavones. (Isoflavones are a type of phytoestrogen, a plant component that has an estrogen-like effect on the body.) If you look at the most recent comparable studies, nutritional supplements containing soy isoflavones used over a three month period by 766 women resulted in an 87.8% reduction in hot flash symptoms. Whereas, in a study in which 31 women ate muffins made from soy flour (equivalent to 25 grams of soy) once a day for 16 weeks, there was no significant reduction in hot flash symptoms.
Women suffering from severe hot flashes and night sweats participated in an experiment using acupuncture at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California. After nine sessions over seven weeks, these women reported a 28% reduction in hot flashes and a 47% reduction in night sweats.
Stress is believed to increase the severity and frequency of menopausal hot flashes. Mindfulness based stress reduction is a specific type of therapy that helps women reduce the stress in their lives and teaches them to relax. As mentioned above, this type of therapy decreased the severity of hot flashes by 40% in women studied over an 11 week period.
Just in the year 2006, there have been over 40 published studies relating to black cohosh as a treatment for hot flash and for other benefits associated with the herb. One study found that black cohosh was even more effective than isoflavones from soy or red clover. No percentage was given, but if soy isoflavones can reduce hot flashes by nearly 88% and black cohosh is even more effective, then we get an idea of just how effective black cohosh can be. Because the herb is so effective, there have been concerns over safety, but thus far there is no evidence to indicate that these concerns are justified. In fact several studies have shown that it may be useful in cancer prevention.
Many researchers believe that doctors should use caution when recommending herbal remedies for menopausal hot flashes, but others have recommended that doctors should discuss these natural alternatives with their patients. While black cohosh is an effective treatment for hot flash, soy isoflavones and other plant derivatives may be more effective for other symptoms. To learn more about relieving menopausal hot flashes, please visit the Menopause and PMS Guide.