Many women experience difficult transitions through perimenopause and into the menopause stage. During this period, which can last anywhere from 4-10 years, women frequently suffer from increased levels of anxiety, hot flashes, night sweats, and weight changes. Thankfully, herbal remedies often prove beneficial in relieving the intensity of many menopause symptoms.
What are hot flashes?
A hot flash is a feeling of intense heat that is not explained by external temperatures. It is often characterized by an increase in anxiety, sweating, elevated heartbeat, and a flushed face. Hot flashes can occur without much warning and last anywhere from a few seconds to 10 minutes.
Hot flashes occur when lowered estrogen levels in the body cause the ‘thermoneutral’ zone to narrow, creating a lesser tolerance for heat and stress and encouraging sweating at low temperatures. These uncomfortable occurrences are a fact of life for most women but can vary in intensity and duration.
Though this stage of life often presents severe cases of discomfort and hormonal instability, some of these symptoms can be alleviated by regulating your hormones naturally with various herbs, roots, and seeds. Hormone management can be tricky and confusing with doses requiring regular adjustment to provide full relief. Be patient with your body as you strive to understand the interaction of each remedy with your hormones.
The root of the black cohosh herb has been used for over 50 years in Europe as a natural remedy for various issues with women’s health, including premenstrual symptoms, painful menstruation, and menopause symptoms including hot flashes.
Research backs these anecdotal claims, showing that back cohosh affects the opiate receptors in the body, which help to regulate temperature.
This herb can be found in supplement form in capsules, tablets, liquid tinctures, or extracts. Discuss proper dosage with your healthcare provider.
- Stay away from black cohosh if you have any estrogen affecting conditions such as breast or ovarian cancer.
- Consult your doctor before taking black cohosh as it interacts with many prescription medications
- Some concerns exist regarding black cohosh and liver damage or failure. Watch for signs and symptoms of jaundice.
Studies show that red clover may be beneficial in alleviating the intensity of hot flashes in women. This is perhaps due to phytoestrogens called isoflavones that, when paired with probiotics, can significantly relieve hot flash symptoms.
Red clover is available in extracts or capsules. Dried herbs can also be used to make red clover tea.
- Do not take red clover when pregnant or breastfeeding as it can change estrogen levels
- May cause rash, headache, nausea. Discontinue use if these side effects occur.
There is some anecdotal evidence to show that this herb may be beneficial in relieving menopause symptoms, including hot flashes. However, more research is needed to prove these claims.
Dong quai can be purchased in standard supplement form from most health stores or online.
- Do not take dong quai if you have a past or present cancer of the breast, ovary, or uterus
- Do not take if you are pregnant or breastfeeding
Several studies have proven the potency of valerian root as a natural treatment for hot flashes. It is also known to encourage deep, restful sleep which can help prevent night sweats and disrupted REM.
Valerian root can be found in tablet, capsule, or extract form.
- Stop using valerian immediately if you notice any of the following: loss of appetite, liver problems, jaundice, dark urine, upper stomach pain or itching. Call your doctor if any symptoms persist or worsen.
- Other side effects may include: headache, dry mouth or, dizziness
Frequent doses of licorice root have been shown to decrease hot flash occurrences in peri and menopausal women. It is known to activate estrogen receptors to restore this hormone in the body to normal levels following its drop during perimenopause.
Real licorice can provide all the benefits of this root. It can also be purchased in capsule form if you dislike the taste of licorice.
- Common side effects of licorice root include: headache, swelling, rapid weight gain
Be sure to consult with your doctor before starting any herbal supplementation. This is especially important if you are on any prescription medication, as some herbs can have adverse interactions with pharmaceutical drugs.
There are many options to naturally reduce the frequency and duration of hot flashes without invasive hormone replacement therapy that can create more problems in the long run. Get to know your body and keep a log of how you respond to each treatment, paying close attention to changes in mood and severity of hot flashes. Here’s to a cooler menopause!