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Are there any home remedies for relief from hot flashes?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner

Some plant-based medicines, or botanicals, can be considered for hot flashes and symptoms of menopause. Plants that have levels of estrogen are usually the most widely used. Plants with estrogen levels are called phytoestrogens, and they may actually work as a form of estrogen to relieve some of the symptoms of menopause. Some foods that contain levels of estrogen are soy, whole grains and beans.

Soy, primrose oil and black cohosh are three supplements that have been shown to improve postmenopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, in some women. These supplements can be considered for women who are not interested in standard hormone replacement therapy. Several studies have demonstrated limited effectiveness of these three products. However, anecdotally, many women report an improvement in postmenopausal symptoms. These supplements are not FDA approved, and therefore, there is no standard recommended dose of soy, primrose oil or black cohosh. However, they are marketed by several herbal suppliers in various forms.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Home remedies are a great place to start to help relieve hot flashes. Since hot flashes are triggered by—not surprisingly—hot things, avoiding those triggers can go a long way to keeping you cool. The first piece of advice is to dress in layers so when you get a flash you can peel off a layer at a time. Pick natural fibers over synthetics because synthetics don't breathe.

For night sweats keep a fan nearby and use a light blanket. Keep the bedroom temperature on the cool side. Don't smoke (wait, you are still smoking?). Try limiting alcohol, caffeine and spicy food to see if that helps. If you get a lot of hot flashes you may want to carry a small folding Asian type fan in your purse so you can fan yourself at a moment's notice. If you don’t have a fan handy, even a magazine can do the trick.

I am a big fan of mind-body techniques such as slow breathing, Tai Chi and meditation not only because they may reduce hot flashes, but because they are good for overall wellbeing too. Chinese herbs, dong quai, evening primrose oil, ginseng, kava, red clover extract, black cohosh and vitamin E have been studied for hot flashes, but their effectiveness is unproven. You can also try eating a diet that includes phytoestrogens such as soy but it should be noted that the estrogen in soy (and black cohosh) acts like other kinds of estrogens and binds to estrogen receptors, so it may have the same worrisome effect as hormone therapies for menopause. If you want to change your diet, make sure to talk to your doctor to see if that’s the right solution for you given any other treatments you may be on.

There are a number of home remedies that can help bring you relief from hot flashes. Try dressing in layers (of cotton, not synthetics or wool), so you can quickly take a layer off when you get a hot flash. You can also try deep, slow breathing when you get a hot flash. Relaxation techniques you learn through yoga, meditation, or tai chi can help.

Try to figure out what brings on your hot flashes, whether it’s certain drinks (coffee or tea, for example), the weather (such as when it’s hot outside), stress, or certain foods. Keep ice water handy and a fan nearby. Make sure the temperature in your house or office is cool enough.

For hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms, some women find relief by going to an acupuncturist, getting enough exercise, drinking plenty of water, not smoking, and avoiding certain types of foods and drinks (such as spicy foods, alcohol, and caffeine). Soy products are good to incorporate into your meals, because they might help prevent or decrease hot flashes and other menopause symptoms.

At night, use cotton sheets on your bed, not silk or a synthetic blend. Also wear cotton pajamas when you sleep, which can make night sweats (hot flashes at night) more tolerable.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.