Friday, May 9, 2008

Relieve Menopause Hot Flashes Naturally

One of the most common symptoms of menopause, hot flashes are not something that must be tolerated. A cure for hot flashes, hot flushes or night sweats is not that hard to find. You just have to know where to look. However, products that help relieve menopause hot flashes for some women may not work for others. So, here we look at several herbal remedies that may be beneficial. Because of the health risks associated with hormone replacement therapy, natural remedies are becoming increasingly popular. Herbs and plants may not be a "new" cure for hot flashes, but they are effective, nonetheless. And we do know a lot more about them than we did at one time, so we do have "new" ways to look at them.

Hot flashes, hot flushes and night sweats are three different names for the same physical reaction to decreasing levels of estrogen. They may begin years before actual menopause and last for several years afterwards. The frequency and severity varies from one woman to the next. Researchers often describe them as "vasomotor" symptoms, because blood vessels and circulation are involved.

Typically the heat begins in a woman's chest, travels up the neck to the face and head. When they occur at night, they may interrupt a woman's sleep, increasing levels of fatigue and sometimes leading to insomnia. From the experiences of other women, we know that caffeine, alcohol, tobacco products and spicy foods can trigger them, as can anger, frustration and irritation. Regular exercise and drinking plenty of water seems to help.

Black cohosh has been the cure for hot flashes for many women. More research has been done concerning the effectiveness and safety of black cohosh than on any of the other herbs that can help menopause hot flushes. But, if you have tried it and it doesn't work for you, there are other alternatives.

Scientists are still unsure why black cohosh relieves hot flashes, but evaluations of the chemical compounds of other plants have revealed an estrogen-like substance, aptly named phytoestrogens. Isoflavones are one type of phytoestrogen. If you read the ingredients on a remedy for hot flushes, you may see "soy isoflavones" or "isoflavones from red clover". These may help menopause hot flashes because they have an estrogen like effect on a woman's body. Some researchers have been concerned that isoflavones or phytoestrogens could have the same side effects as synthetic estrogens used in hormone replacement therapy. So, here's what we know about the risks associated with long term use of synthetic hormones.

We know that estrogen replacement therapy can cause endometrial cancer. The endometrium is the lining of the uterus and estrogen causes the lining to build up, which, without menstruation, frequently led to cancer. Thus, doctors would prescribe an estrogen-progesterone combination therapy. The progesterone would cause the lining to be shed each month, leading to a return of monthly periods, and decreasing the cancer risk. For years, this "combination" hormone therapy was the most commonly recommended cure for hot flashes and other symptoms associated with menopause.

As with many medical treatments, the risks turned up with long term use of this type of therapy. The Women's Health Initiative recently concluded a seven year study of women using hormone replacement therapies of both types. The conclusion is that hormone replacement therapy of any type increases a woman's risk for blood clots and stroke. Combination therapy, which was thought to be safer than estrogen only, actually added the increased health risks of heart disease and breast cancer. An even longer study (more than twenty years) performed by Harvard scientists found that estrogen only increased breast cancer risks when used for more than 15 years. Typically a woman would not use hormone replacement therapy to relieve menopause hot flashes and other symptoms for many years, but when the risks are blood clots, heart disease and stroke, even short term use is rarely recommended as a cure for hot flashes.

While no long term studies have been conducted concerning women who use phytoestrogens or isoflavones to help relieve menopause hot flashes, short term clinical studies have revealed their effectiveness, lack of side effects and safety. Even the idea that phytoestrogens, which are found in soy beans, a health food, might not be safe for long term use seems silly. People eat soy all of the time and have for many, many years.

Red clover, the other most commonly used source of isoflavones, is grown for animal feed. Native Americans used the flower for tea and chewed the leaves raw. Healers used it to treat liver ailments, gall bladder ailments, ulcers, diabetes, tonsillitis, internal cancer, appendicitis, headaches and as a cure for hot flashes and other symptoms related to changing levels of hormones and aging.

Scientific research and the experiences of other women tell us that black cohosh helps relieve menopause hot flashes. Laboratory tests have revealed that black cohosh has no effect on even estrogen sensitive cancer cell lines. But, if this cure for hot flashes does not work for you, try soy or red clover isoflavones. All of our scientific and historical knowledge indicates that these are safe. For information about a woman's supplement that contains both black cohosh and isoflavones at a reasonable price, please visit the Menopause and PMS Guide.

Patsy Hamilton was a health care professional for more than twenty years before becoming a freelance writer. Currently she writes informational articles for the Menopause and PMS Guide. Read more at

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