Hot flashes are one of the most common symptoms of perimenopause and menopause, affecting roughly three-quarters of all women during this time. It’s an uncomfortable feeling that can even keep one up at night, with the intense feeling of heat suddenly coming on. Your skin feels warm, your face may turn red or flushed, and you may even begin to sweat. While some hot flashes pass after just a few seconds, they can last for ten minutes or even longer.
Some women barely notice hot flashes, or just think of them as a minor annoyance, but for others, the intensity can negatively affect their quality of life. If you’re one of them, all you know is that you want them to stop. While you might think that medical intervention is the only way to do it, such as hormone replacement therapy, the good news is that there are multiple surefire natural ways to beat a hot flash.
1. Maca root
There are multiple herbs that can help, and the maca plant that grows high in the Peruvian Andes has been used for hundreds of years by the indigenous people. Many women who live in this area, consuming it regularly, have reported very few symptoms, if any, of menopause. It can help balance hormones, improve energy levels and battle those change-of-life symptoms.
Though it’s not well understood how maca works, one of the most common theories is that the plant sterols in maca stimulate changes in the action of the HPA axis as well as the adrenal, ovarian, pineal and thyroid glands. To date, scientific research has yet to find much evidence when it comes to its effectiveness, but countless women swear by it.
2. Clary sage
Clary sage essential oil has a long history of medicinal use, and many experts consider it to be one of the best when it comes to balancing hormones. That means that it not only provides relief of menopausal symptoms, but it can reduce the intensity and frequency of hot flashes while also relieving anxiety, boost one’s mood, improve mental focus and even fight depression. For quick relief, add a few drops of the oil to a tissue. Breathe in the aroma, inhaling and exhaling slowly to allow the oil to enter your nose and get into your bloodstream.
3. Black cohosh
Black cohosh is an herb that’s been studied extensively when it comes to its effects on hot flashes. Studies have found that in addition to improving those symptoms it may also help one to get a better night’s rest and address hormonal imbalances too. While some research has been inconclusive, it’s generally because they were based on a scale rather than placebo-based observation, and specific dosages have been inconsistent. By taking black cohosh on a regular basis, you may see a significant reduction in the severity and number of hot flashes you experiences, and possibly a dramatic decrease in other common symptoms related to hormonal issues.
4. Roman chamomile
Another fantastic essential oil to consider for beating a hot flash is Roman chamomile. It’s been found to reduce both stress and hot flashes. In fact, ancient Egyptians used it to cure fevers because of its cooling ability. The herb has also been found in scientific research to help improve the quality of sleep. One British study focusing on the effects of Roman chamomile on sleep and mood, found that it resulted in participants feeling calmer and actually entering a drowsy state, showing potential to help one fall asleep quicker, something that can be a big problem when you’re suffering from hot flashes.
One of the best ways to use it is to combine it with our other suggested essential oil, clary sage, using it as a mist. Add 10 drops of each oil to three ounces of distilled water and an ounce of witch hazel in a spray bottle and use it as a cooling mist whenever a hot flash comes on.
5. Evening primrose oil
Evening primrose oil is one of the most commonly recommended supplements for relieving hot flashes, and many women have reported that it is very effective, though there is still only limited research to do. One 2013 trial in which women took evening primrose oil daily for six weeks against a placebo to test its effectiveness for reducing hot flashes found that there was a reduction in the severity as well as a reduction in the frequency and duration.
Hypnosis can be very effective in fighting hot flashes — it’s not the “you’re getting sleepy” type, but something you can actually do yourself. You’ll always be conscious of what’s going on, but will learn how to put yourself into a very relaxed state that helps to influence your body in a profound way.
In 2014, the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis published a study out of Baylor University that focused on whether using “cool” images during hypnosis could help calm hot flashes. The women in the study were really suffering from hot flashes, experience at least seven a day, and none were taking hormones or supplements for them. They learned how to use mental imagery to elicit feelings of coolness, being in a safe place and relaxing before being given CDs to use at home to practice self-hypnosis. A control group was given only tips about how to deal with them along with an informational CD.
The results revealed that those who performed hypnosis at home experienced a 41 percent drop in hot flashes, and by week six, that number had dropped to 64 percent fewer hot flashes and a 71 percent drop in severity. The placebo group experienced relatively little change, with a 7 percent increase in device-recorded hot flashes, a 7 percent drop in self-reported hot flashes and an 8 percent drop in severity.
Acupuncture has been studied quite a bit for treating hot flashes and has been found to help some women. Some of the more recent research, published in January 2016 from the University of Melbourne in Australia, included women who reported at least seven moderate hot flashes a day.
Half were treated with 10 real acupuncture sessions over eight weeks, while the other half received 10 “fake” acupuncture sessions in which needles weren’t actually inserted. The experts reported that both procedures had the same effect: the frequency and severity of the hot flashes were reduced by 40 percent, and improvement continued for six months following treatment.
Another earlier study published in Acupuncture in Medicine in 2011 showed that acupuncture was helpful for relieving hot flashes and other symptoms, including mood swings, vaginal dryness and urinary tract infections.
As flaxseed is high in phytoestrogens, a form of lignans, it can be very helpful in keeping hormones balanced to reduce hot flashes. Aim to eat two to three tablespoons of ground flaxseed a day by adding it to a smoothie, cereal, yogurt or a salad.
Regular exercise isn’t just important for your overall health and staying slim, it’s also effective for beating hot flashes. A recent study found that sedentary women were 21 percent more likely to experience hot flashes. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, running, hiking, dancing, biking or swimming, five times a week.
— Susan Patterson