Herbs for treating Hot Flashes

In our last post we talked about using acupuncture to treat hot flashes. Today we continue our series by looking at herbal medicine options. While there are many different herbs used for the treatment of hot flashes, the two most prominent are black cohosh and soy. Incidentally, both happen to be commonly used Chinese herbs. So what does Chinese medicine have to say about them, and is there any research to back it?

A thermometer.  It's hot!

Black Cohosh
Black cohosh is used both in Western and Chinese herbal traditions. It is in the Western tradition that the herb is said to treat hot flashes. In Chinese medicine the herb is most commonly used to induce sweating for common colds.

The research over the past few years has not been very kind to black cohosh. Studies show that certain compounds in black cohosh are helpful for relieving hot flash symptoms, but when the entire herb is taken this effect is lost. This matches up with Chinese herbal experience: the herb is only good for women who feel flushed and hot but never sweat.

Soy gets a lot of attention for treating hot flashes because it contains phytoestrogens. These are compounds that mimic the effect of estrogen in the body, and if you remember from our last post it’s the fluctuation of estrogen that is thought to be responsible for hot flashes. In Chinese medicine soy is also used to help promote sweating, but the herb is noted for its cooling effects on the body too. Research backs up this understanding: soy is typically good to take to help reduce hot flash intensity & frequency.

Seeing an herbalist
Better than taking either these options from over the counter (or grocery store aisle) is to see an herbalist directly. Hot flashes may co-present with other symptoms that can all be resolved by a single formula, and this requires specialist knowledge to put together. Further, an acupuncturist/herbalist can use multiple treatment methods together for even greater effectiveness – above and beyond hormone replacement therapy – so that you are getting maximum relief with the least risk.

If you suffer from hot flashes and are heated up enough to do something about it, take the first step today.

(Image credit: zoonabar)