Heat rising, face flushing, sweat pouring, a hot flash is an intense experience. It feels like a fire is burning inside me, and I feel as though the fire will burst forth at any moment. Once it’s over, I am left feeling clammy, drained, and in need of a change of clothes.
Not only uncomfortable, hot flashes can be embarrassing and happen at the most inconvenient times. There are natural remedies for hot flashes, and with small changes in diet and using herbs for hot flashes, most women find relief.
Hot flashes are caused by fluctuating hormone levels, especially estrogen and progesterone. These fluctuations impact the functioning of the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for controlling body temperature, appetite, sex hormones, and sleep.
Every woman’s experience is different – the age at which their flushes start, how intense they are, some only flush a few times, some only at night, others all day long. And they can come and go for years (sometimes a decade or more!)
Please Note: the information provided here is not intended to replace professional medical advice and care. It is simply my perspective for you to consider as you make good choices for you and your family’s health. The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and maintaining health. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care. The information provided has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not meant to diagnose any disease, nor is it intended to treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Seek the support and care of a physician and/or complementary care practitioner you trust, and above all, listen to and trust in yourself. Be well!
Most Common Triggers for Hot Flashes
We may feel as though our hot flashes are completely beyond our control. But many women have discovered specific triggers that often bring on a flush. Avoiding or limiting these common triggers can help reduce the frequency and severity of your hot flashes.
Stimulating foods seem to be a common trigger for many women. Am I going to tell you to give up all the good stuff? No, but I do want you to be aware these may be triggers for your hot flashes. Pay attention and see what you can tolerate.
- Spicy foods (cayenne, pepper, ginger)
I realize much of the stress in our lives is beyond our control, and asking you to “reduce your stress levels” does absolutely no good. But, there are ways we can better cope with the stress in our lives, and even though you have heard them before, they are worth repeating.
Midlife is a good time to practice more self-care, and being aware that for many women, stressful situations are a direct trigger for their hot flashes, may help us walk away or change our approach when we are able to make that choice.
- Make good sleep a priority. If you are having trouble sleeping, there are herbs that can help. Five Herbs for Better Sleep , and Strategies for Better Sleep can help guide you.
- Deep breathing – focusing on your breath can help you calm down, and deep breathing can trigger your parasympathetic response – reducing cortisol, adrenaline, and other neurotransmitters. Deep breathing may help prevent a hot flash when you feel your stress and anxiety rising.
- Nervine Herbs. Nervine herbs act on the nervous system, calm the mind, and the strengthen the adrenals to help us cope with stress.
- Meditate. Even 5 minutes of visualization or focusing on a mantra can produce dramatic results, especially when done consistently over time.
- Exercise. Next to sleep, exercise is the single best thing you can do for yourself. It only takes 10-15 minutes of vigorous movement to give you a rush of endorphins, and reduce your stress levels.
We can’t control the weather, but we can dress in layers to reduce overheating. Some women say even drinking a hot beverage can be a trigger for them.
Natural Remedies for Hot Flashes
These are the most effective natural remedies for hot flashes. They may help reduce the severity, the frequency, or both.
Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids, found in foods like Flaxseed Oil , walnuts, Evening Primrose Oil , and salmon, may help reduce the frequency of hot flashes. (source)
Essential oils can be used in a foot bath, combined with a carrier oil and applied directly to the skin, or used in a diffuser.
- Clary Sage essential oil for reducing cortisol levels. (source)
- Thyme essential oil for balancing progesterone levels (source)
- Peppermint oil for cooling
Research shows a supplemental dose of 400 IUs of natural vitamin E helps to reduce both the severity and frequency of hot flashes. (source)
Good food sources of vitamin E include:
- Sunflower seeds
- Wheat germ
Herbs for Relieving Hot Flashes
Herbs have a long history of use in supporting women’s health, and I am excited to see research is confirming many of the traditional benefits of herbal remedies. For more detailed information on herbs for menopause, check out my article: Herbs for Menopause – How to Stay Sane When Your Hormones are Making You Crazy.
Sage – Salvia officinalis
Our humble culinary sage is a favorite remedy of experienced herbalists. My community herbalist, Krista Rahm, from Forest Green Farm, has had great success using sage, especially when combined with motherwort. And research supports the use of sage for relieving hot flashes (source).
A simple tea made with fresh or dried sage – see How to Make an Herbal Tea for Hot Flashes, combined with cooling herbs, can be taken daily for relief.
Motherwort – Leonurus cardiaca
Motherwort is another favorite of herbalists, and is recommended for women of all ages. The benefits of motherwort include:
- Reduces severity of hot flashes
- bitter – stimulates the parasympathetic (rest and digest) system
- cooling properties
Black Cohosh – Actaea racemosa/Cimicifuga racemosa
The National Institute of Health has an excellent review of the research for the use of black cohosh for relief of menopausal symptoms. And Germany has approved black cohosh as a prescription alternative to hormone therapy (it’s available in the U.S. without a prescription.)
Vitex/Chaste berry – Agnus castus
Vitex works by stimulating and normalizing the pituitary gland, which regulates the balance of estrogen and progesterone in the body. Traditional and current research supports the use of Vitex in treating hot flashes and other menopausal-related symptoms (source).
Dandelion – Taraxacum officinale
The liver metabolizes circulating hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, leuteinizing hormone (LH), and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), all of which have been implicated in creating hot flashes. Bitter herbs like dandelion are traditionally used to support the liver, and you can make a simple dandelion leaf vinegar and use a spoonful 3 times a day.
You can also use a dandelion extract, like this one from Herb Pharm, a company I use and trust.
Nervine and Adaptogen Herbs
We already know stress has an effect on every system in the body, but how does stress relate to the changes occurring during menopause? Acute and chronic stress releases cortisol. Cortisol competes for the receptor sites responsible for the production of estrogen, progesterone, and even testosterone.
Menopause itself can be a significant cause of stress, and there are herbs that can help.
Nervine and Adaptogen herbs recommended to help during menopause, and possibly reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes:
Milky Oats and Dried Oatstraw – Avena sativa
Avena sativa – oats, are the indeed the same oats we enjoy in our breakfast cereal. Herbalists have long used preparations of oats for treating nervous conditions. There are two forms of oats used medicinally– milky oats and the dried oatstraw, and both forms act on the nervous system by gently calming the mind and strengthening the adrenal systems.
Starwest Botanicals is a good source of Organic American Oatstraw, and can be used to make a simple herbal tea or infusion.
Passionflower – Passiflora incarnata
Passionflower is calming without being sedating, and is great for when you are feeling ‘wired’. Scientists believe passion flower’s calming effects are due to specific flavonoids and their ability to increase production of the amino acid gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter and produces a sense of relaxation. Research has shown benefits of using passionflower (especially when combined with other herbs), for relieving symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes. (source)
Passionflower extract is a convenient way to enjoy the benefits.
American Skullcap- Scutellaria lateriflora
Despite its ominous name, skullcap is a soothing and relaxing herb commonly used to relieve nervous tension, pain, especially from tension headaches, and is often used in combinations with other herbs to improve sleep.
Skullcap can be taken in tea or tincture form.
The mind and body are intricately connected, and many of the best natural remedies for hot flashes address both. Using practical ways to reduce and cope with stress, small changes in our diet, and the benefits of herbs for hot flashes can support us as we go through the changes of midlife and menopause.
You may find instant relief with some of these remedies, others may not work at all, and some will require a little time to take effect. Whatever happens, remember to be patient with yourself, and make self-care a priority – you deserve it!
Do you have strategies for coping with hot flashes? Let us know!
~ Be cool!