Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the go-to for many who want relief from menopause symptoms. But if you’d rather not take hormones, or if you have health risks that conflict with HRT, there are lots of natural remedies that can help.
Of course, there are also some natural remedies on the market that make big health claims with little evidence. Let’s take a look at what we know works, and a few remedies that don’t live up to their hype!
Natural treatments for hot flashes
For some women, hot flashes are a minor annoyance. For others, they’re overwhelming in the daytime, and a big sleep disruptor at night. If you’re looking for natural relief, you can start by getting to know your triggers so you can minimize or avoid the things that tend to bring on hot flashes for you.
Common hot-flash triggers include:
- Hot weather
- Spicy foods
- Tight clothing
Try a few lifestyle changes
A few small changes to the things you do each day can help reduce hot flashes:
- Turn the thermostat down, especially at bedtime.
- Sleep with a fan on.
- Sleep in socks. It might sound counterintuitive, but keeping your feet warm can help lower your core body temperature.
- Dress in layers.
There are also a few bigger lifestyle changes that help with hot flashes:
- Quit smoking. Studies show that smokers tend to have more hot flashes. We know that quitting is a very hard change to make. Please talk to your doctor about ways to help.
- Get more active. Women who move less tend to have more problems with hot flashes. Make sure to get active in a cool place.
- Move toward a healthy weight for you. Studies show that people who are overweight tend to suffer more from hot flashes, so weight loss may help.
- Lower stress. Menopause comes at the same time as lots of other life stressors. Our children may be moving into adulthood, our parents may need care, and our careers can be demanding. So it’s not easy to simply turn off our stress. But one small step you can take is to add deep, slow breathing to your day. Aim for six to eight deep breaths per minute for about 15 minutes each morning and evening. Deep breathing can also help when you feel a hot flash coming on.
Tweak your diet
You may be able to lower the frequency and severity of hot flashes with a few changes to the things you eat and drink. To start, avoid or limit caffeine, spicy foods, and alcohol.
You may also want to add more phytoestrogens to your plate. Phytoestrogens (also called plant estrogens) are compounds found naturally in plants, and their effects on the body are similar to estrogen, though weaker. Studies show that phytoestrogens can reduce the frequency of hot flashes. As a bonus, some studies have found that phytoestrogens help prevent bone loss during menopause.
Try adding phytoestrogen-rich foods to your diet, rather than taking supplements. You’ll get lots of beneficial nutrients in addition to the plant estrogens. Here are a few phytoestrogen-rich foods to try:
- Flaxseed (crushed or ground)
Natural treatments for insomnia
Many women have a hard time getting a good night’s rest during menopause. These steps can help:
- Exercise regularly.
- Skip alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine for a few hours before bedtime
- Take a warm shower or bath before bed.
- Follow a consistent sleep schedule.
- Wear light pajamas and keep your sleeping area cool to help prevent night sweats.
- Set aside a bit of time before bed for a routine that helps you relax. You might enjoy reading, crafting, journaling, or something else quiet and calming. When it’s close to bedtime, skip stressful activities like checking work email, reading the news, and having emotional conversations.
- Enjoy warm milk at bedtime or if you wake up during the night.
Natural help with mood, fears, and depression
Many women experience mood changes during menopause. These remedies can help, but please talk with your doctor if you need more support:
- Take up a calming practice. Consider yoga, guided meditation, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or tai chi. There are lots of apps and YouTube videos to get you started.
- Set aside time for creative projects that give you a feeling of accomplishment. Go for gardening, knitting, painting, playing a musical instrument, or anything that brings you fulfillment.
- Connect with friends and family. Nurture your relationships, especially those with friends who are going through the same kinds of life changes you are.
Natural solutions for pain during sex
With lower estrogen at menopause, many women notice vaginal dryness and thinner vaginal tissue, which can lead to painful intercourse.
A water-based lubricant can help. You can find lots of brands near the condom section in your grocery or drug store. Skip products with glycerin or petroleum jelly since they can cause yeast infections.
What about herbal supplements?
A quick online search will turn up lots of advice on supplements for menopause symptoms. But it’s important to know that supplements aren’t closely regulated by the FDA, so there may not be much research to back up their promises. It’s also important to know that “natural” isn’t the same as safe. It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting a supplement to make sure it’s effective and safe and won’t interact with any other medications you take.
Here’s the scoop on some of the most talked-about supplements for menopause:
- Black cohosh: This herb is often recommended for help with hot flashes, but studies show mixed results. While there isn’t a lot of evidence that it’s effective, black cohosh has a good safety record.
- Red clover: Controlled studies of red clover extract don’t show any conclusive evidence that it reduces hot flashes, but some women say it has helped them. Studies haven’t found any serious side effects in humans, though some studies in animals suggest that red clover could be harmful to hormone-sensitive tissue.
- Dong quai: This herb has been used in Traditional Chinese medicine for more than 1,000 years. So far, clinical studies have not shown benefits for hot flashes. Avoid dong quai if you have fibroids or a blood clotting disorder or if you take medications that affect blood clotting.
- Ginseng: Some studies show that ginseng can help with mood and sleep problems, but it hasn’t been shown to help with hot flashes.
- Kava: There’s no evidence that kava helps reduce hot flashes, but it has been associated with liver disease. The FDA has issued a warning about this danger.
- Evening primrose oil: Though there isn’t a lot of research, studies of evening primrose oil haven’t found benefits for hot flashes. But studies have shown troubling side effects including inflammation, nausea, problems with blood clotting, and an increased risk of seizures in people taking antipsychotic medications.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
- Ovia-recommended source: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15223-menopause-non-hormonal-treatment–relief-for-hot-flashes
- National Institute on Aging (for sleep suggestions): https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/sleep-problems-and-menopause-what-can-i-do
- Clinical Nutrition (to verify that warm milk helps with sleep): https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30390870/
- University of Michigan Health (for help with mood): https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uz2209
- North American Menopause Society (for painful intercourse): https://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/sexual-problems-at-midlife/pain-with-penetration
- North American Menopause Society (for herbal supplements): https://www.menopause.org/for-women/menopauseflashes/menopause-symptoms-and-treatments/natural-remedies-for-hot-flashes