Full disclosure, I haven’t been through menopause, but I have experienced a hot flash, and it’s pretty darn unbearable—sweltering like you’re in the Sahara, wanting to rip your clothes off, wishing you could run away from your body. That’s exactly how women I know have described the feeling, which is why we’ve decided that it’s important to discuss natural remedies for hot flashes.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s actually possible for you to have a full-blown hot flash that’s not related to menopause (or perimenopause, which starts a few years prior to menopause). According to Beth Battaglino, RN, women's health expert and CEO of HealthyWomen, anyone—yes, men too—can experience a hot flash at any age. “Hot flashes can strike at any time and for a lot of different reasons,” she says. The heat wave can be accompanied by symptoms like heart palpitations, reddening of the skin, or the chills.
And if the case is that you’re having them often, chances are you don’t want to have to take hormones like estrogen to ease their effects because those can lead to some other serious conditions (breast cancer, heart disease, stroke, and more). Read on to see the top eight natural remedies for hot flashes. Go on, prepare yourself to cool down.
USE PROGRESSIVE MUSCLE RELAXATION
Progressive muscle relaxation is a method by which you tighten—and then relax—the muscles in your body, beginning from your head and moving your way down to your toes. Some experts believe this works to subdue hot flashes by releasing the stress hormone norepinephrine. A British study followed a group of women whose cancer treatments were giving them hot flashes. Those who used progressive muscle relaxation reported 20% fewer hot flashes than those who only did talk therapy.
But we mean hypnosis of the medical variety (not just someone swinging a watch in front of your eyes). And if you’re a skeptic, it’s still worth giving it a go: A Baylor University study found that breast cancer survivors who experienced hot flashes after treatment were able to improve their symptoms through hypnotherapy sessions led by a psychologist. In fact, there was an overall 68% decrease in reported hot flashes due to the hypnosis.
Need another excuse to get into Child’s Pose? Well, certain restorative yoga positions can help alleviate symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes. Things to avoid are gripping, tension, or headstands. Instead, focus on poses in which you can use props to support your body—just be sure to give your instructor a heads-up so they can help. “If you practice yoga before menopause, then all the poses that are especially useful for coping with uncomfortable symptoms are already familiar, and you can reach for them like an old friend,” says Suza Francina, the author of Yoga and the Wisdom of Menopause.
EAT MORE SOY
Research has shown that consuming one to two servings of soy each day can not only decrease your hot flashes but also lessen the intensity when you do get them. These beneficial effects likely stem from the fact that soy is made up of compounds called phytoestrogens, which function as estrogen in the body in some ways. You can amp up the amount of soy in your diet by eating more tofu, edamame, soy milk, or even miso.
TURN TO ACUPUNCTURE
Although the actual specifics as to why it works are a little uncertain, experts suggest that acupuncture can lessen the frequency of hot flashes. (Some believe it may be because the needles help to release hormones like cortisol, endorphins, and serotonin.) Research published in the journal Menopause found that of 267 women who had hot flashes, those who received acupuncture treatments said they experienced fewer hot flashes and slept better.
USE ESSENTIAL OILS
Yes, we love essential oils (I already mentioned my obsession with my new oil diffuser here). Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, suggests using clary sage, thyme, Roman chamomile, and peppermint oils to cool down and balance your hormones. He recommends buying a therapeutic-grade oil and applying about three drops to the top of your feet and the back of your neck up to three times a day. Worried about sensitive skin? “You can combine any essential oil with a carrier oil like jojoba or coconut oil to dilute its strength and decrease skin sensitivity,” says Axe.
TRY MINDFULNESS-BASED STRESS REDUCTION
Is it us, or does mindfulness help just about everything? Well, apparently a combo of mindfulness meditation with yoga poses and other movements can not only lessen feelings of pain and lower blood pressure, but it can also help decrease your hot flashes. A group of researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School had 15 women with hot flashes take a weekly mindfulness class for two months—and they found that their hot flashes decreased by a whopping 40% because of it. Of note: Experts suggest that the results are greater when you practice mindfulness meditation in a class versus on your own.
SIP ON SAGE TEA
We were always aware that a cup of tea could do wonders for the soul, but who knew that it could also help your hot flashes? Now, we need to get a little specific and point out it’s really just sage tea that does the trick. A 2010 Swiss study found that when postmenopausal women took one sage tablet a day, the average number of hot flashes decreased by 64% within eight weeks. You can get similar effects from brewing your own sage tea—add one tablespoon of fresh sage leaves or a teaspoon of dried sage to a cup of hot water, steep for five minutes, and then drain.
Now that you’re armed with the top eight natural remedies for hot flashes, you should feel prepared the next time you start to break a sweat. Remember that hot flashes are really nothing to be concerned about—and with these simple tips, you can ease your discomfort.