Do Natural Botanicals Prevent Hot Flashes?

More women are looking for natural solutions to menopausal symptoms. Do botanicals such as Black Cohosh help prevent hot flashes? Find out what a new study shows.

Menopause and the perimenopausal period leading up to the end of the reproductive years can be trying for some women. Sleep difficulties, memory changes, fatigue, and hot flashes can take their toll on even the most well adjusted woman. Despite the challenges of menopause, more women are choosing to forgo hormone therapy due to the apparent risks and are increasingly turning to alternative treatments with botanicals as a way to prevent hot flashes – but the question remains. Do they work? According to a new study, maybe not.

A study published in the journal Menopause looked at the effects of the botanicals black cohosh and red clover on the incidence of hot flashes in women and compared them to hormone replacement therapy and placebo. This randomized, double blind trial involved eighty-nine women who were already experiencing menopausal hot flashes. The researchers found that women receiving black cohosh or red clover experienced no greater reduction in hot flashes than did the placebo group, although both groups showed improvement, indicating a possible placebo effect. Hormone replacement therapy showed the greatest potential to reduce hot flashes with a ninety-four percent reduction.

The researchers did a second study looking at the effects of the botanicals on memory. None of the botanicals including black cohosh boosted memory, and hormone replacement therapy which used Prempro as the hormone actually had a negative impact on both memory and brain function when given over a twelve month period.

One positive aspect of this trial looking at botanicals to prevent hot flashes was that black cohosh and red clover appear to be safe since no adverse reactions were seen. This is reassuring since so many women are using them as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy. Despite the fact that these alternative therapies appear to be safe, it can be difficult to know what you’re getting when you buy these herbs from health food stores since the supplement industry is so poorly regulated.

It’s interesting to note that several previous trials have shown that black cohosh has some benefit for reducing hot flashes, so this study may not be the final word on the issue. Almost three-quarters of women experience hot flashes to some degree as they undergo the menopausal transition and are eager to find alternative solutions that won’t increase their risk of breast cancer or other health problems associated with hormone replacement therapy. At least according to this study, botanicals don’t appear to be the answer to preventing hot flashes.

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