The mechanism that causes hot flashes is unclear, although they have been linked to declining estrogen levels. Many women have found that they can deal with them nonmedically. By observing the conditions surrounding you at the time of a hot flash, you may be able to exert some control. You may wish to keep a record of the time and severity of a hot flash to see whether there is a pattern. Dressing (and undressing) in layers can help you tolerate overheated offices and meeting rooms: at least one study has confirmed that the frequency and intensity of hot flashes decline dramatically when women are in a cool environment. Recent research suggests that exercise and healthy eating habits may be just as effective in reducing hot flashes as estrogen and hormone replacement therapy. Smoking also plays a role; it has been shown to reduce estrogen levels, so quitting may help decrease the incidence of hot flashes along with decreasing the incidence of cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
Self-esteem and depression
A recent study performed at the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Anthropology found that menopausal depression may be linked to cultural attitudes. The study included fifteen sociocultural groups in different parts of the world. It found that in non-Western cultures where older women gain enhanced status, political power, and decision-making authority, the depression associated with menopause in Western societies is often nonexistent. The study concluded that Western ``negative stressors'', such as the views that menopause is a time of loss and that aging women have lost their societal value, may work in conjunction with fluctuating hormone levels to exacerbate feelings of low self-esteem.
An Herbal Approach
Here's a formula developed by herbalist and author Kathi Keville that contains tinctures of black cohosh, vitex, and dong quai, as well as tinctures of other herbs traditionally used to relieve menopausal symptoms:
Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) is among the most important herbs in traditional Chinese medicine. It is the exception to many herbs in that nearly 3,000 studies have explored a wide range of its medicinal benefits. Herbalists prescribe it as a tonic used to treat the nervous and hormonal systems and fatigue. It is not known to cause adverse reactions.
Chinese medicine values licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) for its ability to replenish vital energy; people with high blood pressure or edema should use it sparingly.
Herbalists often prescribe motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) to treat anxiety and vaginal dryness, among other conditions. It is considered a gentle sedative that corrects over-rapid heart beats. Pregnant women shouldn't use it.
Herbalists use the roots and leaves of dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) to treat a variety of ailments, including mood swings. Insufficient research has been done to support either side of this argument. In rare cases, the therapeutic use of dandelion has produced a skin rash.
St.-John's-wort (Hypericum perforatum) has traditionally been used to treat mild depression and anxiety. When taking therapeutic doses of its extract, it's best to avoid sunlight as the herb has caused photodermatitis in animals.
1 teaspoon black cohosh root tincture
1 teaspoon vitex berry tincture
1/2 teaspoon ginseng root tincture
1/2 teaspoon licorice root tincture
1/2 teaspoon dong quai root tincture
1/2 teaspoon motherwort tincture