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Natural Remedies May Offer Relief

If you're interested in mitigating hot flashes by natural means, herbs can offer a reduction in—not a cure for—them. Black cohosh is a scientifically tested herb available in several forms. There have been some mixed results in studies, but the herb remains a popular choice to combat hot flashes. Remifemin®, a lab-controlled and standardized form offered by a pharmaceutical company, is probably the most expensive form of black cohosh available to the consumer, but it's also the most widely studied in a clinical setting. It consists of little pills that are taken once in the morning and once in the evening every day.

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The full benefit is usually realized within 4 to 12 weeks of consistent dosing. The manufacturer does not claim to cure hot flashes but does boast a "70% reduction in hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, irritability, and related occasional sleeplessness." There are little to no known side effects caused by using this product.

Black cohosh is also available in health and natural food stores as an herbal tincture or extract, as well as capsules made from the plant root. The root is dried and preserved in alcohol. The preparation is then taken internally by either directly dropping the tincture into the mouth or diffused in water and swallowed. It is believed that a specific amount of this herb is required in order to be helpful; therefore, this form can be somewhat problematic in that the actual amount of herb present in any of the tinctures can vary widely and has been found to be inconsistent with the amount of herb stated on the label in some independent tests. These products are not regulated by any governmental or private authority, so actual quality and results derived can vary product to product.

Before selecting one of these products, research carefully. One tool available to consumers to verify if a particular product has been tested for quality and safety is to check if the label includes the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) mark.

Other herbs that have been used by some women for menopause relief are as follows: Chaste tree, also known as Vitex agnus-castus, is generally used for balancing hormonal levels to counteract premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and also for menopause symptom relief. Vitex is available in capsule (containing dried leaves) or in tincture form. HFN 008 NatRemedies 2 25287614Sage (yes, the kind you cook with) taken as a tea made from an infusion of the leaves is reputed to be quite excellent at reducing night sweats. These are just a few that are readily available to the average American consumer. Dong quai, a Chinese herb in origin also known as Chinese angelica, has been used to remedy the symptoms of PMS and menopause and can usually be found in natural food stores, but it can also be toxic and is not generally recommended.

None of these supplements should be taken without first discussing with your doctor. And no overview of natural remedies for menopausal symptoms can be complete, however, without mentioning both a healthy diet rich in phytoestrogens and daily exercise as fundamental components of good health. Both these lifestyle choices can help you fight the unwelcome symptoms of menopause. In addition, giving up smoking and limiting your alcohol and caffeine intake can have a positive effect on your experience of menopause. See our sections on Diet & Nutrition for more information. ♀

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