Four natural remedies that science says actually work.
Half a decade of hot flashes, mood swings, and night sweats are enough to make anyone try any remedy in the book—the hard-to-find herbs and the workout classes that might be described as “a little out there” and the Eat Pray Love of it all. Menopause symptoms can range from simply uncomfortable to totally debilitating, leading some to opt for hormone therapy (the most effective treatment for hot flashes), low-dose antidepressants, or other medication.
For less intense symptoms—or for additional relief—there are some natural solutions that can make menopause a little less miserable. The good news: The ones proven by science don’t require a trip to that fancy holistic pharmacy.
Aromatherapy as an add-on
Hot flashes and general sleep disturbances are some of the most common effects of menopause—but they can be treated with an ingredient that’s extremely common, too: Lavender essential oil. Studies have shown that, when tested against a placebo, lavender essential oil, used as an aromatherapeutic treatment successfully reduced both of these symptoms. That doesn’t mean it can totally get rid of the night sweats—so use it more as a supplemental treatment than your sole go-to.
Stress-easing sun salutations
Additional research has pointed to yoga as a potential short-term treatment for menopause-induced mood swings. Although it’s hard to pin down exact, empirical benefits due to the wide variations in different yoga practices, there is moderate evidence for its emotional psychological benefits. More generally, regular, moderate exercise among those experiencing menopause results in a higher quality of life, studies have shown. A couple of rounds of cat and cow can’t hurt.
Serving up soy
Soy (especially in processed-but-not-too-processed foods like tofu, tempeh, and miso) has been shown to be effective at decreasing cholesterol and blood pressure in perimenopausal women. Although soy products contain estrogen, they’re not a definitive substitute for the hormone therapy one might undergo to combat hot flashes. Your tofu stir fry or miso soup is about a third as effective as pure estrogen—but prolonged, daily consumption could help treat symptoms in the long run.
Vitamin E-asy does it
There are plenty of herbs and supplements (red clover, black cohosh, evening primrose oil) that have been recommended here or there for treating menopause—but most of them don’t have significant enough scientific backing to prove their effectiveness. What does have good backing is surprisingly simple: Vitamin E. Clinical studies have shown that simply taking a vitamin E capsule daily can reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes.