Hot flashes are the signature symptom of menopause. Some women are barely troubled by them while others are incapacitated. Most women in menopause would like to find a way to ease hot flashes, though many are not enthusiastic about the idea of taking hormone replacement therapy (estrogen and progesterone). If you have been seeking natural approaches to quell these symptoms, you might want to consider chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus). One reader reports that she found it very helpful.
Chasteberry to Ease Hot Flashes:
Q. I am a pharmacist but also see benefits from alternative medicine. When I hit menopause, I had trouble with hot flashes.
I’ve been seeing a nurse-midwife for my gynecological care since my last child was born. She recommended chasteberry (Vitex), a natural herbal product. I was to take 500 mg a day. Within a few days, I had no more problems with hot flashes. I can no longer find the 500 dose mg, but Nature’s Way Vitex Fruit 400 mg capsules once daily work just fine.
What Does the Research Say About Chasteberry for Hot Flashes?
A. Vitex agnus-castus (chasteberry) has been used traditionally to treat women’s reproductive problems, particularly premenstrual syndrome. A systematic review of randomized controlled trials showed that women can use this herb to ease symptoms of PMS and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (Archives of Women’s Mental Health, Dec. 2017).
An Italian study of menopausal women suffering with hot flashes and night sweats found that a combination of Vitex with magnolia and soy isoflavones alleviated both symptoms (Nutrients, Feb. 13, 2017). One recent study tested a combination of Nigella sativa (black seed) and Vitex agnus-castus with citalopram (Celexa) against a combination of citalopram with placebo (Gynecological Endocrinology, Aug. 21, 2018). The combination with herbs was superior to citalopram plus placebo for suppressing hot flashes.
Other Natural Approaches to Ease Hot Flashes:
Chasteberry is not the only herb that women have used to relieve the symptoms of menopause. For a time, black cohosh was extremely popular. A study that compared this herbal extract to estrogen plus progesterone for control of hot flashes concluded that black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) is safe and effective. Of course, some people may experience side effects, as one reader did:
Q. Recently you discussed black cohosh for hot flashes. I used it when I had that problem, but my liver enzymes became elevated and I needed further tests.
A. We have heard from other readers that black cohosh can sometimes affect the liver, so it is wise for women to have their liver enzymes monitored if they decide to take this herb for hot flashes. There have been cases of liver failure that have led to liver transplantation after the use of black cohosh (BMJ Case Reports, July 5, 2013; Case Reports in Gastrointestinal Medicine, June 30, 2014).
Consequently, you may want to consider other options for your symptoms. Other herbs used for easing hot flashes include Pycnogenol (Journal of Reproductive Medicine, Jan-Feb 2013), maca root (Maturitas, Feb., 2014) and rhapontic rhubarb, sold as Estrovera (Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, Nov-Dec. 2008). Postmarketing data on Estrovera suggest that the plant extract from Rheum rhaponticum is generally safe (Integrative Medicine, June 2016).