Hot flushes and night sweats are common symptoms of menopause. Eighty percent of menopausal women experience them. Many women feel embarrassed about hot flushes, thinking everyone else can see them perspiring, but it's not usually as obvious to everyone else as it may feel to you.
Why do hot flushes happen?
Why, exactly, hot flushes occur is a matter of debate, but it's thought to be related to the changes in oestrogen levels that happen during the menopause. These affect the hypothalamus, which is responsible for temperature regulation in your body. The hormonal changes trick the brain into thinking you're too hot, so your body responds by trying to cool down. You experience dilating blood vessels, a raised heart-rate, increasing circulation, and perspiration at some of the most inconvenient times! Sound familiar? Don't worry: you're in good company!
Hot flushes can be difficult to avoid completely, but it's possible to reduce their frequency by keeping stress levels to a minimum and avoiding triggers such as caffeine, alcohol, cigarette smoke and spicy foods. Wear light, loose clothing, natural fibres, and try to stay cool. Keep your bedroom airy, use fans if it helps, and breathe deeply for 15 minutes once or twice a day, which might alleviate symptoms.
How sage can help?
The herb sage, just like the plant grown in gardens across the UK, has shown astonishing results in studies, and does, in some women, have the power to eliminate hot flushes altogether. It has a reputation for alleviating sinus infections, improving cognitive performance, and for use as a general tonic that benefits the nervous system and enhances the mind. However, its most common use is for symptoms of the menopause.
In a survey undertaken by the National Institute of Medical Herbalists, most respondents said they used sage for the menopause, particularly to alleviate hot flushes and night sweats.
In 2011, researchers Bommer, Klein and Suter conducted a study to assess the safety and efficacy of sage as an herbal tonic to reduce the frequency and severity of menopausal hot flushes. Seventy-one menopausal women were assessed across eight treatment centres in Switzerland. They had an average age of approximately 56, and had all been menopausal for at least a year. They were experiencing five or more hot flushes daily and were treated with a daily tablet of fresh sage leaves. The treatment continued for eight weeks.
Half the women experienced a significant decrease in hot flush symptoms after four weeks, and 64% benefitted from the fresh sage preparation after persevering with the treatment for eight weeks. On average, the hot flushes decreased every week, and incidences of very severe flushes were eliminated completely. The study showed a decrease in both the frequency and severity of hot flushes among those taking fresh sage daily. The results strongly support its use in a clinical setting to alleviate the menopausal symptoms of hot flushes and night sweats.
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In 1998, researchers Leo, Lanzetta, Cazzavacca, and Morgante from Italy, studied the efficacy of a specially prepared sage and alfalfa extract to treat menopausal hot flushes experienced by 30 women. The results were remarkable. Hot flushes and night sweats disappeared completely in two thirds of those taking part, and all participants saw an improvement in their symptoms after three months of persevering with the treatment.
According to Herb Wisdom, sage reduces sweating whether it's given as a dried extract or as an infusion. "Research has suggested that the presence of volatile oil in sage is largely responsible for most of its therapeutic properties," they say.
The studies in this area are quite limited, but the consensus of opinion is that sage's beneficial effects on hot flushes and night sweats are considerable.