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Black Cohosh a Bust for Hot Flashes

Millions of women have taken black cohosh to reduce hot flashes and other menopause-related symptoms, but the most rigorous study of the herbal supplement ever conducted shows no evidence that it works.

What Can You Do?

So what can women who don't want to take hormone therapy do to avoid hot flashes? There is some evidence that certain antidepressants help some. And lifestyle measures can make a big difference, Newton says. These include:

  • Dressing in layers so that you can take off clothing when you feel a hot flash coming on.
  • Keeping ice water or a fan nearby.
  • Sleeping in a cool bedroom.
  • Avoiding triggers, which may include spicy food, alcohol, or hot beverages.

Women who feel they need hormone therapy should take it in the lowest effective dosage for the shortest time necessary, says Sherry Sherman, PhD, of the National Institute on Aging (NIA).

"It may be that hormone therapy is more risky for some women than for others," she tells WebMD. "We would love to be able to identify those women who can safely take estrogen and those who shouldn't."

Those custom compounded hormones that have been the subject of much recent media attention were not evaluated in the new study.

Bioidentical hormones are being touted by some, including actress and author Suzanne Somers, as being safer alternatives to traditional hormone therapy.

But Sherman says if the hormones are as effective as traditional hormones, they probably carry the same risks.

Sherman is director of clinical aging and reproductive hormone research at NIA.

"Just because you take a drug and don't know the risks doesn't mean those risks don't exist," she says.

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