HRT is the most effective treatment of hot flushes, improving symptoms in 80 – 90% of women, says the review. However, the author notes that there are possible health risks associated with HRT, such as links to breast cancer, blood clots, stroke, and cardiovascular problems.
Due to these possible risks, other treatment options may be equally effective, such as behaviour modification and herbal and complementary medicines, says the author.
The review states that as many as 50 - 75% of postmenopausal women use herbal options to treat hot flushes, and of the complementary therapies, soy, red clover and black cohosh have been the most investigated.
Soy is the most common plant containing estrogen, found naturally in food and supplements. Previous research has shown a reduction in hot flush symptoms with soy ranging from 20 - 55%. Red clover, a legume also containing estrogen, and black cohosh, a plant originating from the eastern United States and Canada, have also been reported to ease postmenopausal symptoms.
The author of the review recommends these herbal treatments as there are no significant adverse side effects associated with them, as long as they are used in women who do not have a personal history of breast cancer, are not at high risk for breast cancer, and are not taking tamoxifen. However, the review notes that herbal medicines are not regulated in many countries, and therefore the contents of a given product may vary from sample to sample.