For the millions of women worldwide who sweat through the night, year-round, soy and red clover may offer hope, according to a recent review of 62 studies published in JAMA.
"Hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness are very common symptoms of menopause, affecting up to 80 percent of menopausal women," senior author Dr. Taulant Muka of Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, told Reuters.
Muka and his team culled data from 62 randomized controlled trials of plant-based alternative therapies and their effects on hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness: 36 addressed phytoestrogens— estrogen-like molecules from plants such as soy or red clover—while 16 tested black cohosh and 10 tested other medicinal herbs. The trials included more than 6,600 women ranging in age from 18 to 75 years old, who were followed for between four weeks and two years.
"Our results indicate that some plant-based therapies, such as soy and red clover, can be beneficial in reducing menopausal symptoms, but some others not (e.g. black cohosh and Chinese medicinal herbs)," Muka told Reuters Health.
Phytoestrogens were associated with fewer hot flashes during the day and less vaginal dryness but did nothing for night sweats. Some of the studies linked black cohosh to less severe overall symptoms but not specifically to hot flashes or night sweats. Chinese medicinal herbs were not associated with a decrease in menopause symptoms, according to the results.
The authors noted that the long-term effect of these therapies is not clear. "Healthy lifestyle changes form the backbone for easing the discomfort related to menopausal symptoms and keeping you healthy in the long run," Muka told Reuters. In fact, a recent Australian study linked eating a Mediterranean diet to fewer hot flashes and night sweats among menopausal women.