If you’d like to find a natural way to chill hot flashes, to get a decent night’s sleep (finally!) and to ease other menopause symptoms, one answer is as close as your tea kettle. Many herbs that mitigate bothersome menopause symptoms contain active ingredients that are water-soluble—so they lend themselves to brewing in a tea.
With tea remedies for menopause symptoms, you’ll be using pleasant and safe beverages as your medicine. In my practice as a naturopathic doctor, I often prescribe teas to my patients who are dealing with menopause symptoms. Sometimes they are enough on their own to help with symptoms. Other times, they are a wonderful addition to a comprehensive plan that may include supplements.
Here are some of my favorite teas for menopause symptoms. One caveat: Some herbal teas can interact with medications, so if you are on a prescription medication, check in with your doctor before you start brewing. It’s also important to check if you have a medical condition, such as a liver disorder. And because several of these teas affect hormones, including estrogen, it’s particularly important to check with your doctor if you are taking hormone therapy.
HOLLY LUCILLE’S TOP TEAS FOR MENOPAUSE SYMPTOMS
For hot flashes: Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa, Cimicifuga racemosa)
- What it is: A perennial plant related to the buttercup and native to North America.
- What it does: Puts the chill on hot flashes. Although studies looking at the effectiveness of black cohosh on alleviating hot flashes have had mixed results, many women report that it has helped them. In my experience with my patients, it’s often very helpful.
- How to use: Drink from one to three cups on days when your symptoms are bothering you.
- Safety: Black cohosh is not estrogenic, as once believed, so it’s safe for all women—even those with hormone-sensitive cancer such as certain breast cancers. Black cohosh has a good safety record, according to The North American Menopause Society.
For hot flashes and anxiety: Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus)
- What it is: The fruit of the chaste tree, which is native to central Asia and the Mediterranean region.
- What it does: Helps boost levels of progesterone, a naturally calming hormone. It’s wonderful especially in perimenopause, when progesterone levels start to decrease. It’s helpful for a myriad of symptoms including hot flashes and moodiness.
- How to use: Drink one to three cups on days when your symptoms are bothering you.
- Safety: This tea has a very good safety record. Because it may affect hormones, however, check with your doctor if you have a hormone-sensitive cancer. Also, because it affects the brain chemical dopamine, avoid it if you’re on a medication that affects dopamine such as one for Parkinson’s disease.
For mood swings and brain fog: Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)
- What it is: The oldest living species of tree. The active ingredient is found in the leaf.
- What it does: Improves blood flow, makes blood less “sticky” and is an antioxidant. It has been shown to improve circulation and enhance memory in people with Alzheimer’s disease. But you don’t have to have dementia to benefit from ginkgo! In my practice, I often recommend it to help women whose menopause symptoms include mood swings, irritableness and poor concentration, aka menopausal “brain fog.”
- How to use: Drink one to three cups on days when you’re feeling a little brain foggy. If menopause-related cognitive issues are really bothering you, though, I would take an extract (standardized to contain 24% to 32% flavonoids and 6% to 12% terpenoids) as a supplement rather than a tea. Many studies that have shown cognitive benefits used 120 mg to 240 mg a day, in divided doses.
- Safety: Ginkgo is a blood thinner, so talk to your doctor if you are taking a prescription blood thinner before drinking gingko tea or using it as a supplement. People with diabetes should also check with their doctors because gingko may reduce blood sugar levels.
For low libido: Maca root (Lepidium meyenii)
- What it is: A relative of the radish that grows in the Andes Mountains in central Peru. It’s sometimes called Peruvian ginseng, although it is unrelated to “real” ginseng.
- What it does: Reboot a subpar sex life! Research has shown that maca can improve mood and increase sexual desire. Exactly how isn’t known, but it is rich in plant sterols, which may affect hormones, including estrogen. In my practice, I’ve found that maca root is one of the best teas to increase libido in women before and after menopause. It may also help ease hot flashes.
- How to use: Start drinking up to three cups a day when you start to have perimenopausal symptoms—and continue drinking it regularly as long as you are symptomatic.
- Safety: Maca root tea is safe to drink for most women. Because it may affect estrogen, though, talk to your doctor if you have a hormone-sensitive condition such as certain kinds of breast cancer.
THE HELPERS: LICORICE AND GINGER
Ginger tea and licorice tea each have properties that make them helpful for menopausal women. Ginger supports adrenal function, so it’s great if you’re feeling exhausted—it gives you energy. Licorice relieves pain and soothes indigestion, heartburn, gastritis and ulcerative colitis. It’s fine to have a single-ingredient tea with either one, but they are also great ingredients in a tea blend. Here’s why: They add sweetness and flavor to make almost any other tea taste better. So look for tea blends that contain some licorice or ginger or both—or if you’re making your own teas, try adding a little bit to make your own blends. You can grate a little fresh ginger into your tea or sprinkle in some dried ginger powder. The same with licorice—use fresh grated root or sprinkle on some powdered licorice root. (Note: Large amounts of licorice, such as half an ounce of dried root daily taken for more than two or three weeks, can increase blood pressure and interfere with some medications. The tiny amount in tea blends is safer, but check with your doctor if you have high blood pressure or take prescription medications.)
You don’t need to use both ginger and licorice root—either one is good.
BEFORE YOU BREW
Whether you drink prepackaged herbal teas or brew your own from fresh or dried herbs—either is fine—you’ll need to drink two or three cups a day of any given tea for best results. If you’re having severe hot flashes, one cup of black cohosh tea won’t do the job! More tips…
- If hot flashes are bothering you, avoid tea blends that contain caffeine, since it can exacerbate flashes.
- Buy organic. One online store I recommend is Mountain Rose Herbs.
- To brew loose herbs, use about one teaspoon of herb for each pint (16 ounces) of water.
- Ice it! Particularly if you’re concerned about hot flashes, a steaming hot cup of tea may be the last thing you need. So brew your tea in advance, chill it in the fridge and serve it over ice—and use it to chill out at a moment’s notice.