Qualified Medical Herbalist Anita Ralph discusses natural ways to control night sweats. Well-tolerated, safe and highly effective, can medicinal herbs and food plants provide a natural route to a calmer, cooler night’s sleep?
Night sweats are a common symptom for women and can start several years before menopause itself. They may come and go, sometimes around a period, or in phases and can disappear just as quickly for months at a time. Although they are primarily associated with a reduction in oestrogen levels, they can also be related to excessive stress coping hormones. Once you have eliminated other causes such as infections or inflammation, then the focus should be on addressing the stress factors in your life.
Perhaps you have never slept well?
Even if you were a good sleep person before the night sweats started, taking herbs that relax and are traditionally used to help sleep can often help reduce night sweats. There are so many herbs to choose from, and none of them are addictive or habit forming, so it is likely to be a case of finding out which herbs your body responds to the best.
Herbs that help
Lemon balm, Lavender, and Lime blossom These herbs have all become more well known in recent years as relaxing, soothing and pleasant herbs to take either as a tea or in a capsule before bed. All three herbs can be taken alongside conventional medication, and pose no risk if used over long periods of time.
Also known as melissa or bee balm, lemon balm is a common garden herb in the same family as mint. It has a gorgeous lemony scent, and tastes ‘green’ and not unlike a lemon tea. It has demonstrated benefits for people with IBS symptoms, as well as aiding relaxation.
Another mint family herb, lavender and has a long history as a relaxing sleep aid. It too has digestive benefits and can relieve indigestion for some people.
This medicine comes from the sweet scented flowers of the European lime or linden tree – not the citrus fruit as you might expect. It’s a popular tea or infusion in many European countries where is it still an official remedy for sleeplessness in children or adults. It’s really useful, as it is also a remedy for sweating due to its soothing effect on the blood vessels.
Can stress have an impact?
It is worth thinking about how stressed you feel during the daytime, if you are experiencing night sweats. High stress hormone levels in the day can lead to it just being too difficult to relax sufficiently at night to switch of the stress hormones at night. Check you are not eating too late, that you are drinking enough water, and that you take regular breaks from sitting down, or work, or running around generally. Breathe! It can also be helpful to focus on creating a calming bedtime routine, and perhaps exploring a relaxation practice such as yoga nidra.
Can a change in diet help?
Try switching over to herb teas during the daytime. Great cooling herbs include mint, fennel, chamomile and nettle – many are available in teabags. You can drink herb teas hot, or even cold with ice and a slice! If herb tea is really not for you – then help yourself drink enough cool water during the day – add a slice of cucumber, a sliced strawberry or citrus fruit to give your tap water a fresh cool taste. There are many products sold aimed at treating hot flushes and night sweats, but the causes for each of us are often unique to us. So, if over-the-counter remedies have not worked for you, a consultation with a qualified medical herbalist may help show you why, and how to stop them.
What to expect if you consult a medical herbalist
They will make a personal assessment of your unique situation, and prescribe stronger herbal medicines in carefully prepared mixtures that are more likely to suit your personal circumstances. A medical herbalist can keep track of your blood pressure or other health factors that may be impacting on the severity of your symptoms.
Next steps and handy resources
Herbs and natural medicines – though generally very safe and well tolerated – can be incredibly powerful, so it’s really important to research and choose your practitioner carefully. Look for:
- Membership of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists
- Membership of the College of Practitioners of Phytotherapy
- A Masters degree in herbal medicine
Did you know? A fully qualified medical herbalist trains for 4 years – and studies the same medical sciences as a medical doctor.
About Anita Ralph
Anita harnesses the powerful medicine of plants and foods to provide a natural alternative – or complement – to pharmaceutical medicines. She runs her own busy herbal consultancy, inspires the next generation as a teacher of herbal medicine, and works alongside our lead gynaecologist to offer a holistic approach to women’s healthcare through the Gynae Expert practice. A practicing medical herbalist since 1990, Anita is a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists and the College of Practitioners of Phytotherapy and has a masters degree in herbal medicine. Read Anita’s full biography here