Millions of women spend years searching for a safe way to banish hot flashes, without the potential side effects that may come with hormone treatments or unproven nutritional supplements without success. And several studies have found that black women endure hot flashes for a longer period of time than women from several other ethnic and racial groups.
So it’s great news that Chinese medicine just might offer some relief, at least for some women, according to the findings of new research from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
The study, published in the June issue of Menopause, included 209 women, ages 45 to 60 who had not had a menstrual period for a least three months, but had—on average—at least four hot flashes a day or night-sweat episodes. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
The women were sorted into two groups. The first group received acupuncture treatments for six months. They were then followed and assessed for hot flashes and night sweats as they went without acupuncture for another six months. The second received nothing for the first six months of the study, then received acupuncture for the second six months.
During the acupuncture periods of the study, the women were allowed to receive up to 20 treatments a month from licensed acupuncturists working in their community. They also kept daily diaries of the frequency and severity of their hot flashes and night sweats and were surveyed about their other menopausal symptoms every two months.
The study was conducted using community-based acupuncturists to duplicate real world conditions. After six months, the first group reported an average 36.7 percent decline in frequency of hot flashes compared to baseline measurements. After a year, the benefits persisted, with the group members maintaining an average 29.4 percent reduction from baseline.
The second group reported a 6 percent increase in symptom frequency during the six months when they were not getting acupuncture, but had an average 31 percent reduction in frequency –to the first group after receiving acupuncture during the latter part of the trial.
“Although acupuncture does not work for every woman, our study showed that, on average, acupuncture effectively reduced the frequency of hot flashes and results were maintained for six months after the treatments stopped,” said Nancy Avis, Ph.D., professor of public health sciences at Wake Forest Baptist and lead author of the study, in a university interview.