Are you familiar with the feeling of dread you get when you’re body starts to feel warm and flush? Because you know what comes next- the discomfort of the unrelenting heat from another nasty hot flash. Or maybe you’re not even aware that it’s happening, in which case maybe you dread waking up to find your clothes and sheets absolutely soaked in sweat, and then endure horrible chills while everything dries off?
Hot flashes and night sweats are some of the frustrating things to get relief from, since your body basically decided your fate when it mistakenly told your brain you were overheating (a very simplified way of putting it.) While hormones contribute greatly to hot flashes-hence why they are so common during menopause-other things can cause them as well. I’ve experienced them as side effects from medications, but stress and even some food and drinks can bring them on.
While identifying the cause is important to ultimately remedying your hot flashes and/or night sweats, these quick relief recipes will help cool you down right away.
Tip: Keep a fan on you if you suffer night sweats. Also direct a fan at yourself or stand in front of the A.C. for an extra cooldown when using the spray.
1. Plain Ol’ Peppermint Spray
It seems so plain. Peppermint is refreshing for obvious reasons-it helps cool you almost instantly and the coolness lasts for a while. It’s one of the best, most immediate, forms of relief from a hot flash in my opinion.
How does it work? All thanks to menthol. Our body can tell when there is something hot or cold, but peppermint isn’t cold temperature wise at all. So why does it cool us down?
A protein in menthol activates the same receptor on nerve endings that also sense cold . So it triggers a message to the brain that says “you’re feeling cold.” And your nervous system responds accordingly. So, really, this isn’t such a plain spray. It’s a very clever one, one that will help you cool down fast. It doesn’t actually change your temperature, but that makes no difference in the relief it will bring.
Some people who use this recipe opt not to use the neutral carrier oil for fear of it leaving a stain, and use only witch hazel. I have not had any issues, but it is an option (albeit not the one I’d recommend.) The witch hazel speeds evaporation and many people find it adds its own touch of cool freshness so it’s added for that more than as a carrier. Alcohol can dilute essential oils, but the alcohol in witch hazel is not of a high enough proof to do the job. If you opt to leave out the carrier oil, be sure to test a spritz on a small patch of skin before using.
You will need…
-6 tablespoons of witch hazel
-1-6 drops peppermint oil
-1 tablespoon of grapeseed (or another neutral oil)
First, always shake well before using! Also, start with only a drop or two of peppermint at a time and test your tolerance. It’s strong stuff, especially if you don’t add in a “true” carrier that dilutes it.
Put the oils and witch hazel in a mister bottle. Ideally one that is dark glass and has the spritzer top to it! Shake well and store in cool place out of direct sunlight. Apply as needed, and for maximum effect, have a fan going. Shake before every use.
If you find the spray drying to your skin, apply some high quality, natural aloe after using it.
2. Eucalyptus Cold Compress
Eucalyptus provides similar benefits to peppermint, but on a lesser scale, and with much less intensity. This doesn’t mean it’s not effective, but if you’re sensitive to the strong smell of peppermint, eucalyptus is a great option (and can be used as a substitute in recipe above.) Keep this cooling compress on hand so you don’t need to wait for relief by freezing them (but put them in a bag so your whole freezer doesn’t smell like eucalyptus!) or just whip it up on the spot.
You will need…
-A medium sized bowl
-2 tablespoons of grapeseed or any other neutral oil
-1-4 drops of eucalyptus essential oil
-A clean towel about dishcloth sized
Mix your oils together well and pour them into your bowl. Toss in a generous amount of ice, and top it off with cold water. Let it chill for a good 3-5 minutes, than soak the towel in the water-make sure to really swirl it around to churn up the essential oils. Wring it out and place it across your forehead, the back of your neck, on your chest-or really any place that you feel needs it most. Below is a tip for finding the best cooling spots (aka pulse points.) If the towel feels like it’s no longer cooling you down, simply dunk it again and repeat!
3. Chill Your Feet (and check your pulse)
This is something that I generally avoid-my hands and feet tend to be chilly enough as it is. But in the midst of a hot flash, a quick cool down is what matters most to me. There are pulse points on the tops of your feet (this is the dorsalis pedis artery), and on the sides of your ankles, just below the ankle bone (your posterior tibial artery). Because the blood is so close to the surface of the skin, it cools down quicker. This cooler blood then gets pumped throughout the body, eventually lowering you overall core temperature.
When you start to feel the flush coming on, plunging your feet into a bowl of icy cold up the ankles can help you fend off the heat.
You will need…
-A bowl or shallow tub for your feet
-Cold water, preferably with ice
-A clean soft towel
Fill your tub with cold water and ice, and soak your feet. You can use the cool compress (above) simultaneously on any of your other pulse points as well. This makes for a super effective combo!
What’s up with the pulse?
The places where you can feel your pulse most strongly, pulse points, are areas where your blood vessels are close to the surface of the skin. Because the blood is so close, it can also be cooled quickly. This cooler blood then gets pumped back through your body, lowering your overall body temperature. These points can be palpitated anywhere there is an artery that can be compressed near the surface of the body . Get familiar with your pulse, and you’ll know the quickest ways to cooling off. Some common ones to keep in mind are-
Brachial artery-on the inside of your elbow
Femoral artery-at the groin
Radial artery-at the wrist
Carotid artery-at the neck
Play around and see what works best for you. What works for one person may not work for you, and vice versa. Get to know your body, get familiar with what may trigger your hot flashes (e.g. spicy foods or stress), and add in prevention as much as possible. And I’ll re-iterate once again that a fan when combined with the peppermint spray truly is wonderful.
Why No Clary Sage?
It’s the essential oil most often touted as helping to “balance hormones.” It is said to be estrogenic, that is, it acts like estrogen or possibly induces the body to make more, thus balancing out your estrogen levels and lessening the hot flashes. Clary sage has a component called sclareol, which is structured in a similar way to estrogen. The thinking goes that because it has a similar structure, sclareol has estrogenic action. But action simply means that it has the ability to bind to an estrogen receptor. What it does there is a whole other story. It could possibly even block and decrease estrogen, which wouldn’t be helpful at all. There just aren’t enough specific studies that document how it actually acts for me to say it’s truly balancing your hormones.
However! That being said, that doesn’t mean clary sage isn’t helpful for dealing with PMS/cramps/hot flashes. Many people find it extremely helpful and get great relief from it-so if you want to use it, go for it! Just know that whatever mechanism brings about the relief probably isn’t from “balancing hormones” that you’ll see blaring everywhere. There have been studies that show it reduces cortisol levels when inhaled, which would lower stress, which can contribute to things like hot flashes. It’s a lovely oil and effective for many people, so again, don’t hold back!
(Read this next: Red Raspberry Leaf Tea for Women’s Health)
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