The mental image of a cool mountain spring, a waterfall, rain shower or a snowy day combined with hypnotic relaxation therapy may help relieve hot flashes. A Baylor University study demonstrated that mentally constructing scenes with low temperatures reduced hot flashes dramatically among a group of breast cancer survivors. An earlier Baylor study found that using hypnotic relaxation therapy reduced hot flashes by 68 percent. The most recent study suggested that "cool" mental images the women participants generated themselves prior to their hypnotherapy sessions proved effective. The most common themes were associated with water, wind, snow, trees, cool air or mountains "The finding may indicate that areas of the brain activated by imagery may be identical to those activated by actual perceived events," said study leader Gary Elkins, Ph.D., professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor. The study was published in the July 2010 issue of the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis.
My take? Hot flashes can make life miserable for some menopausal women. While the most reliable treatment to address symptoms is estrogen replacement, the therapy carries significant risks, and is not appropriate for everyone. Hypnosis is a powerful mind/body tool that doesn’t present the risks of drug treatment. Among other benefits, it has been proven effective in warming cold hands and feet in patients with Raynaud's disease, so I'm not surprised to learn that it can also help relieve hot flashes in combination with cool imagery.