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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2012, Article ID 579321, 9 pages
Review Article

Acupuncture as Treatment of Hot Flashes and the Possible Role of Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide

1Division of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, Linköping University, 581 85 Linköping, Sweden
2Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in Linköping, County Council of Östergötland, 581 85 Linköping, Sweden

Received 1 May 2011; Accepted 29 August 2011

Academic Editor: Fengxia Liang

Copyright © 2012 Anna-Clara E. Spetz Holm et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The mechanisms behind hot flashes in menopausal women are not fully understood. The flashes in women are probably preceded by and actually initiated by a sudden downward shift in the set point for the core body temperature in the thermoregulatory center that is affected by sex steroids, β-endorphins, and other central neurotransmitters. Treatments that influence these factors may be expected to reduce hot flashes. Since therapy with sex steroids for hot flashes has appeared to cause a number of side effects and risks and women with hot flashes and breast cancer as well as men with prostate cancer and hot flashes are prevented from sex steroid therapy there is a great need for alternative therapies. Acupuncture affecting the opioid system has been suggested as an alternative treatment option for hot flashes in menopausal women and castrated men. The heat loss during hot flashes may be mediated by the potent vasodilator and sweat gland activator calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) the concentration of which increases in plasma during flashes in menopausal women and, according to one study, in castrated men with flushes. There is also evidence for connections between the opioid system and the release of CGRP. In this paper we discuss acupuncture as a treatment alternative for hot flashes and the role of CGRP in this context.