Hormones determine our moods and energy levels. These four herbs can help those hormones to determine good things for us.
Whether we’ve just hit puberty, or are nearing the later years of our life, hormones have a huge say in how we operate in the world around us. They can make us feel happy or sad, energetic or lethargic, clear or confused, and a host of other emotions. Their effect on our mood, and therefore our life, is undeniable. Although the intricacies of how hormones affect both male and females is a vastly complex subject, let’s look at a few well-known and studied herbs shown to be beneficial for hormone balancing or boosting for both sexes respectively.
A now well-known Peruvian root vegetable, maca has been extensively researched for its hormone modulating effects on both men and women. Unlike other herbs or hormone replacement therapy, maca works much like an adaptogen by stimulating the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, “thereby improving the function of all the endocrine glands,” as one study states. It has been shown to boost energy, boost libido, aid thyroid function, and even improve mood!
For women, maca is useful during peri and post menopause alike, and has even shown some promise in boosting fertility. It is also frequently used to decrease PMS symptoms and ease the transition into “that time of the month.” Moreover, it has been shown to be especially beneficial for the adrenal glands and pancreas, both of which can contribute to the bigger picture of hormone function.
For the gentlemen reading, maca can be a great alternative to mainstream approaches to increasing libido and improving sexual function. With a neutral effect on testosterone, maca is a safe choice for heating things up and overcoming sexual dysfunction.
Vitex or Chasteberry
Primarily known and used for treating premenstrual syndrome (PMS induced mood swings have met their match!), as well as promoting fertility for those looking to conceive, vitex or chasteberry is one of the top herbs when it comes to female hormone balancing. In fact, it has been said that vitex was one of Hippocrates’, the father of modern medicine, favorite herbs and was used in a variety of circumstances, especially postpartum.
Other traditional uses that have been studied or observed are increasing lactation for nursing mothers, decreasing breast tenderness in fibrocystic breast disease, and promoting menstrual regularity. It is often prescribed and used regularly in Germany and across Europe for the treatment of many reproductive and endocrine conditions and is gaining popularity in the U.S. as herbalism is becoming a valid alternative in such cases.
And hold on, men. Vitex is not just for women. In preliminary studies, it has shown promise for treating enlarged prostate and has even been suggested to be used in indications of cancer. Proceed with caution and proper guidance from your doctor; however, as vitex has ant androgenic effects and may be contraindicated for certain individuals. Because the effect of vitex is cumulative, it has been recommended that the herb must be taken consistently for at least one month, but ideally four, in order to see a marked improvement.
One of the top herbs in Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is gaining popularity in treating hormone imbalance, and for good reason. Not only does this adaptogenic Indian herb have positive effects on the reproductive systems of men and women, it is also a widely recognized and researched stress reliever and mood balancer via its positive effects on the brain. It has been used successfully as an aphrodisiac for both men and women, an androgen boosting (when levels are low) tool for men, and a reproductive blood flow increaser for women. It is often referred to as the “Indian ginseng,” and is said to restore “strength and vigor” as the meaning of its name “strength of stallions” implies. With its anti-depressive and anti-fatigue effects, ashwagandha is a perfect choice for those struggling with hormone imbalance. It has a strong positive effect on the mood, the mind, and the endocrine system as a whole. It is also used in cases of adrenal fatigue and other conditions which may play into the precarious balance of hormones. As a fertility treatment, it has been shown to increase sperm count in men, and to regulate the thyroid hormone which can, in turn, assist with balancing a woman’s delicate hormone system and increase the ability to conceive.
With no adverse side effects, ashwagandha is a safe and well-studied choice to remedy a number of conditions of unbalanced hormones. Widely suggested by practitioners today, it is one of the most easily accessible herbal hormone balancers to date.
Another adaptogenic herb, eleuthero or Siberian ginseng, is often used for treating adrenal fatigue which in turn facilitates proper hormone functioning. It is no mystery that stress wreaks havoc on the body system as a whole, especially that of the endocrine system, causing a rise in cortisol and a slew of other negative outcomes. Eleuthero’s adaptogenic properties help combat the rise of these stress hormones and bring the endocrine system back to homeostatic functioning. With less stress, mood and energy levels are positively affected, thereby facilitating proper hormone balance, which is an added bonus of supplementing with this amazing herb. Also, eleuthero positively affects mood by balancing “brain hormones” such as dopamine, serotonin, and the like, truly making it a happy hormone booster. As far as the reproductive system is concerned, eleuthero has been shown to be useful in treating fatigue-induced infertility, as well as increasing sperm count and as a treatment for impotence in men. It is also a common treatment for balancing the menstrual cycle, especially when dysfunction is partly related to stress or fatigue. It is easily taken in tincture form, or, as is popular these days, in a “ginseng shot,” which can be found in many health stores today. Since it does not have a stimulating effect on the body, eleuthero is generally safe for most people; however, it can cause agitation and increased heart rate in some, so, as always, consult your doctor if you have any questions before taking.
There you have it! Four herbs that can work wonders for your endocrine system and get you back to a happy place in your hormone health. Check with your physician to see if any of these may be right for you. And remember, balanced hormones are happy hormones!