Hormones are chemical signaling substances produced by various endocrine glands to regulate our biological functions. They are complex molecules, some with antagonistic pairs with opposite effects. For example, insulin is secreted by pancreatic beta cells and another glucagon hormone secreted by pancreatic alpha cells. They form an antagonistic couple.
When the blood sugar level is high after a meal, insulin helps the sugar to absorb into the cells and liver, thereby lowering blood sugar levels. When the glucose levels get too low in the blood, glucagon is activated. It converts stored glycogen in the liver into glucose and releases it into the bloodstream.
Similarly, the hormone ghrelin – called hunger hormone for obvious reasons – has an antagonistic counterpart in the hormone leptin associated with satiety. If we have been without food for quite some time, the Ghrin levels increase, which makes us hungry. When we eat, the levels of ghrelin decrease and leptin levels increase and suppress hunger. As you can see, our endocrine system works on biofeedback that helps maintain a balance between the various hormones.
Hypophysis, thyroid and adrenal glands, ovaries in women and testes in men all secrete a number of hormones with different actions. If they are all perfectly balanced, we will enjoy good health. But various factors, such as diseases, changes in the atmosphere and in the body, changes in the diet, etc., can lead to imbalances that cause unwanted symptoms and disorders. Because the actions of hormones are still not fully understood, it is very difficult to treat hormonal imbalances in the traditional way.
But people have observed over time that certain herbs have a hormone effect on hormones, although it is not fully known how they work. Such herbs usually have a beneficial effect on the general health and well-being of a person. They are often called adaptogens because they help the body to adapt to changes in the environment, as well as metabolic changes in the body. The following are some of the best herbs for hormone balancing.
This herb, commonly known as milk vetch, is used in Chinese medicine to treat a wide range of health problems, including heart disease, liver problems, upper respiratory tract infections and asthma. It is now often used for its immune-stimulating effect and its anti-aging effect. The latter is attributed to the compound cycloastragenol in the herb that activates the enzyme telomerase that protects the DNA of cells during cell division.
The hormone-balancing property of Astragalus helps regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Astragalus has a protective effect on pancreatic beta cells that secrete insulin. It counteracts insulin resistance whereby insulin receptors are progressively made insensitive due to high levels of circulating hormone. Insulin resistance is a major cause of type 2 diabetes.
2. Ashwagandha ( Withania somnifera )
Ashwagandha is a popular herb in the Indian Ayurveda system. The broad effect of the endocrine system makes it an excellent adaptogen. Ashwagandha has a balancing effect on the adrenal glands and the thyroid gland. People with hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are both benefited by taking Ashwagandha extract.
Ashwagandha can reduce stress, improve blood circulation and prevent premature aging. It is considered an aphrodisiac and used to treat erectile dysfunction in men, but the ability to relieve stress is believed to be behind this effect. A similar effect on women is attributed to an increased blood flow to the reproductive organs.
As the generic name “somnifera” suggests, Ashwagandha improves sleep. It has a rejuvenating effect on older people and helps them regain their physical strength and vitality. It also improves memory.
3. Maca root ( Lepidium meyenii)
The root of this rapeseed plant belonging to the cabbage family is called Peruvian ginseng after its original location. However, it is not a relative of real ginseng. The very nutritious carrot is used as a vegetable and is consumed in the Andean kitchen. But what made him popular is the energy-enhancing effect that is thought to have given strength and endurance to the Inca warriors of yore.
Athletes are now using powdered Maca root to increase their endurance. The hormone balancing effect of this root offers additional benefits such as stress relief.
Maca root has plant hormones that give women special benefits, such as relieving premenstrual syndrome and menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats.
4. American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)
American ginseng is a true ginseng, although it has a milder and more controlled action compared to the Chinese ginseng. It supports the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, thereby maintaining the correct hormonal balance. However, it does not overestimate the endocrine system.
American ginseng works by strengthening the immune system and relieving stress. It improves digestion, absorption and assimilation of nutrients from the diet, which means a long way in building strength and endurance and improving overall health. It also has special benefits for male reproductive health because it improves sexual drive and performance.
5. Saw palmetto ( Serenoa repens)
Saw Palmetto berry is used in herbal medicine to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia. The use of this herb can help increase sperm count and reduce chronic fatigue. It relieves stress and also improves immune function.
Saw Palmetto has a balancing effect on the endocrine system as a whole, but is mainly known for its beneficial effect on both the male and the female reproductive system. Since both men and women have the same sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone, but in different amounts, it is not difficult to see how the same herb can be useful for improving reproductive function and libido in both sexes.
6. Tribulus ( Tribulus terrestris )
This common weed that grows on the ground is known as a goat’s head and a leak due to its spiky seeds. Generally considered an aphrodisiac, the extract from this plant is used in Indian and Chinese medicine systems for the treatment of male reproductive problems, including a low sperm count. Instead of increasing the production of testosterone or other male sex hormones, it is believed that Tribulus stimulates androgen receptors in the brain, resulting in better utilization of these hormones.
A component of Tribulus, known as Protodioscin, can help increase DHEA levels in men, which can help with erectile dysfunction and increase fertility. Studies have shown that it can be useful in the treatment of infertility in men due to antisperm antibodies produced by the body.
7. Epimedium (Epimedium spp.)
The herb Epimedium or horny goat herb is widely used in Chinese medicine to treat a variety of health issues such as osteoporosis, coronary heart disease, hypertension, memory loss, joint pain etc. This can be expected from adaptogenic herbs with different mechanisms of action aimed at improving of general health. It has also been shown to be effective for the treatment of irregular menstrual periods in women and sexual dysfunction.
The active ingredient in Epimedium is identified as a flavonoid, called icariin, which has a relaxing effect on smooth muscle tissue. It is thought to mimic the testosterone hormone, and improve sexual performance. The general name Horny Goat Weed comes from this.
8. Chasteberry ( Vitex agnus castus )
This Mediterranean shrub has a long history of use for female reproductive health. As the common name suggests, the leaf extract of chaste berries was previously used to temper libido and to keep women clean. Chasteberry extract, however, appears to have the opposite effect, probably due to concentration differences. Similarly, an extract with a lower concentration of prolactin levels increases, while a decrease in hormone levels is observed with a higher dose.
Chasteberry extract works on the pituitary gland to regulate various hormones such as estrogen, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone and prolactin. It is now being used to treat a wide range of health issues arising from female hormonal imbalances, including premenstrual syndrome, cyclic pain in the breast, polycystic ovarian disease, fibroids, menopausal problems, etc.
9. Suma root ( Pfaffia paniculata )
Suma is a South American species that is commonly called Brazilian Ginseng, although it is not related to the real ginseng. The root extract of this herb is known to normalize endocrine function, improve immunity and improve strength and performance. It is his native country, Suma is known as a ‘cure all’, and it is used to treat a large number of ailments in addition to being used as a general tonic and sedative.
Suma is also known as ‘Russian secret’ because Russian athletes used an ergogenic substance from the Suma plant to improve sports performance. It was found to be free of the side effects associated with many other anabolic steroids. Although it remained a well-kept secret of the Russians for quite some time, this complex is now used everywhere by athletes. Other uses of this herb include improving memory, stimulating appetite and keeping blood sugar levels in balance.
10. Black cohosh ( Actaea racemosa )
Black cohosh has been used by Native Americans to treat many disorders related to female fertility. Studies have shown that certain components in black silver can act as estrogen in the brain, and they can have a similar effect on the reproductive system. In fact, many menopausal women find black cohosh highly beneficial in reducing symptoms associated with estrogen deficiency.
The hormone-balancing effect of this herbal medicine is partly attributed to its estrogenic properties, but the glycosides in the herb can also have a regulatory function. Black cohosh has an anti-inflammatory effect thanks to isoferulinic acids that help relieve pain and swelling associated with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Note: Always consult a qualified health professional before using herbs