Hormones are signaling molecules produced by glands for regulating our physiological and behavioral functions. They are very complex molecules with diverse chemical structures. Some of them are even antagonistic – they have completely opposite effects. For example, glucagon and insulin are an antagonistic pair. While glucagon promotes the release of glucose into the bloodstream by converting the stored glycogen (a process known as signal transduction), insulin helps the removal of glucose from the bloodstream for storage as glycogen (a process known as signal transduction).
Another example of opposite hormones is the antagonistic combination of ghrelin (also known as the hunger hormone) and leptin (the hormone associated with satiety). When we haven’t eaten for a while, the levels of ghrelin increase, which makes us hungry. When we eat, the ghrelin levels are reducing while the leptin levels are increasing, which leads to decreased hunger.
The job of our endocrine system is to help keep the balance between the different hormones. Thyroid, pituitary, and adrenal glands, ovaries in women and testes in men all secrete hormones with different actions. When our hormones are balanced, we are in perfect physical and mental condition. However, many factors like diseases, diet changes, or changes in the atmosphere may lead to hormonal imbalances that may cause undesirable symptoms and disorders. So, it is crucial to do everything you can in order to keep your hormones balanced. For that purpose, we will remind you of some herbs that have a balancing effect on hormones. These herbs are called adaptogens due to their well-known positive influence on human’s health.
Here is a list of the best herbs for balancing hormones.
1. Astragalus (Milk Vetch)
Milk Vetch is an irreplaceable part of Chinese Medicine due to its ability to treat many health conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, liver problems, respiratory infections, and asthma. It is also used for its immunity-boosting properties action as well as its anti-aging effect (that occur as a result of a compound called cycloastragenol, which activates the enzyme telomerase that protects the DNA of cells during cell division).
Astragalus helps the regulation of blood pressure and blood sugar levels. It has a protective effect on the beta cells of the pancreas that secretes insulin. Astralagus counteracts insulin resistance where the receptors of insulin become progressively desensitized to it because of high levels of circulating hormone (as you probably know – Insulin resistance is the biggest cause of type 2 diabetes).
2. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Ashwagandha is a very popular herb in the Ayurveda medicine due to its ability to help balance both adrenal and thyroid gland. The extract of ashwagandha is especially helpful for people who suffer from hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
This adaptogenic herb can improve blood circulation, reduce stress, and prevent premature aging. It is also used to treat erectile dysfunction in men and to increase blood flow to the reproductive organs in women. Ashwagandha is also helpful for older people because it improves memory.
3. Maca root (Lepidium meyenii)
For centuries, indigenous people of the Andes have used Maca Root (also called Peruvian ginseng) in the treatment of many medical conditions. Nowadays, this root is very popular due to its energy boosting properties. Many professional athletes use powdered Maca to increase stamina. The hormone balancing effect of Maca root also provides many other benefits such as stress relief. It also contains plant hormones that offer many health benefits to women such as relieving premenstrual syndrome and menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats.
4. American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)
American ginseng supports the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, helping keep proper hormonal balance. It strengthens the immune system, improves digestion, increases nutrient absorption, and relieving stress. This plant is also very beneficial for male reproductive health as a result of its ability to improve sexual drive and performance.
5. Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens)
In herbal medicine, the berry of Saw Palmetto is used in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia. This herb can also help increase sperm count, reduce chronic fatigue, relieve stress, and boost the immune system.
Saw Palmetto has a positive effect on the whole endocrine system, but it is especially beneficial for both male and female reproductive system.
6. Tribulus (Tribulus terrestris)
For many years, Indian and Chinese medicine systems have used the extract of Tribulus to treat male reproductive problems such as low sperm count. Rather than increasing the production of testosterone or other male sex hormones, Tribulus stimulates the androgen receptors in the brain, leading to better use of these hormones.
Some studies suggest that an active component in Tribulus called Protodioscin can increase DHEA levels in men, which can help with erectile dysfunction and increase fertility.
7. Epimedium (Epimedium spp.)
Chinese medicine uses Epimedium to treat many health issues such as osteoporosis, hypertension, coronary heart disease, memory loss, and joint pain. Some studies even suggest that it can be effective in the treatment of irregular periods in women and sexual dysfunction.
Epimedium has an active ingredient called icariin. This flavonoid relaxes the muscles and mimics the hormone testosterone, which leads to improved sexual performance.
8. Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus)
Chasteberry extract acts on the pituitary gland by regulating many kinds of hormones such as estrogen, prolactin follicle, luteinizing hormone, and stimulating hormone (FSH). It can be used in the treatment of many health problems that occur as a result of hormonal imbalance in women, including premenstrual syndrome, polycystic ovary disease, cyclical breast pain, uterine fibroids, and menopausal problems.
9. Suma root (Pfaffia paniculata)
The root extract of Suma root is known for its ability to normalize endocrine function, improve the immune system, and increase strength. Among its many names, Suma is also known as ‘Russian Secret’ because Russian athletes have used an extracted ergogenic compound from this plant (called ecdysterone) to improve their performances after it was discovered that it has a stronger anabolic effect than Dianabol and methandrostenolone (both of which are anabolic steroids). Other uses of Suma Root include balancing blood sugar levels, improving memory, and stimulating appetite.
10. Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa)
For centuries, Native Americans have used Black cohosh in the treatment of many conditions linked to female fertility. According to some studies, certain components in black cohosh act like estrogen in the brain, and may have a similar effect on the reproductive system. In fact, many menopausal women use black cohosh to reduce symptoms associated with lack of estrogen. This plant can also relieve pain and swelling associated with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis thanks to its high content of isoferulic acids.