Hormonal imbalance is more widespread than you think. Anyone feeling fatigued, anxious, experiencing unwarranted weight gain, insomnia, low sex drive, adult acne, among other symptoms, may be suffering from hormonal imbalance. But with some lifestyle adjustments and the help of a few powerful herbs, even hormonal disorders like hypo-/ hyper-thyroidism and PCOS can be effectively managed.
While the thyme and paprika in your pantry cabinet may boast health benefits, those aren’t the kind of herbs I’m talking about. Many people find success in using a powerful class of herbs known as ‘adaptogens’. Adaptogens help the body adapt to stress and normalize its functions. They are highly prized for their medicinal uses and are especially apt at encouraging the restoration of balance in the body. Here are 5 powerful adaptogenic herbs that can be used to promote hormonal balance:
Maca. Maca root is perhaps the most common in the class of adaptogens. This traditional Andean superfood is known to support the body’s ability to adapt to stress, improve energy levels, improve metabolism, and balance sex hormones. For this reason, it is especially important to menopausal women in mitigating the symptoms of their hormonal changes. It has also been shown to suppress follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), increase HDL (good) cholesterol, improve anxiety and depression, and address sexual dysfunction.
Ashwagandha. Studies have found ashwagandha to be supportive of adrenal function and to stimulate thyroid function. Those suffering thyroid dysfunction like Hashimotos or Graves disease can benefit greatly from this herb, as it has the potential to both stimulate a sluggish thyroid as well as suppress overactive thyroid. Adrenal fatigue is also another cause of hormonal imbalance, as constant stress pulls all body functions out of balance, including the stress and sex hormones. Studies have shown that ashwagandha improves cortisol levels, which supports restoring balance to those with adrenal fatigue.
Saw Palmetto. For women, saw palmetto is used to reduce excess androgen levels. It impedes the conversion of testosterone into its most active form, DHT, and thereby can improve conditions such as hormonal acne, irregular periods, excess hair growth, et cetera. For men, this herb has been extensively used to promote prostate health and reduce hair loss by balancing testosterone levels. Some studies have shown that saw palmetto may even help to shrink an enlarged prostate gland, although research is not yet definitive. Since saw palmetto can interact with prostate medications, be sure to talk to your doctor first.
Chasteberry. Also known as Agnus Castus or Vitex, chasteberry has been shown to improve PMS symtoms in women by stimulating the pituitary gland to take actions that lead to an increase in progesterone levels. In fact, it is often considered a natural source of progesterone. Chasteberry can be hugely helpful in normalizing menstrual cycles, as well as hormonal acne in both sexes. Its anti-androgen actions may even support the suppression of prostate cancer in men.
Black Cohosh. Considered a phytoestrogen, black cohosh can be used to improve estrogen metabolism in the body. In a study of over 700 menopausal women, 49 percent who took black cohosh experienced a complete relief of symptoms (hot flashes, depression, headache, heart palpitations, sweating, et cetera). And more experienced significant improve in their symptoms. As a phytoestrogen that bears similarity to estradiol, some researchers believe it can actually help to prevent hormonal cancers (breast, ovarian, endometrial), although more research is needed.
It should go without saying, ALWAYS consult a professional before embarking on any new herbal regimen, especially if you are already on medication (including birth control pills), as some these powerful herbs have the potential to interact.
As a woman who has dealt with the symptoms of PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) for years, I can attest to the power of herbs when it comes to supporting your body’s healing process. I have used both saw palmetto and maca myself, along with other herbs, nutrients and lifestyle alterations, and have seen significant improvement in my condition. Do not underestimate the power of diet and lifestyle in your health. Give your body the tools, space and time it needs, and it will begin to thrive.