The 30,000 Mile Tune-Up for Men and Women
As men and women enter their 30s, profound hormonal changes begin to take place in their bodies. If not addressed, these changes can lead to
- Decreased energy and diminished zest for life
- Loss of muscle mass and tone, with a concomitant increase in body fat
- Circulatory problems that can lead to heart disease and decreased libido
- And for men, a steadily enlarging prostate
Hormonal Imbalance in Men and Women
Hormones are the body's chemical messenger system. They tell the various cells of the body what to do -- and when -- by attaching to specific receptor sites on individual cells. Adrenaline, for example, is produced in the adrenal glands and, at times of stress, tells the heart to speed up and blood vessels to narrow. Testosterone and the various estrogens, on the other hand, promote specific sexual characteristics.
Problems occur when the various hormones get out of balance. In previous reports, I've talked extensively about the need for both men and women to supplement with natural progesterone to counter the effects of estrogen dominance triggered by chemical estrogens in the environment. In this report, we will discuss the need for men and women to reestablish the proper levels of testosterone and the adrenal hormones in their bodies. And in connection with these issues, we're going to find that we also naturally end up correcting nitric oxide and 5-alpha-reductase imbalances in the body. Since many of these imbalances start kicking in at around the age of 30, we call this the 30,000 mile tune-up.
The Testosterone Story
A growing body of evidence suggests that free testosterone levels drop as much as 40 percent in men between their early forties and early seventies. And for 10 to 15 percent of all men, those levels will dip below normal even as early as their thirties if they have to deal with stress, depression, personal life changes, or medications. This causes negative changes in body-mass composition and a decrease not only in sexual desire and performance but also in the competitive drive to succeed and accomplish something meaningful in life. In women, excessive estrogen in the body causes a reduction in testosterone levels, which leads to a similar decline in sexual desire and performance and a similar reduction in "life drive." Both men and women need and produce testosterone in their bodies, although in differing amounts. Testosterone (in both men and women) is responsible for:
- Pumping up energy levels
- Driving our desire to attack the day
- Firing the need to succeed
- Bonding us with our mates
- Fueling our sexual desires
- Elevating our levels of sexual satisfaction
- Building muscle
- Burning off fat
- Facilitating better circulation
Unfortunately, once we reach our thirties, available testosterone levels for both men and women begin diminishing with age. However, it's not actual testosterone production that decreases as we age but, rather, the amount of free circulating (bioavailable) testosterone, as more of it gets bound to both albumin and a natural substance called SHBG (sex-hormone-binding globulin). SHBG plays the biggest role in testosterone binding when testosterone levels are low, while albumin plays the dominant role at higher levels.1 The important point is that when testosterone becomes "bound" (particularly to SHBG when levels are already low), it becomes unavailable for use by the body. This means that although total testosterone levels may remain essentially unchanged as you age, only a steadily diminishing portion of that total is actually "available" to enter a cell and activate its receptor. And considering that as we age the amount of SHBG steadily increases, it's easy to see that the level of bioavailable testosterone will only continue to decrease over time.
Oral Contraceptives, SHBG & Long-term Sexual Problems
And for women, the problem is compounded. Most women in modern society have, at some point in their lives, taken birth control pills. But one study showed that contraceptive use was associated with elevated SHBG levels and reduced bioavailable testosterone, even after discontinuing use.2 In fact, women that were taking contraceptives at the time of the study had SHBG levels four times higher than those seen in women with no contraceptive exposure. Even women who had stopped taking the Pill for six months were still two times higher in SBHG than the women who had never taken the Pill. In fact, even earlier research has shown that the increases in SHBG levels associated with oral contraceptive use are associated with a concomitant 40--60 percent decrease in free testosterone levels.3 Keep in mind that, as we've already discussed, lower levels of free testosterone in women are believed to play a major role in weight gain, higher risk of heart attack, as well as sexual problems including decreased sexual desire, decreased arousal, decreased lubrication, and increased sexual pain.
Correcting Hormonal Imbalances in Men and Women
Fortunately, the use of herbs such as saw palmetto, wild oats, and nettles can reverse this process in both men and women, increasing free testosterone levels an astounding 105% on average, as well as repairing and rebuilding adrenal function!!
The Benefits of Correcting Hormonal Imbalances for Men
It is of great importance to have normally balanced free testosterone and estrogen levels for male health and wellness. Levels of these hormones that are too low or too high can have major negative effects on male health and fitness. SHBG does indeed play a role in maintaining this balance. On the one hand, excess estrogen levels in men, for example, are associated with cardiovascular disorders and insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, as well as obesity, strokes, prostate enlargement, male breast enlargement (gynecomastia), and even male breast cancer.4 Sex Hormone Binding Globulin plays a key role in maintaining balance by binding to excess estrogen and making it unavailable for use by the body--with one important exception that we'll talk about later. On the other hand, low levels of estrogen in men are associated with osteoporosis and bone fractures, as well as lowered sex drive. When levels are already low, excess levels of SHBG can exacerbate the problem by binding to desperately needed hormones.
SHBG is a glycoprotein that is synthesized in the liver and released into the bloodstream. It binds to both estrogens and androgens. Specifically, estradiol and testosterone circulate in the bloodstream, and under normal conditions, about 98% of that is bound and unavailable for use by cells--mostly to SHBG and to a lesser extent serum albumin. Again, only a very small fraction of about 1-2% of those estrogens and androgens are normally unbound, or "free," and thus biologically active and able to enter a cell and activate its receptor. Or to put it another way, the range for normal when it comes to unbound testosterone and estradiol is very small. If the body produces too little SHBG or too much testosterone and estradiol, then you have conditions conducive to the development of heart disease, diabetes, and prostate enlargement. On the other hand, if the body produces too much SHBG or too little testosterone and estradiol, then you have conditions associated with osteoporosis and lowered sex drive. In other words, SHBG, if it's present at proper levels, determines the amount of free or bio-available sex hormones for cell use. The problem is that there are a number of conditions that throw those levels out of balance--with excess SHBG and low testosterone being, far and away, the more common occurrence. Some of these conditions include:
- Obesity, which leads to higher estrogen levels
- High blood sugar
- Exposure to chemical estrogens in the environment, which also leads to higher estrogen levels
- Too many estrogens in the diet, such as can be caused by high soy consumption
- Extreme weight loss
- Diets low in protein
- Damage to the liver such as might be caused by heavy consumption of alcohol, excessive diet, or even heavy metal toxicity
- Excessive conversion of testosterone to estrogen
And then there's aging. It doesn't matter if you're doing everything else right (although obesity and high blood sugar seem to exacerbate the effects of aging); simply getting older increases the levels of SHBG in the blood and decreases the availability of free testosterone.5 And the same holds true for women, although to a lesser degree than seen in men.6 Then again, women have far less available testosterone, so a much smaller increase in SHBG levels can actually have a much greater impact on their free testosterone levels. We'll talk more about the circumstances for women in a bit.
Note: when it comes to the prostate, the issue gets a little more complicated--such that you can easily have prostate enlargement no matter which way the hormonal balance shifts. The problem is threefold. First, SHBG binds not only testosterone, but all of the male sex hormones including dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Second, SHBG has an affinity for prostate tissue, which means it tends to concentrate androgenic hormones in the prostate.7 Third, it doesn't stop there. To make matters worse, SHBG binds all of the estrogens, including estradiol (one of the "active" estrogens found in both men and women). Normally, as we've already discussed, this binding serves as a storage system for excess hormones, but in men there is an additional problem. Since SHBG has an affinity for prostate tissue, it, in effect, serves to bind estrogen to cell membranes in the prostate, and estrogen does the same thing to prostate tissue that it does to female breast tissue: it stimulates it. This causes an increase in PSA secretion -- a prime factor in future prostate problems, including cancer. The problem is compounded by DHT, which also gets bound to the prostate and which also stimulates the growth of prostate tissue.
Fortunately, there are herbs that work together to reverse this binding process, thereby reducing the likelihood of prostate problems. In addition, some herbs, such as saw palmetto, have been proven to help the prostate in two additional ways. First, they inhibit the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme, which causes testosterone to be converted into DHT--and it's the DHT form of testosterone in particular that stimulates the growth of prostate tissue along with estradiol. And second, saw palmetto in particular has been proven to exert an anti-inflammatory effect on prostate tissue.
The Benefits of Correcting Hormonal Imbalances for Women
As we've already mentioned, women are far more vulnerable to testosterone level changes than men. The reason is simple: they have so much less testosterone to work with. When even a small amount of their available testosterone gets bound to SHBG, the results are profoundly disruptive:
- Loss of energy
- Loss of will to do anything
- Loss of motivation
- Loss of interest in spouse and loss of libido
- Loss of fulfillment from sex
- Loss of muscle and significant increase in body fat -- a prime reason women start to gain so much weight as they move into their 40's
- A significant increase in the risk of breast cancer -- since bound SHBG is no longer available to lock up excess estrogens.
Regular use of a women's testosterone balancing formula can help to significantly reverse and/or prevent all of the above conditions. In fact, women are likely to feel the benefits of a testosterone balancing formula more profoundly than men.
The Sexual Benefits Associated with Optimizing Testosterone Levels
Let's be clear: more energy, improved muscle to fat ratios, and better health are the primary reasons for optimizing the androgenic hormones in the body--but they're not sex. Sex is the great motivator, and testosterone balancing formulas work naturally in both men and women to enhance sexual desire, sensation, and performance. The effect on human sexual appetite is powerful. Once levels build up in the bloodstream, both men and women can feel a boost in sexual desire. Both men and women can experience an increase in frequency of orgasms while taking wild oats & nettles, while many women experience a dramatic 68% increase in multiple orgasms. Many men also report multiple orgasms while taking a wild oats and nettles combination.
The Adrenal Hormones
In a related problem, by the time we are 30, most of us have seriously depleted our body's ability to respond to stress. Stress is normal to be sure, but the continual stress of modern living -- from high pressure jobs, fighting traffic, worrying about world events, etc. -- keeps us in a constant state of "heightened response" that eventually wipes out our adrenal reserves. The net result ranges from high blood pressure and impaired immune function to chronic fatigue and digestive problems.
The standard response is to increase consumption of artificial stimulants such as caffeine or nicotine or alcohol -- and even overeating. These "solutions" are, in fact, no solution at all. Although they may temporarily mask the symptoms of adrenal exhaustion by providing an artificial "boost," they serve to further exhaust the adrenals leading to irrevocable harm to the body.
Fortunately, there is a class of herbs known as adaptogens that naturally helps to rebuild adrenal function and restore hormonal balance. Foremost among the adaptogens is ginseng. Ginseng has been shown to:
- Increase stamina
- Revitalize the body
- Increase life span
- Counteract chronic fatigue
- Improve resistance to stress
- Improve sexual function in both men and women
- Enhance immune function
Both men's and women's formulas should contain wild crafted organic ginseng or eleuthero root.
The Bottom Line: Balance Hormones
Every single man and woman over 30 should seriously consider putting their bodies on an ongoing hormonal balancing program. In addition to using progesterone crème to help balance progesterone and estrogen levels, both men and women should use testosterone balancing herbal formulations for that 30,000 mile tune-up. (The reference to 30,000 miles is a way of saying that most people need to start thinking of regular tune-ups beginning around the age of 30 since nowadays that's when things start getting out of balance for most people--although as more xenoestrogens keep getting released into the environment and as stress levels keep increasing, that marker will probably keep dropping.)
Now that we have some background, let's take a look at the particular herbs we will find in tune-up formulas for both men and women.
Men's Formula: American ginseng root, Tribulus terrestris seed, Muira puama bark and root, Nettles herb, Catuaba bark, Saw palmetto berry, Damiana herb, Fresh wild oat seed, Turmeric root, Kola nut seed.
Women's Formula: Wild yam root, Damiana herb, Eleuthero root, Licorice root, Sarsaparilla root, Saw palmetto berry, Muira puama bark and root, Fresh wild oat seed, Kola nut, Ginger root, Tribulus terrestris seed, Nettle herb, Mucuna pruriens seed.
As you may have noticed, although the two formulas are different, they share a number of herbs in common--although in different amounts. This should not be too surprising since we've discussed how both sexes need to address many of the same issues such as SHBG and adrenal exhaustion in common. With that said, let's look at the herbs in the two formulas in three different groupings: (1) herbs they share in common, (2) herbs particular to the men's formula, and (3) herb's particular to the women's formula. (Note: as we cite study after study, you're going to find that most of the studies were conducted with men, not women--even when the benefits are applicable to both sexes. Sorry about that, but the simple truth is that medical research, as unfair as it is, has an inherent bias towards men--at least when talking about these herbs).
Herbs for Balancing Hormones Shared in Common
Saw Palmetto Berry (Serenoa Repens)
Some studies show that saw palmetto is as effective in treating symptoms of an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia--BPH) as the drug finasteride without side effects, such as loss of libido. And some studies even suggest that saw palmetto may actually shrink the size of the prostate gland. On the other hand, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that saw palmetto was no better than a placebo in relieving the signs and symptoms of BPH.8 That said, the number of studies that say palmetto works far outnumber the ones that say it doesn't.9 It's also worth noting that other studies have shown that saw palmetto, when used in combination with lycopene and selenium, can reduce prostate enlargement and growth by 43.3% in treated animals.10
But remember, we are not talking about the use of saw palmetto in a prostate formula, but in a hormone balancing formula for both men and women, and here the results are more consistent. For example: one study using a saw palmetto based formula found that supplementation produced significant decreases in serum DHT from baseline and a concomitant increase in total serum testosterone.11 And at higher doses, the formula produced a significant decrease in serum estrogen levels. How does saw palmetto accomplish this? It functions as a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor. 5-alpha reductase is present in small amounts in muscle tissue. It plays the key role in converting testosterone to DHT. If too much testosterone is converted, this decreases lean body tissue, muscle size, muscle strength, and sexual function in both men and women. Conversely, inhibiting the action of 5-alpha-reductase, increases all of those things. It's a big deal. In fact, studies show that saw palmetto inhibits both forms of 5-alpha-reductase with no reduction in the ability of prostate cells to secrete prostate-specific antigen.12, 13, 14, 15 But there's more. In addition to inhibiting the creation of DHT (again, beneficial to both men and women), saw palmetto acts as a phytoestrogen and appears to interfere with the ability of DHT to bind to the androgen receptor, thus relaxing smooth muscle tissue.16, 17 (Note: when we talk about 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors, it is not just about prostate benefits, although many studies focus on that. Controlling 5-alpha-reductase is beneficial to both men and women as it keeps free testosterone at normal levels as we age.)
In addition to all of the benefits that have already been discussed, it is worth mentioning that saw palmetto has been proven to inhibit -- and in some cases even reverse -- both male and female pattern baldness.18
Nettles herb (Urtica dioica)
The lignans (plant-based polyphenolic compounds) found in stinging nettle appear to interfere with the ability of SHBG to bind to androgens and estrogens. A 10% water/alcohol extract can decrease binding of DHT to SHBG by up to 67%.19, 20 The inhibition appears to be dose dependent.21 Even isolated lignans found in nettles extract retain this potency, inhibiting and even displacing DHT from SHGB by 60% (secoisolariciresinol), 73% (enterofuran) and 95% ((-)-3,4-divanillyltetrahydrofuran).22
A large clinical trial of 558 patients showed that stinging nettle extract is able to reduce urinary complications associated with an enlarged prostate.23 Urtica is also able to reduce the size of the prostate without affecting circulating testosterone levels. Similar to saw palmetto, this appears to be due to Urtica's ability to act as a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor, preventing the conversion of testosterone to DHT. Although the effect is less than that seen with the drug finasteride,24 it's important to remember that the reason for its inclusion in this formula is because it inhibits conversion of testosterone to DHT. This keeps free testosterone levels up, which is beneficial to both men and women, while reducing prostate size, which is a bonus for men.25
Tribulus Terrestris Seed
Tribulus terrestris, sometimes called puncture vine or puncture weed, is often used in bodybuilding supplements. The thinking is that it increases testosterone levels and, thereby, increases muscle mass. In the end, neither appears to be true.26 So why include it in these formulas? As it turns out, Tribulus has attained almost legendary status for its ability to enhance male and female sexual virility, but, interestingly, it does this in a way that's totally independent of testosterone. Tribulus increases nitric oxide levels like Viagra--only safer--which leads to improved blood flow to the genitalia.27 The net result is an improved ability to get and maintain an erection.28 And, for the exact same reasons, studies have shown that it is equally effective in dealing with female sexual dysfunction.29 Considering that Tribulus increases blood flow by increasing nitric oxide production, it should not come as a surprise that Tribulus is also beneficial when it comes to heart function. What may be surprising, however, is that its heart benefits go far beyond nitric oxide. Studies have shown that the saponins in Tribulus significantly suppresses the increase in cell proliferation induced by angiotensin II, significantly suppresses the increase in the intracellular production of H2O2 induced by angiotensin II, significantly inhibits the increase in intracellular free Ca(2+) induced by H2O2, and significantly inhibits the increase in phospho-ERK1/2 induced by angiotensin II. Or to put that in English, regular supplementation with Tribulus seems to play a major role in protecting against atherosclerosis.
But there's more, and for that we need to talk briefly about angiotensin II, the effects of which Tribulus seems to counteract across the board. This is a bit technical, but the key points are not. Angiotensin II is derived from the result of the angiotensin-converting enzyme acting on angiotensin I. Angiotensin II is a potent vasoconstrictor (four to eight times more potent that adrenalin). Bottom line: angiotensin II induces arterial constriction and increases both systolic and diastolic blood pressure; Tribulus counteracts that.
That's all positive, but here's where we get to a key reason we include Tribulus in our formula. Angiotensin II acts directly on the adrenal cortex, increasing aldosterone secretion, facilitating norepinephrine/adrenaline release by direct action on the post-ganglionic sympathetic neurons.
What that means is that Tribulus is effective both in rebuilding sexual vitality and in protecting and rebuilding adrenal function.
Muira Puama Bark and Root (Ptychopetalum Olacoides)
Muira puama, also known as potency wood, is an herb that comes from a small bush in the rain forests of Brazil. It has been associated with enhanced erectile function and orgasm in aging men suffering the effects of fatigue or age-related complaints. While muira puama's exact mechanism of action is unknown, it seems most likely that the plant sterols in muira contribute to the increased synthesis of testosterone.30 This is confirmed in several studies. In one study of 262 men suffering from poor sexual desire, more than 62% reported improvements with muira supplementation. In addition, 51% of the men with erectile dysfunction reported that muira was beneficial.31 A second study looked at potential psychological benefits of muira in 100 male volunteers with low sexual energy and strength. In this study, researchers found that 62 of the 94 men who completed the study said their frequency of intercourse increased significantly; 32 out of 46 who reported weakened desire at the beginning of the study reported that their libido had been strengthened; 12 claimed that their morning erections had improved by the end of the study; and 52 out of 94 reported that muira puama helped them to reestablish stability of erection during intercourse.32 And we were able to find one study that showed, as expected, that muira is equally effective in women.33
And as with saw palmetto, muira puama has been shown to inhibit -- and in some cases even reverse -- baldness in both men and women, at least according to the indigenous people who use muira regularly.
Damiana Herb (Turnera Diffusa)
Studies have shown that, like Tribulus, the pro-sexual effects of damiana involve the nitric oxide pathway.34 This can help relax the smooth muscle tissue of the corpus cavernosum, which means better erections and more sexual stimulation for both men and women.35 The corpus cavernosum, by the way, is the mass of erectile tissue forming the bulk of the penis and the clitoris. To put it in simpler terms, damiana functions as an aphrodisiac for both men and women.36, 37 And damiana has a long history of traditional use for menopause, which has since been supported by studies.38
Fresh Wild Oat Seed (Avena Sativa)
There are numerous studies, of course, that have demonstrated the ability of oats to help lower cholesterol and optimize heart health, but those studies are based on whole oats that included soluble, beta glucan rich, oat fiber. They have no relevance to the use of oat seed extract, which has no fiber in it. When you're looking at oat seed extract, you're looking at the active biochemicals in the extract--the avenacosides A and B39--and, unfortunately, there are few studies available on those.
We know that wild oat extract works as a testosterone booster for horses, hence the expression, "Sow your wild oats." But for humans, although there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence, there is little in the way of hard studies. Nevertheless, based on what we know, there is a reasonable explanation for how wild oat extract works. The chemical and molecular structure of the avenacosides closely resembles that of sex hormones. Theoretically then, these phytochemicals bind to SHBG, thereby reducing the amount of SHBG available to bind to actual sex hormones.
And lest you think the benefits of wild oat extract may all be psychosomatic and in your head, you may be right--just not in the way you think. One of the few studies actually done on herbal oat extract, as opposed to the fiber, was to assess whether or not oat extract could improve measures of concentration and attention. It did. The study concluded that oat herb extract may acutely improve attention and concentration and the ability to maintain focus in older adults with differing levels of cognitive status.40
Kola Nut Seed (Cola Nitida)
Kola nuts contain caffeine, kolanin, and theobromine. All three chemicals are stimulants, but the amount contributed by the kola nut seed in these formulas is very low--just enough to improve the mental energy and stimulate the sex drive without whipping the adrenals. Thus, the addition of a small amount of kola nut to the formulas can stimulate and prolong sexual urges and intensity while revitalizing libido both in men and women without exhausting the adrenals.
Herbs Particular to the Men's Hormone Balancing Formula
American Panax Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)
Ginseng is a one of the most widely used adaptogenic herbs. That is to say, it tends to balance out the body--boosting functions where needed and calming the body down where needed. It is a great herb to use to help the body recover from stress. The two main varieties are American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng). They contain essentially the same bioactives called ginsenosides--of which more than 30 have been identified41--some relaxing and some stimulating. The difference is that American and Korean ginseng vary slightly in the ratios of those ingredients. American ginseng tends to contain more of the relaxing Rb1 group of ginsenosides (which we use in the men's formula), whereas Korean ginseng is higher in the more stimulating Rg1 ginsenosides (which we use in the women's formula).
The first recorded use of ginseng for treating erectile dysfunction, reaches back five thousand years to ancient China, where it's still popular as a natural aphrodisiac.42 A number of modern studies confirm its value in that regard.43, 44 How does it work? The ginsenosides, along with all their other beneficial properties, have the ability to increase the synthesis of nitric oxide, which as we discussed with Tribulus and damiana helps relax the smooth muscle tissue of the corpus cavernosum in both men and women.45 In addition, Rg1 has been shown to increase serum testosterone levels as well as cyclic guanosine monophosphate in the corpus cavernosum itself.46, 47, 48 Another study showed that ginseng significantly improved penile rigidity, libido, and satisfaction among men with erectile dysfunction.49
In addition to everything else, ginseng has been shown to work like saw palmetto and inhibit the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme, thus helping to prevent prostate enlargement.50
Catuaba Bark (Erythroxylum)
An infusion of catuaba bark is traditionally used as an aphrodisiac and central nervous system stimulant among the indigenous tribes. Research has shown that catuaba bark may enhance erectile strength by widening blood vessels, allowing more blood to flow to the penis. Studies have also shown that it can increase the brain's sensitivity to dopamine, which makes sex more pleasurable.51
You will find Pygeum Africanum used in many men's formulas as a 5-alpha-redictase inhibitor. In fact, Pygeum bark has become so popular in herbal formulas that the trees from which the bark is harvested have been decimated. In response, Pygeum has been put on the endangered species list -- and there are no environmentally safe farmed sources available. I still like Pygeum as an herb for use in men's formulas, but will not use an herb from a truly endangered species. Instead I've replaced it with Turmeric root until such time as sustainable sources of Pygeum are once again available.
Turmeric Root (Curcuma Longa, Curcuma Mangga)
Turmeric comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant, which has a tough brown skin and a deep orange flesh. Turmeric has long been used as a powerful anti-inflammatory in both the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine. In this formula, its primary purpose is as a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor to protect against prostate enlargement.52, 53 It's also protective against prostate cancer.54, 55
Herb's Particular to the Women's Hormone Balancing Formula
In addition to all of the other benefits you're going to read about, some of the herbs in this formula have also been proven to help alleviate the symptoms of PMS and menopause and to inhibit the incidence of breast cancer.
Wild Yam Root (Dioscorea Villosa)
The rhizomes of D. villosa were discovered to be an important source of diosgenin, a phytoestrogen that acts on the mammary epithelium, as demonstrated in studies of ovariectomized mice. Diosgenin is a phytosteroid, structurally similar to DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone). Studies have shown that serum DHEA level increase significantly within two hours of diosgenin injections.56 As a weak phytoestrogen, wild yam extract also protects against the proliferation of human breast carcinoma MCF-7 cells.57
But the primary reason for including wild yam root in the women's formula is its ability to activate the nitric oxide system. Not only does this improve blood flow in the genitalia, as we've previously discussed, it also protects against tissue damage to the heart muscle in case of a heart attack.58
Note: you may see references to a study that found that D. villosa caused fibrosis in the kidneys and inflammation in livers of rats consuming D. villosa.59 This is not an issue in this formula. In addition to the fact that there is no evidence that Dioscorea has the same effect in humans, the dosage used in this study was massively, massively higher than seen in this formula--equivalent to 54 g (almost 2 oz.) per serving for a 150 lb. woman.
Eleuthero root (Eleutherococcus Senticosus)
Eleutherococcus senticosus is only distantly related to Korean and American ginseng, and it possesses entirely different, unrelated chemical constituents. Nevertheless, it is popularly called Russian or Siberian ginseng. The reason for this is, that despite its differences, Eleutherococcus has the same properties as true ginseng. Like true ginseng, Eleuthero is an adaptogen.
Studies confirm that Eleuthero achieves its beneficial stress-protective effect by regulating homeostasis throughout the body via mechanisms of action associated with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the regulation of key mediators of the stress response such as molecular chaperones, stress-activated c-Jun N-terminal protein kinase, forkhead box O transcription factor, cortisol produced in the adrenal glands, and nitric oxide (NO).60
According to translations of the original Russian research, Siberian Eleuthero has the ability to increase endurance and the capacity to work by improving the ability of the liver and adrenals to regulate hormone levels, dispose of lactic acid, and regulate blood sugar.61 The net result is that Eleuthero helps relieve both physical and mental fatigue, as well as helping to reduce the accumulation of lactic acid in muscle tissue.62
And finally, in a placebo-controlled study, researchers reported supplementation with Eleuthero produced "a drastic increase in the absolute number of immunocompetent cells, with an especially pronounced effect on T lymphocytes." In addition, the researchers observed a general enhancement of the activation state in T-lymphocytes.63
Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza Glabra)
Studies have shown that supplementation with licorice and/or one of its key components, glycyrrhetinic acid, increases both DHEA and testosterone levels.64 The net result is that licorice can lessen symptoms of chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia.65 By enhancing cortisol activity, and improving the function of the adrenal glands, glycyrrhizin helps to increase energy, ease stress, and reduce the symptoms of ailments sensitive to cortisol levels, such as chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. In fact, in the 1800s, licorice extract was used to treat neurasthenia, the condition now known as chronic fatigue syndrome.
As a side benefit, licorice has strong antiviral activity. For example, studies have shown that glycyrrhizin dose dependently inhibits the hepatitis C virus full length viral particle as well as the expression of the virus' core gene both at RNA and protein levels.66 (Note: there have been some studies that have shown that too much glycyrrhizin, as seen with the consistent, extreme overconsumption of true licorice candy, can lead to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems in older adults. However, the amount of glycyrrhizin contained in this formula is far less than the amount found to be problematic.)
Sarsaparilla Root (Similax)
In a 2012 study, sarsaparilla root inhibited prostatic hyperplasia by reducing the conversion of testosterone to DHT, thereby improving the prostate gland morphology group.67 The overall results of this study suggest that sarsaparilla extract is effective at inhibiting prostate enlargement. So what does this have to do with women? It turns out the reason for this benefit is that one of the key saponins in sarsaparilla is diosgenin, the same saponin found in wild yam.
Not surprisingly, then, sarsaparilla has also been found to be useful in managing menopausal symptoms and reducing the risk of osteoporosis.68 In addition, sarsaparilla contains several natural phytosterols (plant steroids) which are chemically similar to the steroid hormones produced by the adrenal glands, which accounts for sarsaparilla's ability to be supportive and restorative to the adrenals, which is a primary reason for its inclusion in this formula.69
Ginger Root (Zingiber Officinale)
An adaptogen for the adrenals, ginger root helps modulate cortisol levels, normalize blood pressure and heart rate, burn fat, and increase energy and metabolic rate. Ginger also stimulates digestive enzyme secretions for proteins and fatty acids. In addition, studies have shown that ethanolic extracts of Z. officinale have significant adaptogenic activity against a variety of biochemical and physiological disturbances in different stress models.70 The bottom line is that ginger root is supportive of adrenal function.
But another benefit for women is that ginger helps moderate heavy menstrual bleeding. As demonstrated in a 2015 study, the level of menstrual blood loss dramatically declined during three intervention cycles in a ginger-receiving group.71 The decrease in blood loss was "significantly more remarkable" than that of participants receiving a placebo.
Mucuna Pruriens Seed
Mucuna pruriens is the world's most concentrated natural source of a compound called L-DOPA. L-DOPA is a direct precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine,72 and dopamine works as one of the best natural human growth hormone (HGH) releasers by stimulating the pituitary gland to increase its production of HGH. High levels throughout life of the body's own natural growth hormone (not hormones from the synthetic injections) is known as a major key for human longevity.
Dopamine also increases the production of other hormones such as testosterone. In that regard, it should be noted that any increase in testosterone triggered by Mucuna pruriens never throws the endocrine system out of balance; Mucuna merely "improves" levels which tend to decrease over time in the average person. Not surprisingly, most of the studies on Mucuna's ability to raise testosterone were done on males,73 but the effect is just as notable in females.
And finally, Mucuna pruriens also functions as an aphrodisiac--one that is very potent at increasing libido for both men and women.74
Final Thoughts on Correcting Hormonal Imbalances in Men and Women
As we've discussed, problems occur when various hormones get out of balance. In this report, we explored what happens when testosterone and the adrenal hormones go awry--which begins happening as men and women enter their early 30's. Correcting these imbalances using the right combination of natural herbs can result in:
- Increased energy and zest for life
- Augmented muscle mass and tone, with a concomitant decrease in body fat
- Improved circulation
- Increased libido and sexual performance
- And for men, although we're not talking about a dedicated prostate formula, a slowing down of prostate tissue growth
Keep in mind that by calling this the 30,000 mile tune-up, we are making an obvious car analogy. Well, we can extend this analogy further by stating that like any car that you want to keep running as it gets older, it's going to require regular, ongoing maintenance and tune-ups to keep running. Take care of your body by eating high quality natural foods, regularly flushing out accumulated toxins, and supplementing with the proper nutraceuticals and herbs on a consistent basis, and, like your car, you should be able to keep your body running trouble free for many years. Get sloppy in any aspect of that care, and you can expect your body's engine to start knocking, your breaks to start squealing, and your tires to go bald and blow out, not to mention having to pay for hugely expensive service repairs such as valve jobs on your heart and cleaning out your fuel injection system. It's your call. You can pay a little bit for regular maintenance by using a men's or women's formula and keep your body purring, or skip the maintenance and have your health insurance pay for regular emergency surgery to keep you going when everything starts breaking down. As the old Fram oil filter ads used to say, "You can pay me now, or you can pay me later."75
(Originally published 01/01/2004. Updated 07/06/2015.)
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