Hormones are chemical messengers of the body. Although they are produced by the endocrine glands, they travel through the bloodstream to different sites in the body and regulate the functions of tissues and organs. They affect many of the body processes including metabolism and reproduction.
“Too much” or “too little” of any of these hormones can cause a hormonal imbalance. Even slight alterations in their levels can affect our body processes adversely. It is quite normal for many of these hormone levels to vary throughout your lifetime or according to different cycles of the body.
Hormonal changes typically occur during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. However, at times hormone levels can be affected due to other reasons like faulty production by the endocrine glands.
In addition to the above, factors like advancing age, poor diet, too much or too little exercise, adrenal exhaustion and stress, lack of sleep, birth control pills, metabolic disorders like diabetes, thyroidism, eating disorders, tumors, certain medications, toxins and chemicals like pesticides contribute to hormonal imbalance.
Hormones play a key role in our health; hence an imbalance in any of these hormones can trigger a cascade of symptoms. Some common symptoms include anxiety, irritability, mood swings, insomnia, fatigue, weight problems, excess hair growth or hair loss, migraines, low sex drive, oily or dry skin, acne, food cravings, premenstrual syndrome, infertility, and others. More often than not, hormonal imbalance is caused by variations in estrogen levels and is more common in females than in males.
As hormones impact metabolic functions, paying attention to sensations like your hunger, energy, and cravings can give you a faint clue as to whether your hormones are in balance.
You can use natural home remedies and herbs to alleviate symptoms and even help restore your hormonal balance. It’s also important to consult your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Ask for your doctor’s advice before taking any herbal remedy or starting a supplement regimen, especially if you have a hormone-sensitive condition, such as uterine fibroids, endometriosis, breast cancer, uterine cancer or ovarian cancer.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for hormonal imbalance.
1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in producing hormones, hence they are highly beneficial in balancing them.
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids (having two or more than two double bonds in the chemical structure). They are known as PUFA in short. These fatty acids along with omega-6 fatty acids are called essential fatty acids as they cannot be synthesized by the body.
We get our dietary requirement of PUFAs from plants and seafood such as nuts (especially walnuts), sesame, flax seeds, soya bean oil, marine oily fishes like tuna, sardine, and salmon. Two essential omega fatty acids for the body are EPA (eicosapentanoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
They are particularly beneficial for women as they help reduce menstrual cramps and menopausal symptoms. Due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, omega-3 fatty acids also have a profound effect on your health.
- Some good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are oily fish, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, soy extracts, winter squash, and olive oil. So, load up on these foods to treat your hormonal imbalance naturally.
- You can also take omega-3 supplements after consulting your doctor. The general dosage is 500 mg per day.
2. Maca Root
Maca root is an endocrine adaptogen that boosts normal hormone production. This South American native plant has been used as an aphrodisiac and for enhancing fertility both for animals and humans in traditional medicine.
Maca is rich in protein, unsaturated fatty acids like linoleic and oleic acids, and minerals such as iron, manganese, copper, potassium, zinc, and calcium. It contains more than 18 different amino acids which also includes seven essential amino acids. Being a good source of nutrition, fiber, and sterols, it improves your overall health and energy and vitality.
A few studies conducted in animal models show that Maca extracts can improve the fertility of female rats and enhance the sexual performance of male rats (3).
Gelatinized organic maca is reported to be a natural alternative to hormone replacement therapy for preventing or combating imbalances in early-postmenopausal women (4). It is also said to help reverse hypothyroidism by certain herbalists.
- Mix ¼ teaspoon of maca root powder in a cup of water, juice, herbal tea, smoothie, or yogurt.
- Consume it daily, gradually increasing the amount of maca root up to 1 or 2 teaspoons over a few weeks.
- Continue at least for a few months.
3. Chaste Tree Berry
Chasteberry, also called vitex, is a great hormonal tonic for women. The berries of this native plant of the Mediterranean and Asia has been used for treating gynecological problems since ancient Greco times. It is said to regulate ovulation and promote fertility.
A study published in the Journal of Women’s Health and Gender-based Medicine in 2000 involving 1634 patients suffering from premenstrual syndrome reported that 93% of the patients reported relief from symptoms of PMS when treated with chaste tree berry extracts for a three menstrual cycle period.
Evidence from various studies points to the fact that chaste tree berries have properties similar to that of dopamine, a very important chemical synthesized by the nerve cells, for signaling messages to other nerve cells. This property enables it to inhibit prolactin, a hormone associated with breast soreness; fibrocystic breast syndrome, water retention, and PMS linked depression. Thus it regulates and mimics the calming effect of progesterone (5).
So, chaste tree berry is considered excellent for reducing premenstrual syndrome and treating other menstrual problems. This natural anti-androgen can also lower testosterone levels (6).
- Take a 400 to 500 mg powder capsule daily for at least for a few months or until you are satisfied with the results.
- You can also take this herb in tincture form. Consult your doctor for proper dosage.
Note: Chaste tree berry may increase menstrual flow in some women. Do not take this herb during pregnancy, or when taking dopamine-related medications or hormone replacements.
4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a prehormone that plays a very important role in bone formation and regulating calcium levels in the blood. Besides this, research evidence points to the role of vitamin D deficiency in autoimmune disorders like systemic lupus, inflammatory bowel disorder, multiple sclerosis, etc. (7).
Vitamin D is also involved in the normal functioning of the parathyroid gland–which regulates calcium levels of the body (8). Studies also suggest that vitamin D affects your pituitary gland, which produces a range of hormones (9). Vitamin D also plays an important role in the reproductive function.
The results of a study published in 2000 revealed that vitamin D plays a vital part in the synthesis of estrogen within the body (10). It can help relieve symptoms associated with low estrogen levels. It also affects your weight and appetite. A few minutes of sun exposure daily can be of great help to the body for making vitamin D to sustain your hormones.
● You can also eat foods like oily fish, cod liver oil, milk and eggs that are rich in vitamin D.
● Another option is to take vitamin D supplements. For proper dosage, consult your doctor.
Engaging in physical activity is a great way to balance your hormones as it affects hormone production. It also lowers cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone that blocks estrogen and is detrimental to your overall health. Exercise also has a very powerful influence on the production of growth hormone (11).
Regular exercise triggers the release of brain chemicals that improve your mood. This is helpful as hormonal imbalances often cause mood swings. Needless to say, it will also help you maintain a healthy weight. Avoid workouts longer than 40 minutes though, as they may increase your cortisol levels.
If exercise is too fatiguing, consider getting a cortisol test from your doctor. Salivary testing is the easiest and most accurate way to test this hormone.
- Go swimming, walking, jogging or do other light exercises for 20 to 30 minutes daily or at least a few times a week.
- You can also try yoga and relaxation exercises to stimulate hormone functions and reduce stress.
6. Coconut Oil
Extra-virgin coconut oil is another effective natural home remedy for balancing hormones.
It is particularly useful for those suffering from hypothyroidism as its medium-chain fatty acids promote healthy thyroid functioning. Tender coconut water is rich in phytoestrogens and other compounds similar to sex hormones.
These compounds have potential application in hormone replacement therapy, for reducing the risk of dementia and wound healing in postmenopausal women as documented in animal studies (12).
Coconut oil also helps stabilize blood sugar levels, boost immunity, speed up your metabolism and promote weight loss. Contrary to the popular misconception, it is not bad for your heart. In fact, it may protect against heart disease.
Eat 2 to 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin coconut oil daily for at least a few months. It can be used very well in cooking as it does not produce harmful chemicals on heating due to its high smoke point.
Fenugreek seeds contain a phytoestrogen called diosgenin that is believed to have an estrogenic effect. Herbalists often recommend this herb for increasing lactation and natural breast enlargement.
The amino acid 4-hydroxyisoleucine, a constituent of fenugreek seeds stimulates the beta cells of the pancreas to secrete insulin. The estrogenic activity of fenugreek constituent inhibits lipid levels indirectly via the thyroid hormone (13).
It also helps improve glucose metabolism, thus proving useful for diabetics to lower blood sugar levels and glucose metabolic disorders associated with obesity.
- Steep 1 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds in a cup of hot water for about 15 minutes. Strain and drink this tea 2 or 3 times a day. You can also add some honey and lemon juice for taste.
- Another option is to take this herb in supplement form. For proper dosage, consult your doctor. It can also be eaten in baked goods or other foods as desired.
If fenugreek does not suit you, consider taking fennel in the same way.
8. Holy Basil
Holy basil is another excellent remedy for balancing hormones as it works as a natural adaptogen. Basil essential oil contains active ingredients like eugenol, euginal, ursolic acid, carvacrol, linalool etc.
It helps lower and stabilize cortisol levels; high levels of cortisol adversely affect the thyroid gland, ovaries, and pancreas.
In 2006, a study published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology reported that alcoholic extracts of basil could remarkably reduce the blood sugar levels and increase the insulin in diabetic rat models (14).
Basil extracts were also found to be antithyroidic in nature in another study (15).
Plus, holy basil improves mental clarity and elevates the mood (16).
- Simply eat a few holy basil leaves daily for at least a few months.
- You can also drink basil tea prepared by boiling a few holy basil leaves in a cup of water for a few minutes. Strain and drink this tea daily, up to 3 cups.
- Another option is to take this herb in supplement form, 250 to 500 mg on a daily basis. Consult your doctor first.
Caution: Do not take if pregnant or attempting to become pregnant as it can possibly impede fetal implantation.
9. Asian Ginseng
Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng), also known as Korean red ginseng, helps regulate the adrenal gland that produces stress hormones.
It acts as an adaptogen to keep a proper hormonal balance in your body. It contains ginsenosides, major constituents of ginseng, which is structurally similar to the female sex hormone estradiol. Because of this similarity, it mimics estrogen by activating estrogen receptors (17).
This herb should be taken in cycles. So, take 200 to 400 mg of Asian ginseng extract (standardized to contain at least 4 percent ginsenosides) daily for 2 to 3 weeks, take a break for 3 weeks and resume again. Continue for up to 3 months.
Note: This herb may interact with certain medications, increase the effects of stimulants and lower blood sugar. Lactating women and pregnant women–during the first trimester, should avoid ginseng. Please consult your doctor before taking it.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a popular Ayurvedic herb that helps increase your energy and reduce stress and fatigue.
Also, it helps restore your body’s hormonal balance as it acts as an adaptogen and reduces cortisol. It increases the production of DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), testosterone and androgens. Plus, it helps improve thyroid function.
Ashwagandha root extracts have been reported to stimulate thyroidal activity in experimental animals in a study published in 1998 (20). Ashwagandha extracts were able to remarkably decrease chronic stress-related symptoms such as ulcers, sexual behavior, and learning disabilities in animal models of chronic stress (21).
Take 300 mg of ashwagandha twice daily for a few months. Consult your doctor first.
- Eat healthy fats like those present in avocados and grass-fed butter.
- Choose organic foods over non-organic.
- Include fiber and phytonutrient-rich foods like cabbage, kale, broccoli and brussels sprouts in your diet. Phytonutrients enhance the detoxification capacity of the liver, thus flushing out toxins from the body.
- When dealing with menopausal symptoms, eat fermented soy products. Soy, however, is not good for those suffering from underactive thyroid.
- Eliminate refined carbohydrates from your diet by avoiding processed and packaged foods.
- Limit your caffeine intake as it increases cortisol levels that slow down your thyroid function.
- Manage your stress and get proper sleep.
- Steer clear of synthetic hormones, such as birth control pills.
- Reduce exposure to environmental toxins, especially by limiting the use of plastic.
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