Essential Herbs For Female Hormone Balance
Haven’t been feeling your best lately? If you’ve been achy, fatigued, dizzy, gaining weight, and in general just feeling miserable and cannot account for the reason, it could be that you are suffering from female hormone imbalance.
I am a veteran of female hormone imbalance and all that comes with it—so I have been there. It’s no fun at all.
In fact, in my case, it’s a chronic issue. But it used to be a lot worse, and I have found some great herbal treatments to help me out.
So there is hope! In this article, I will explain exactly what female hormone imbalance is, what causes it, and what some of the common symptoms are, then I will share a list of herbal remedies with you to help you get back to feeling better.
What is Female Hormone Balance?
In order to understand what female hormone imbalance is, you need to know what female hormone balance is. Hormonal health is complicated for everyone, but it is particularly complex if you are female.
Every month during your childbearing years, you have menstrual cycles (except of course if you get pregnant), and when I say “every month,” I really mean “roughly every month on average.”
Actually, there can be quite a bit of variation. Some cycles are much longer and some are much shorter. Indeed, there is no single “normal”—there is just whatever is normal and functional for you.
Your menstrual cycles are regulated by a set of female hormones. These female hormones in turn exist in a complex set of relationships both with each other and with other hormones.
Here are the important female hormones you need to know about:
During the menstrual cycle, levels of estrogen ramp up in the follicular phase.
This female sex hormone rises to its highest level during the luteal phase following ovulation. Its primary function is to assist with making the uterus lining suitable for implantation.
While present in higher quantities in men, some testosterone is necessary in women as well.
This is a hormone involved with producing progesterone. During the early stages of pregnancy, the level doubles approximately every three days.
This stands for “follicle stimulating hormone.” It is involved with releasing the egg during ovulation.
As you might guess from the name, this hormone promotes milk production.
Other important hormones in your body include thyroid hormones, insulin, and more. You can see a comprehensive list here.
When the levels of these hormones are balanced both on their own and in relation to one another, your body functions at its best.
When they are produced in disproportionate quantities, bodily processes are not well-regulated.
You then end up feeling miserable.
Still not sure why? Here are just a few of the bodily processes which are regulated or influenced by your hormones:
- Your menstrual cycles
- Pain response
- Muscle mass and function
- Bone health
- Energy levels
- Cell growth
- Glucose processing
- Circadian rhythm
- Blood pressure
You can see how hormonal imbalance could lead to a slew of nasty symptoms.
Key Point: Your female hormones
Female Hormone Imbalance Causes
Wondering how your hormones came to be so out of whack? There seem to be many potential causes of hormone imbalance. Unfortunately, getting to the bottom of things can be incredibly difficult (or night impossible, in many cases).
Here are a few possible reasons your hormones could be imbalanced:
• Nutritional Issues
If you have a nutritional deficiency, that could set off a chain reaction of sorts. For example, imagine you are iron deficient. This could reduce dopamine
• Neurotransmitter Problems
As just mentioned, neurotransmitters play a complex role in hormonal health as well. An issue involving them could result in issues with hormones.
• Health Conditions
Sometimes there is an underlying medical condition responsible for a hormone imbalance, such as a thyroid condition or PCOS.
• Xenoestrogens and Phytoestrogens
These are estrogenic substances from our environments. They may be present in food, plastics, herbicides, solvents and so on.
• Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Hormone replacement therapy can throw off the natural balance of hormones, resulting in problems. Sometimes these issues may be worse than whatever the HRT was originally being used to treat. On that note, simply taking birth control as birth control can lead to hormone imbalance. Birth control is a form of HRT.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can throw off the natural balance of hormones, resulting in problems. Sometimes these issues may be worse than whatever the HRT was originally being used to treat. On that note, simply taking birth control as birth control can lead to hormone imbalance. Birth control is a form of HRT.
You can talk to a doctor about your hormonal imbalance (more on that in a bit)—but do not expect to get simple answers. Indeed, you may very well get no answers.
Now I want to answer a few common questions about hormone imbalance and certain symptoms you may be experiencing.
Key Point: There are a variety of possible causes for hormonal imbalance. It is wise to try and rule out other health conditions, but it can be very hard to get to the ultimate root of the problem.
Can Female Hormone Imbalance Cause Weight Gain?
If your numbers on the scale have been steadily increasing or fluctuating up and down, you may wonder if hormone imbalance could be the culprit. I can give you a definite “yes” here.
For one thing, this symptom is commonly associated with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
PCOS may happen when there are high levels of androgens and/or insulin. As a result, you may experience symptoms like excess hair growth (hirsutism), acne, irregular menstrual cycles, and weight gain.
You do not necessarily need to have PCOS to experience hormonal weight gain though. I can testify to this through my own experiences.
When I was 22, I abruptly put on about 55 pounds over the course of just several months. I developed pronounced varicose veins as a result.
I had not radically changed my diet, and I was actually exercising more than I had before.
I was also experiencing a number of other symptoms, including:
- Crippling, relentless head pain
- Sleep disorders, including sleep paralysis, night terrors and sleepwalking
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Dizziness and faintness
- Excess hair growth
- Muscle pain
- Night sweats
- Skipping menstrual cycles (in fact, I skipped about three in a row while gaining all that weight)
Attempts to lose weight were met with failure. I felt lucky when I could maintain it.
Thankfully, the weight problem did eventually go away, along with some of the other symptoms. The worst ones reduced significantly with treatment, but are still with me.
Doctors tested me for everything from lupus to lyme disease to pregnancy—but not one ever mentioned hormonal imbalance.
In hindsight, that seems pretty weird considering how off my cycles were.
But then, I have learned that doctors find hormones pretty mysterious—and as a result, are not very helpful in identifying or treating hormone-related disorders.
Key Point: An imbalance in female hormones can lead to weight gain.
Can Female Hormone Imbalance Cause Depression?
If you are wondering if an imbalance in female hormones can lead to depression, here too I can easily answer “yes.”
First of all, you may be depressed by your other symptoms. Pain and discomfort can really hamper (or destroy) quality of life.
Secondly, it has been found that around 10% of women in perimenopause develop depression.
So hormones themselves can contribute directly to changes in mood.
Key Point: Female hormone imbalance may lead to depression, whether directly or indirectly.
Can Female Hormone Imbalance Cause Dizziness?
Experiencing inexplicable vertigo? Hormones can be the culprit here as well.
According to the Vestibular Disorders Association, “Progesterone can produce dizziness, faintness, and sleepiness and might also have a depressant effect,” and also, “Increased estrogen levels lead to a decrease in the blood sugar level, which perhaps causes dizziness and/or disequilibrium because of its effect on the brain.”
Here too I can report personal experience. As mentioned previously, I have had dizzy spells over the years, and they started when the rest of my issues did.
I can also say that these issues are often worse with pain, which when amped enough can easily cause faintness and vertigo as secondary effects
Can Female Hormone Imbalance Cause Anxiety?
You now know that an imbalance in your hormones may lead to depression. But what about anxiety?
As you might guess, there is a possible link here as well. Researchers have found that low levels of estrogen may contribute to higher levels of anxiety.
On the other hand, anxiety is also associated with estrogen dominance (too much estrogen in ratio to progesterone).
Plus, anxiety can be a secondary effect. Just as pain and discomfort can make you depressed, they can also make you anxious. Nobody likes waking up each morning wondering when the hammer of agony is going to fall—or wondering what could go wrong next.
In my case, I never developed depression as a result of hormone imbalance. I didn’t lose interest in activities, or become apathetic to things that mattered to me—I just got really angry and crushed that I couldn’t connect with my life anymore.
I also became anxious because my life seemed to be great one day, and the next, it was a torturous mess. This led to me not feeling safe anymore.
Plus, pain management can be a full-time job. It can create a state of constant hyper vigilance, and it is easy for that to become generalized.
Anxiety may also be caused indirectly by a female hormone imbalance if the thyroid gets involved, or if sleep disorders become a problem.
The bottom line is that it is a very common issue.
Key Point: Anxiety can result from an imbalance in female hormones
Can Female Hormone Imbalance Cause Headaches?
I don’t even know how to start on this one. Yes, yes, and yes.
When my hormone issues started in my early 20s, the most pronounced symptom was an excruciating non-stop headache. It only abated in my sleep, and came back the instant I was awake.
I’ll be honest—my head pain is somewhat mysterious, and baffles every doctor I talk to. But time, experience and research point mainly toward two key factors:
- A deformity of my jaw
- Menstrual cycles
My pain was at its worst and most uncontrollable when my other strange hormonal symptoms were at their worst—the weight gain, the skipped cycles, the faintness, the sleepwalking, and so on.
Over time, things have improved a great deal, but the pain experience seems to be “modified” by my hormone levels on a continuous basis:
- The pain is at its worst usually in the last few days of my period and the week after
- Right after ovulation I feel much better
- I may continue to feel better until several days before my period
- I get a “spike” when my hormone levels drop leading up to menstruation
- Heightened pain kicks in again during or after my period
Do I actually have a hormonal disorder? I don’t know. It seems likely I had one at least at the start of this—that or my body just responded badly to a transitional period, and I developed chronic pain.
Either way, my biochemistry causes me problems in conjunction with my deformity.
While research into chronic pain and hormonal imbalance is still sparse, we do know:
- Pain disorders such as fibromyalgia, headaches, TMJ, trigger points, and even arthritis are largely the domain of women.
- This article reports
that,“Sex differences in the prevalence of painful conditions appear after puberty.”
- Hormones play a complicated role in regulating
thepain experience. You can read a bit about this in this interesting article.
The good news is that herbs can help a lot of women to manage their pain conditions.
In fact, an herb called Vitex which has made a world of difference for me—and that is even with a structural defect in my body which cannot be corrected.
In just a little bit, I will tell you more about Vitex and other herbs which can be helpful in treating female hormone imbalance.
Key Point: Female hormone imbalance doesn’t just wreak havoc on your moods and make you feel dizzy and gain weight—it can also subject you to considerable pain at any point of your cycle (or even throughout your cycle).
Other Common Female Hormone Imbalance Symptoms
You now have questions to some of the most common symptoms which people ask about where female hormone imbalance is concerned.
I also shared a list with you with some of my own symptoms.
Here is a larger, more comprehensive list of symptoms which may show up with hormone imbalance. Please take note that this list is based partly on research, but is also largely anecdotal since research in this area is still so limited.
- Unusual changes in weight, especially weight gain
- Sweating, especially night sweats
- Sleep disorders (insomnia, night terrors, sleepwalking, etc.)
- Increased sensitivity to temperatures
- Mood swings
- Head pain (could be
tension typeheadaches, migraines, or other types of headaches)
- Increased thirst
- Heart rate changes or palpitations
- Dry skin
- Increased or decreased libido
- Fertility problems
- Thinning hair
- Blurry vision or dry eyes
- Tenderness or pain in the breasts (such as in FBD)
- Unusual hair growth or hair loss
- Muscle pain
- Swollen lymph nodes, cysts, etc.
- Increased inflammation
- Ovarian cysts
- Long-term complications (i.e. developing cancer)
Try not to panic about the “long-term complications” I just mentioned. Having a hormone imbalance does not guarantee you are going to go on to develop another horrible health condition—but it can stack the deck against you, and it is important to be informed of that so you can take steps to protect your health.
Keep in mind that the list above is not exhaustive. Depending on the exact set of imbalances in your body as well as any complications, you could have other symptoms which are not included in this list.
Key Point: There are a wide variety of symptoms associated with female hormone imbalance. These symptoms may easily mask as other conditions, or vice versa.
How Can You Get Female Hormone Imbalance Diagnosed?
The only way you are likely to get a simple, clear diagnosis of hormone imbalance is if you walk into a doctor’s office, order hormone tests (the blood tests are most accurate), and the tests come back with clearly imbalanced results.
The reality however is usually complicated:
- Hormone tests are not always accurate.
- Hormones can fluctuate wildly, and even if the tests are timed properly, one month’s results may not be indicative of your general situation.
- It is hard to time the tests.
- Your results could be balanced on paper, but you could still experience symptoms (I would love to know why this is the case, but I have yet to find out).
You also will need to actually approach a doctor and openly declare your interest in hormone testing, or most will never even think to recommend it.
Hormone imbalances are severely under-recognized, and barely understood by the medical community.
There is a good chance you will never get a diagnosis, so be prepared for that.
Key Point: You most likely will not be diagnosed with having a hormone imbalance, unless your test results are clear on the matter, or you can be easily diagnosed with PCOS or another recognizable condition. This does not mean that your hormones are not the cause of your distress.
Treatment Options Available For Female Hormone Imbalance
If you do have female hormone imbalance (or suspect as much), what can you do about it?
The “medical” solution is generally hormone replacement therapy (HRT). As you know however, HRT can actually cause imbalances or make them worse (it may lead to other side effects or complications as well).
Now, if there is an underlying condition which is causing your hormonal imbalance—like PCOS or a thyroid problem—that needs to be treated before you can start getting better.
Other ideas for treating female hormone imbalance include:
- Exercising more (this can help to reduce excess estrogen)
- Getting an adequate amount of sleep each night
- Keeping your stress levels as low as possible, whatever that entails
- Eating a healthy diet and filling nutritional gaps
- Taking herbal supplements which help promote healthy hormone production
- Treat secondary problems which may be resulting from your imbalance or feeding into it and making it worse
Below, I will introduce you to the best herbs you can take to treat hormone imbalance.
Key Point: If you have an underlying condition associated with your hormone imbalance, you must first treat that. After that, you can consider HRT or natural solutions.
8 Best Herbs for Treating Female Hormone Imbalance
Before I jump into this list, I want to quickly iterate that female hormone imbalances may take many different forms.
Your estrogen levels could be too high or low.
The same could be true for your progesterone, prolactin, or other hormones.
Some imbalances are the exact opposites of others.
So a treatment ideal for one woman may make another woman worse, and vice versa.
Try and first figure out based on context clues throughout the month and/or hormone testing what may be going on in your body.
Then pick herbs from the list below which are most likely to suit your needs.
1. Black Cohosh
First on our list of hormone balancing herbs is black cohosh. Black cohosh is a member of the buttercup family, and grows in North America. It has a long history of use in traditional indigenous medicine for treating issues associated with the menstrual cycle as well as menopause.
Research into the use of black cohosh is in its early stages, as you might expect. Nonetheless, there are studies that back up the efficacy of this herb for treating issues relating to hormonal imbalance.
The most interesting study referenced at the link above is undoubtedly the one on eight women undergoing menopause. During the course of the study, they were sorted into three random groups. One group took a placebo and acted as a control. The second group took conjugated estrogens. Black cohosh at a dosage of 8 mg per day was given to the third group.
The groups were scored on the Kupperman index for menopause symptom severity. The group which took black cohosh had better scores on this index that those taking estrogen. Additionally, they had lower anxiety levels than the placebo group.
Now, there is one matter involving black cohosh which has caused a great deal of confusion among researchers and patients over the years, and which continues to be somewhat puzzling, and that is the question of whether black cohosh exerts an estrogenic effect or not.
For a long time, it was believed that black cohosh was estrogenic. Recent research however seems to indicate otherwise. Take this study for example, which shows no estrogenic activity from black cohosh, and no. promotion of cancer cell growth
Additionally, you may reference this review, which states, ” Black cohosh, a botanical product, is one such treatment. Its mechanism of action may involve estrogenic effects, but new data dispute the estrogenic theory and indicate that extracts of black cohosh do not bind to the estrogen receptor, up-regulate estrogen-dependent genes, or stimulate the growth of estrogen-dependent tumors in animal models.”
Furthermore, this article states that black cohosh, “has been reported to displace estradiol from docking at estrogen receptors, as well as to bind dopamine receptors and promote dopaminergic neurotransmission (Jarry et al., 2003).”
Key Point: Black cohosh is a popular herb for treating hormonal imbalances. It was once believed to be estrogenic, but the most recent research evidence that it is not, and may even block the action of estradiol on estrogen receptors. As such, it may be a suitable treatment in cases of estrogen dominance.
2. Red Clover
If your goal is to introduce phytoestrogens into your diet, then you might want to take a look at red clover, a legume with estrogenic effects.
Research supports the use of red clover in treating the symptoms of menopause, particularly hot flashes.
What if you’re not menopause? In that case, the effects of red clover may be a little more unpredictable. This is because scientists are still somewhat puzzled by how estrogenic compounds act in the body.
It is possible that consuming phytoestrogens will ramp up any estrogenic symptoms you are already experiencing by raising estrogen levels even higher.
But it is also theorized that the opposite might be true. The introduction of phytoestrogens may prompt the body to stop over-manufacturing estrogen.
Since it is hard to predict the outcome, you should proceed with care if you decide to use this herb.
Key Point: Red clover is an herb which exerts an estrogenic effect on the body.
3. Dong Quai
Dong Quai is a type of root used in traditional Far Eastern treatments for hormonal imbalance. Sometimes it is referred to as “female ginseng.”
This is one herb which I have not found much in the way of research to back up.
Nonetheless, there are centuries of use behind it, and a lot of anecdotal evidence.
Although no one is positive how it works to balance hormones, it is thought that it likely has an estrogenic effect.
More research is needed, but it may be worth a try if you think that it could be the right fit for your needs.
Key Point: Dong Quai is a traditional Far Eastern herb which may have estrogenic effects. It is popular as a treatment during the menopausal transition.
This vine is better known among gardeners but it is among patients or doctors. In fact, if it grows in your yard, you probably have tried to eradicate it. It is considered an invasive species in the United States.
The isoflavanoids in kudzu are phytoestrogens. Because of its estrogenic effect, it is sometimes taken by women looking to balance their hormones during menopause.
Research into kudzu is not extensive, particularly in humans. You can take a look at this animal study to get a guess as to how it might impact your hormones. Just keep in mind that it is only a guess.
Key Point: Kudzu may be the enemy of gardeners, but it may be a friend for some patients with female hormone imbalance. Since research is limited, you should use caution when testing this herb on yourself.
Nevertheless, soy may have its downsides as well—like all phytoestrogens. I recommend checking out this article if you’re looking for a detailed overview of the potential pros and cons.
Key Point: Soy is a common herbal remedy for perimenopause symptoms. It acts estrogenically in the body.
Now I will tell you about an herb that I have personal experience with—Vitex, also called “chaste tree berry” or simply “chasteberry.” The plant which Vitex extract comes from is Vitex agnus-castus. Vitex is most popular for PMS, but is also taken to treat a variety of other hormone-related conditions.
It is thought that Vitex’s effect is dopaminergic.
This in turn is believed to suppress prolactin and promote progesterone. As such, it is a suitable option for treating estrogen dominance or high prolactin.
Its dopamine-promoting effects may also be helpful if your hormonal imbalance is causing or worsening a pain disorder.
Research into Vitex has been slow to get started, but science is starting to pick up on its benefits, and there have been a number of studies over the past few years.
One paper in particular which I recommend checking out is this one. This is the best read I have found so far which explains the interconnections between the different hormones and symptoms, and the role which Vitex seems to play in regulating a variety of issues.
Since I have actually taken Vitex over a long time period, I can tell you a few other things about it:
- Side effects during the initial weeks or months seem to be common, but they are far from ubiquitous. Some women may have periods further apart or closer together initially, and then they even out. I didn’t have any side effects at all.
- This herb is pretty-fast acting in my experience. I could tell there was a distinct drop in my pain levels within about 3-5 days.
- There is a cumulative effect if you keep using it. You should continue to experience gradual improvements over the next few months before you plateau.
- You can use Vitex safely for a long time. Most resources say it is safe for up to 8 months. This is because this is the longest period of time it has been tested over in a research trial—not because it is necessarily unsafe after that. Indeed, the study I linked to above indicates it may have a protective effect against cancer.
Key Point: Vitex is an herb which can help to suppress prolactin while promoting progesterone. It is a good option if you need to treat estrogen dominance, or if you want to counteract high prolactin levels. It is also a dopamine agonist, so if stimulating dopamine production in a gentle way is something else you are after, Vitex may help you out.
7. Wild Yam
Another possibility for increasing progesterone is to try wild yam. The use of wild yam to treat female hormone disorders dates back to the 18th century. The roots of the plant are a great source of diosgenin, which is an unusual phytoestrogen that converts to progesterone.
Now, ideally that means that if you take wild yam supplements, you should be feeding your body a natural building block for progesterone. Unfortunately, it is a little more complicated than that.
Diosgenin can be converted into progesterone—that much is true. Unfortunately, the conversion process cannot take place in your body. The only way to convert the phytoestrogen into progesterone is in a laboratory setting.
For this reason, wild yam capsules are likely ineffectual. A better option is “natural progesterone cream.” This cream is manufactured using a process in a lab so that the progesterone is already present. It absorbs through your skin (in theory—research is sparse here), and boosts your stores.
As a quick word of caution, it is thought that progesterone from wild yam may progressively accumulate with long-term use. Make sure that you do not overdo it, or you could have new problems.
Key Point: Wild yam contains a phytoestrogen called diosgenin, which can be used to create progesterone in a lab, but which cannot be converted in the body. Data on efficacy is limited, but it is believed that the cream which you apply topically may be able to increase your progesterone levels.
8. Diindolylmethane (DIM)
Another herbal supplement which you can try for estrogen dominance is DIM, which stands for “Diindolylmethane.”
Given the name, which is certainly a mouthful, you might think this is something really complicated and unfamiliar, but actually, if you eat lots of veggies, your body already forms DIM on its own to some degree.
Specifically, eating cruciferous vegetables helps your body create DIM. Some examples of cruciferous vegetables include:
- Brussels sprouts
Researchers are still working to understand the exact effects of DIM. It is another supplement which may be estrogenic, or may block estrogen’s activity.
DIM may be taken to treat PMS, estrogen dominance, or other forms of hormone imbalance. Some people also take it to try and prevent cancer.
Until there is more research into DIM’s effects, it may be hard to predict its effects for various conditions.
A lot of people report excellent results with it. If it is a match for your needs, you could have fantastic results as well.
Key Point: DIM is a substance manufactured by our bodies when we eat cruciferous vegetables. Scientists still do not know if it is estrogenic or blocks estrogen, but it is a popular remedy you can try for female hormone imbalance.
Bonus: More Supplements to Check Out
Along with the supplements above, here are a few more herbs for female hormone balance you can investigate:
- St. John’s Wort
- Lemon balm
- Raspberry Leaf
Remember, research in this area is still in its starting stages, so if you conduct your own, you may find more ideas to try.
Key Point: There are quite a few herbs you can try for balancing your hormones. Keep researching and you may find more.
Action Tips For Getting the Best Results With Herbs for Female Hormone Imbalance
- Always read the dosage information carefully, and also conduct your own research online to select the right amount to take.
- When you do research online, stick with peer-reviewed journals and other sources you trust (do not forget that even peer-reviewed studies may involve conflicts of interest
- Remember that many herbs for female hormone imbalance are intended for long-term use and gradual correction. You may not get the full results if you quit early.
- Pick herbs to try which are likely to fit your condition. You do not want to take herbs to increase estrogen if your estrogen levels are already too high, for example. There is no one-size-fits-all answer.
- Take careful, methodical notes on your treatment attempts so that you can evaluate the data and make adjustments as you need to.
- Familiarize yourself with expected side effects, especially during the adjustment phase. Some herbs carry temporary side effects which may be alleviated with extended use.
- Do not give up. You may not find what you are looking for on the first go. That does not mean there isn’t something out there which can help you.
- Never forget you are on the cutting edge of science here. There is not a lot of research to go on, so you are essentially experimenting on yourself. Proceed with caution.
Key Point: You will get the best results with herbs for female hormone balance if you follow the tips above.
Conclusion: Herbs Can Make for Excellent Natural Treatment Options for Female Hormone Imbalance
Living with hormone imbalance can be annoying at best, debilitating at worst. But there are things you can do to try and improve your situation right now.
One of the biggest differences I ever was able to make in my own life was to start taking herbs to help balance my hormones. It restored significant quality of life, and helped me get back to enjoying myself again.
So if you are suffering from the debilitating symptoms of hormone imbalance—whether it is low estrogen, estrogen dominance, or another imbalance altogether—try looking into these supplements and consider giving one or more a try. It may make all the difference in the world.
In fact, EU Natural can help. We have our very own DIM supplement, and our My Brain! head pain relief supplement contains Vitex. Serenity can be a big help if you are not sleeping well at night, and we have Staying Cool especially for balancing hormones in menopause. If your hormone imbalance is making it hard to get pregnant, take a look at Conception for fertility.
Hopefully you will be feeling better soon. It takes time, effort, and courage to push forward, but living a life with less pain and discomfort is worth it!