T is for Testosterone
I recently had a patient who just discovered they had low testosterone and was grabbing for Saw Palmetto to treat this. While Saw Palmetto is a great herb for men, it’s really used for conditions like BPH and Prostatitis because it acts as a 5 alpha reductase inhibitor. This enzyme converts Testosterone into a different molecule that acts directly on the prostate. For this reason, I wouldn’t necessarily consider Saw Palmetto to increase Testosterone. More importantly is to understand WHY you have low T and treat that. This “why” may require some lifestyle changes and simply taking an herb without addressing or changing anything else may lead you down a road of failure.
So.. Here’s some top tips in the different scenarios to either boost, modulate, or decrease T.
Scenario 1: Low Testosterone
You’re probably feeling exhausted, your muscle mass isn’t quite what it used to be, maybe your facial hair is decreasing, and perhaps your libido has tanked. These symptoms could be mild and easily ignored or more severe. Either way, you are probably dealing with low testosterone.
In most cases when I see low T, my first step is to look to the adrenals because this “Fight or Flight” organ is busy keeping up with the Jones’ and not having time to reproduce. Essentially, this means that your nutrients to build Testosterone are being stolen to make Cortisol, Epinephrine, and Norepinephrine.
Here are some herbs that really support Testosterone Production:
- DHEA is a precursor for Testosterone production and when your T is low, this can certainly be helpful.
*Please note: Adrenals may not be your issue but if it is, how severe is your adrenal fatigue/burnout? Simply choosing herbs and supplements blindly is not recommended. It so important to test the individual so that we know WHY we’re taking something and what it is we are truly trying to correct.
Scenario 2: Benign prostate hyperplasia or inflamed prostate
You’re now noticing issues with urination and waking up multiple times a night to pee. You may be frustrated because road trips are now a problem and you’re basing your daily schedule around the availability of a toilet. Once you get to the toilet because you’re about to burst, you can’t pee or empty fully. How frustrating and miserable!
Here are some top tips to lower or modulate testosterone.
Pharmaceuticals for BPH and prostate cancer are usually 5 alpha reductase inhibitors. They basically suppress Testosterone production.
Saw Palmetto- inhibits 5 alpha reductase and Sex Hormone Binding Globulin
Lycopene- there is potential use for this nutrient in Prostate Cancer treatment and prevention, as well as BPH
Zinc- the prostate has a high concentration of zinc and has been seen to be helpful in some with BPH but the research is unclear.
Pumpkin provides essential fatty acids that
Stinging Nettle is anti-inflammatory works great in combination with Saw Palemetto.
Scenario 3: Hormone Imbalance in General/ Estrogen Dominance
Hormone imbalances and estrogen dominance? What tha heck? This sounds like something that belongs in a women’s hormonal handout BUT guess what, men can have estrogen dominance, too! Abdominal fat and fat in general actually stores the inflammatory type of estrogen and with a standard american diet coupled with a sedentary lifestyle is pushing everyone, men and women, into estrogen dominance.
There are some theories that prostate cancer may be an estrogen positive cancer! Also, BPH may actually be a symptom of estrogen dominance as well.
So the following herbs are hormone balancers and harmonizers. They are indicated in any gender’s hormone formula.
Black Cohosh, Soy isoflavones, False Unicorn, Chaste Tree
*Please note that soy is another article and has many mis-conceptions but one must be cautious on what form of soy you are taking and eating.
FINAL NOTE: The body is complicated and whether you’re dealing with low libido BPH, or even prostate cancer, all the treatment suggestions above are NOT stand alone. The complexities of each individual is why you may see something work in one person and not another. I highly suggest seeking a naturopathic doctor or integrative medical specialist if dealing with the above conditions.
Resource: Naturopathic Urology and Men's Health, First Edition by Eric Yarnell, N.D., R.H., copyright 2001