Many women suffer from either estrogen dominance or low levels of progesterone. Premenstrual syndrome, many menopausal symptoms and disorders such as amenorrhea may be alleviated by boosting progesterone levels or lowering estrogen levels. Women sometimes either use progesterone cream or take synthetic estrogen or progesterone to help balance their hormone levels. The hormonal balance each woman needs is a delicate one and herbs can be valuable in relieving certain symptoms related to hormonal imbalance.
Progesterone Levels and Health
Boosting progesterone levels or otherwise balancing your hormones can help ease symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome or menopause. Often progesterone levels begin to decrease even before women see common signs of menopause, such as the cessation of menstruation. Hormone replacement therapy, where women are prescribed synthetic equivalents of either progesterone, estrogen or both, is controversial. Though it may be necessary for some women to use synthetic hormone replacement therapy, for other women, whose symptoms are not as severe, an herbal approach may work.
There are herbs that can support the body’s ability to boost progesterone levels. Perhaps the most effective herb is chasteberry. This small fruit has been used since Greco-Roman times, according to Dr. James Duke in the Green Pharmacy. Chasteberry is said to raise progesterone levels, which can greatly help in alleviating symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. One study cited by Dr. Duke showed that women taking chasteberry for premenstrual symptoms fared better than the control group who took vitamin B6, a supplement that many consider to be effective against PMS symptoms. Because PMS with depression may be linked to high progesterone levels, women who experience depression as one of their PMS symptoms should most likely not take chasteberry.
Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose oil may be an effective herb at balancing hormone levels, whether progesterone or estrogen. The body’s hormones are in a delicate balance. Though evening primrose may boost progesterone levels, its main role is balancing both progesterone and estrogen and bringing them to their correct levels. Evening primrose contains a type of fatty acid called gamma linolenic acid or GLA. According to Dr. Duke, evening primrose oil is an effective remedy for PMS symptoms. However, according to the EBSCO Complementary and Alternative Medicine Review Board, there is little convincing evidence that evening primrose oil works better than a placebo. Evening primrose oil is a safe herb to take, a good source of gamma linolenic acid and it may help to boost progesterone levels and balance the hormones progesterone and estrogen.
The first birth control pills were actually made from a derivative of the wild yam root. Because it contains precursors to progesterone, many women have used it either as a cream or internally to try to boost progesterone levels. However, as it turns out, the body cannot turn the progesterone precursor found in wild yam roots into progesterone. As a progesterone booster, then, wild yam is effectively useless. Its other name is colic root, and it has a long history of being used for stomach upsets. However, as an effective progesterone booster, wild yam is ineffective.
References and Resources"Chasteberry" Health Library EBSCO CAM Review Board
"Wild Yam" Health Library EBSCO CAM Review Board
Duke, James (1997) The Green Pharmacy. Rodale