Discover herbs to help elevate testosterone levels, including Asian ginseng, yohimbe and ashwaganda root.
Read more about calming IBS symptoms naturally: Herbs to Help Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Herbs to Help Elevate Testosterone Levels
I am 51 years old. Seven years ago, I was working very hard at
weightlifting. When having some bloodwork done, the doctor noticed
my testosterone levels were below normal. The doctor put me on a
male hormone replacement (Androgel) and I have been on it ever
since. Now that I know better, I do not want to use this drug any
further. I would like some advice on what herbs to use to get off
of this drug, and I will certainly be working with my doctor as I
go through the process.
Keville responds: You are right to think that after taking Androgel for several years, your body may need a kickstart to produce a sufficient quantity of testosterone on its own, especially since your production was low already. It is great that your doctor is willing to help you wean yourself off the hormone, and it sounds like he or she might even be supportive of you taking herbs to help the process. It is a good step, since there is some evidence that taking testosterone may have detrimental side effects similar to the problems women develop from taking estrogen.
Weightlifting usually increases testosterone levels. However, some weight lifters have discovered that overtraining, and especially not allowing the body to recuperate adequately between training sessions, can lower testosterone. Getting enough sleep and eating a diet rich in nuts and olive oil are some simple lifestyle suggestions that can help elevate testosterone and keep it high. The stress from training too hard or emotional stress also can increase cortisol levels and slow down the body’s production of testosterone. You can try stretching exercises like yoga, chi gung or tai chi, which help lower cortisol.
There is no hard evidence that Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) supports testosterone, but the Chinese historically have used the herb for hormone-related problems, and Western herbalists like myself also think it works well. Many Chinese men still turn to ginseng today when their testosterone levels begin to decline in their 40s and 50s. Unlike hormone-enhancing drugs, herbs will encourage your body to produce its own testosterone, rather than working as a replacement. The Chinese also recommend kidney tonic herbs to strengthen and balance hormonal production. Consider seeing a practitioner who can combine acupuncture with Chinese herb formulas to help the process of discontinuing the drug.
Khalsa responds: This definitely is a good project for herbal medicine. Ashwaganda root (Withania somnifera) is the first herb that comes to mind. This adaptogen is used in Ayurveda as a tonic and sedative. Studies show ashwaganda to be superior to ginseng as an anti-stress adaptogen. This rebuilding herb is the main tonic for men in Ayurveda, which considers ashwaganda to be a particularly powerful rejuvenative, and it is regarded as a premier sexual tonic. Over time, it will assist in recovering testosterone levels.
An animal study from 2001 showed that extracts of ashwaganda increased production of sex hormones and sperm, presumably by exerting a testosterone-like effect. In another double blind clinical trial, 101 healthy male adults (50 to 59 years of age) took 3 grams of ashwaganda daily for a year to determine the herb’s effect on the aging process. Significant improvements in hemoglobin, red blood cells, hair pigment and seated stature were observed. Serum cholesterol decreased, nail calcium was preserved and 71.4 percent of those who took the herb reported improvement in sexual performance.
A typical dose of ashwaganda is about 1 gram a day, taken over long periods (up to many years) as a rejuvenator, but, since ashwaganda is very safe, Ayurvedic practitioners often prescribe larger quantities for short-term use.
Yohimbe (Pausinystalia yohimbe) is another good possibility for you. Yohimbe is a West African tree. The bark is a traditional herbal aphrodisiac. Warriors who were preparing for battle would drink the bark tea to help them become aggressive and have more stamina. But yohimbe also helps make love, not war. Males in some African societies take yohimbe as part of marriage rituals. The herb developed a reputation for increasing libido, as well as for improving male sexual performance. Modest doses of yohimbe, taken over a few months, along with a tonic herb like ashwaganda, can produce a conspicuous increase in testosterone. In my personal clinical experience, yohimbe is very reliable in the proper dose. You might find it helpful to consult a professional herbalist to get the details right, however—the difference between a pleasant response and nervous discomfort can be a very small dose.
Most people take a dose that supplies 15 to 30 mg of daily yohimbine content, but some people respond optimally to 10 or even 5 mg daily. If using the raw herb in powder in a capsule, start with 200 mg total in one dose, not late in the day, and work up from there. It usually takes at least two to three weeks for the herb to begin producing results. Even in normal doses, side effects of dizziness, anxiety, hyperstimulation and nausea are relatively common.
Be very cautious using yohimbe if you are taking tricyclic antidepressants; phenothiazines; clonidine; drugs for lowering blood pressure; or central nervous system stimulants. It is best to use this herb under the guidance of a qualified herbalist.Kathi Keville is the director of the American Herb Association (www.ahaherb.com) and author of 11 herb and aromatherapy books, including Herbs for Health and Healing (Rodale, 1996). She teaches seminars throughout the United States.
Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa has more than 25 years of experience with medicinal herbs. He is a licensed dietitian/nutritionist, massage therapist and board member of the American Herbalists Guild. Khalsa’s book Body Balance is available on our Bookshelf, page 58.
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