When it comes to men’s hormones, we can keep it relatively simple. It’s all about more testosterone and less estrogen.
In other articles, we’ll be going into more detail about other hormones like cortisol, insulin, and the thyroid hormones, which interact mostly the same among men and women. But for simplicity, it’s the androgens that make men men, and estrogens that make women women.
This is important because testosterone goes down as we age. And that’s not all. There is a species-wide decrease in all men over the last several decades because of modern living! Men need to strive to keep their testosterone levels high.
A simple way to think about the difference between men and women is yin and yang. The moon and the sun. Men follow the masculine sun which has a daily cycle. Women follow the feminine moon which has a 28-day cycle. And the hormones tend to do likewise. Women’s hormones tend to be much more complex because of this longer cycle. More details about that in our Women’s Hormone Health article here.
Table of Contents
5 Markers for Male Hormone Health
For an overall picture of men’s hormone health, we’ll talk about five different molecules of interest here.
Increase it. For the vast majority of men, this is exactly what they’ll want to do. It’s not just older men either. As a species our testosterone levels have fallen, so younger guys, like myself, need support too.
- Proper weight training
- The right attitude
- Sufficient fat and cholesterol in the diet
- Sufficient protein and carbs in the diet
- Plain and simple acting like a man!
- An ample supply of Zinc, Vitamin D and other critical nutrients (A, Iodine, Boron specifically but basically all vitamins and minerals!)
- Not too much stress, as cortisol inhibits testosterone
Decrease it. While guys need a small level of estrogen, anything more than that is problematic. The issue is our environment is heavily estrogenic. From human-made xeno-estrogens to those found in nature (phytoestrogens) plus the estrogenic effects of heavy metals and mycotoxins, we’re just plain overloaded.
The biggest culprits today are plastics and chemically contaminated food (pesticides and so on). Cutting down on these (since it’s nearly impossible to avoid them altogether) is critical.
For more on this subject read this article Estrogens vs. Androgens.
Aromatase is an enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen. Since we’re already overloaded with estrogen from the environment more of this enzyme does not help. Once again, some is necessary, but most men will need to decrease it.
The number one factor of this is body fat. Your adipose tissue acts as a manufacturing plant for this enzyme! So if you want to be manly, you’ve got to lose fat to a healthy level.
Sex Hormone Binding Globulin is a protein that binds to androgens rendering them inert. It is primarily responsible for the difference between total testosterone and free testosterone. The sad fact is all the T in the world won’t do you any good if it’s bound up by SHBG…or at least that is what we use to believe. More recent research shows that SHBG bound hormones may still exert influence as there are SHBG receptor sites in cells. Still, for many men, their goal will be to lower SHBG levels that are too high.
Various nutrients, including your ratios of fats and carbohydrates, can affect this globulin. Hard physical training can be another factor in elevated levels.
Dihydrotestosterone is an interesting one. It is somewhere between 10-50 times as potent (depending on who you ask) of an androgen as testosterone itself. So, many of the effects we attribute to testosterone are actually from DHT.
That being stated, there is some implication of DHT in prostate issues (though most of the evidence these days points to that actually being a problem with excess estrogen, not DHT) and in male pattern baldness.
So depending on you and your goals you might want to increase or decrease DHT. This one is tricky because there’s not nearly the research as there is on testosterone itself. All the stuff I mentioned in the testosterone section should help support healthy DHT levels too.
Herbs for Male Hormones
Now, let’s talk about herbs and what they can do for these different areas.
My favorite herb for everything here is Pine Pollen. It actually has testosterone and other androgens in it, along with a whole lot of other nutrients that can help support testosterone and the other hormones. Not only does it seem to help restore T levels but it appears to help remove excess estrogens as well.
I like to think of the pine pollen powder as balancing the hormones in the body, male or female. However, the tincture form is more powerful androgenically. It’s more directly boosting to testosterone. For this reason, it’s generally only recommended for men 30 and older, but as we’ve found, some women get great results with it. Based on those results I think we may revise our female recommendations soon.
The best bet for many men will be to take the powder and the tincture together. You get the increased androgenic support along with all the nutrition and co-factors found in the powder.
Another favorite is Tongkat Ali. This seems excellent at helping your body to create more of its testosterone and keep it freely available. It triggers your body to produce more testosterone and then it cuts down on aromatization and SHBG. That’s a three-fold boost to your male hormones. I rank this right up there with pine pollen and if you take the two together…watch out! Read more about this here.
Mucuna is interesting in that is supplies L-dopa which is a precursor to dopamine. What does this have to do with testosterone? Besides inhibiting another hormone, prolactin, it’s not exactly clear, but research has shown this Ayurvedic herb can definitely help increase testosterone in men.
Another old standby of Ayurvedic medicine, Ashwagandha basically does it all. This adaptogenic root has been shown to increase testosterone, at least in deficient men, while doing a whole lot else too.
Want to help clear the body of those excess estrogens? Eat your fill of broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi, collard greens, cabbage, bok choy and more. These have sulfurous compounds and molecules DIM and I3C which help in estrogen detox and much more.
For fighting aromatase with chrysin, as well as supporting good sleep (and some crazy dreams too) passionflower is one of my favorites. Besides, just look at it…
Though there isn’t a whole lot of research available on this one, one rat study stood out to me as it showed raises in both testosterone and DHT. Makes sense as this is one of the premier sexual tonics of Chinese medicine.
The nettle plant by itself has so many different uses, depending on which part is utilized. The root is used specifically for prostate health and is well researched on that topic. Nettle appears to lower aromatase, SHBG, and DHT. With that last one, some people choose to avoid it, though in the case of any prostate problems it would be the first herb to turn to.
Other herbs and foods that can be useful for one or more of these mechanisms include:
- Button Mushrooms
- Deer Antler
- Royal Jelly
- Maral Root
- Bulbine Natalensis
- Suma Root
- Horny Goat Weed
And the list goes on.
Just taking one or a few of these herbs together, with the right lifestyle changes, can help many men’s hormone health, which includes testosterone and its many related parts. While the lifestyle changes are most important, taking the right herbs can certainly quick start the whole program and bring fast benefits.
If you want a whole lot more information, check out Upgrade Your Testosterone.