DHEA, which stands for dehydroepiandrosterone, is a naturally-occurring hormone in the human body produced by the adrenal gland and the brain.
Your body uses this hormone to create androgens and estrogens, the sex hormones for males and females respectively.
DHEA levels start decreasing with age (mostly after 30) and decline more quickly in women.
Since the hormone plays an important part in several metabolic functions, some people choose or are prescribed to take DHEA supplements.
What is DHE?
The DHEA hormone is the most abundant hormones circulating in the human body. It usually peaks at around the age of 25 years, and then it starts declining post 30.
In older folks, around age 70-80, the levels found are only about 10-20% compared to young adults. 
Several health conditions like memory loss (including Alzheimer’s disease), osteoporosis, depression, heart disease, and immune disorders among others have been found in people with lower levels of DHEA.
However, more research is needed to establish for sure that low levels of this hormone are the primary cause of such conditions.
DHEA supplements are often used by both men and women to enhance sexual performance, improve memory, and to reverse the effects of aging, which means to slow down the natural bodily changes that occur with advancing age.
DHEA supplementation is also believed to help control high cholesterol levels, improve heart health, prevent breast cancer and diabetes, and combat fatigue.
It is also popular among women of menopausal age who seek comfort from the symptoms, but results of studies about the benefits of DHEA supplements on menopause are still mixed.
Athletes and bodybuilders also ingest DHEA orally to boost physical performance since it is considered safe for use.
However, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Olympic Committee has banned its use since the effects can be quite strong.
DHEA supplements are legal in the US as a dietary supplement and are available for purchase at both physical stores and online retailers like Amazon. In Canada and Australia, you will need a prescription to buy the supplement.
Other names for DHEA
Androstenolone, prasterone (INN), 3Beta-methyl-delta5-androsten-17-one, 5-androstene-3beta, DHEA-S, Hydroxyandrosterone.
Similar to studies on the topic, DHEA users also have mixed reviews on the benefits of the supplement after using it for a variety of reasons.
While a majority of women take DHEA to combat hormonal issues and mood-related problems, most men use the supplement to build body mass and bone strength.
A lot of users, particularly women, have seen positive effects on their skin as the external application of DHEA was found to improve the skin’s appearance in postmenopausal women.
Other research and some reviews I read show that this supplement can be potentially useful to keep the symptoms of depression under control when 30-500 mg is taken daily orally.
Some reports also indicate that DHEA and 7-Keto, a version of the supplement, helps in increasing metabolism and losing weight. Again, solid research to establish this fact is still lacking.
While it is true that some benefits have been reported, whether DHEA stands true to claims of being anti-cancer, and anti-aging can be established only after more clinical trials and studies.
If you are using or planning to start this hormonal supplement, remember that it is vital to stick to the recommended dosage.
Taking more quantities of the product is not going to give more benefits, but may instead lead to adverse side effects.
Since it is a powerful hormone and may interact with some medications, I recommend that you always consult a doctor before taking DHEA supplementation.
There have been positive and neutral reviews from users of DHEA supplements.
Testimonial from a DHEA user:
“I am a peri-menopausal female aged 55. I began taking 25mg of DHEA daily about six years ago. Within 48 hours I noticed that the cloud of depression that I’d lived under for many, many years was completely gone. I have continued to take 25mg and have had no adverse reactions at all. I would say that my libido is slightly increased, but maybe that’s just because I’m in a better mood generally.”
Another young user on Reddit had this to say:
“I tried it together with a legal estrogen-blocker after doing some research (most people said it didn’t do much and not harmless in 100mg dosages). And I actually gained quite a few pounds of muscle while dropping fat, better pump, better mood in general.”
Benefits and Effects of DHEA
There are contrasting views on this, but DHEA supplements are not altogether without some health benefits.
These have been popular among fitness-conscious people as it has been found helpful by users in fighting obesity and building muscle mass as it improves the production of hormones.
Here are some of the benefits you can derive from taking DHEA:
Protection Against Depression and Mood Swings
There have been some studies indicating that DHEA intake may help lower depression and symptoms of other mood-related disorders.
Research also shows that higher levels of DHEA in people may have an association with the successful treatment of depression.
DHEA can also help in achieving overall emotional stability by fighting irritability, sadness, lack of motivation, stress, and a decline in energy.
Since DHEA supplementation can balance the production of other hormones like testosterone and estrogen, it can alleviate other physical conditions related to depression.
These include adrenal insufficiency and weight gain. Some studies also suggest that DHEA can be helpful in slowing cognitive decline in older people.
Increasing Bone Density
With advancing age and certain autoimmune diseases, most people suffer from loss of bone density, which leads to further health problems.
There has been evidence indicating that taking DHEA supplements can help increase bone density, particularly in women who are post-menopausal.
Some research suggests that estrogen production improves with higher DHEA levels, which leads to a higher density of bone mineral in women.
Poor lifestyles, hormonal imbalances, and eating disorders also contribute to bone loss even in younger people, and DHEA can be beneficial in such situations.
This may help reduce the risk of developing bone-related diseases such as osteoporosis.
Improving Sexual Function and Libido
Although studies have been inconsistent and research is still on, it has been suggested that DHEA supplementation may play a role in increasing libido and sexual function.
Recent studies also indicate that taking these supplements can be beneficial for men suffering from erectile dysfunction.
For women, taking DHEA can be helpful to fight hormonal imbalances and symptoms of menopause such as vaginal dryness.
However, since there are certain risks and side effects associated with this supplement, it is always better to take advice from a health professional before starting use.
How It Works
DHEA is the precursor to both male and female sex hormones and is also known as the “parent” hormone. This is produced by your adrenal glands, which are located just above your kidneys.
Once the body produces this hormone, it travels into the bloodstream and travels through the body where it gets converted to different components.
At first, your body converts it to Androstenedione following which DHEA gets converted to estrogen and testosterone.
The male human body secretes approximately 10 to 15 mg of DHEA in a day, with the quantity being lesser by 10-20 percent in women.
Males also secrete this hormone by the testes. The sex hormones have other functions in addition to reproduction, (such as maintaining metabolism, energy levels, bone and brain health, and the heart).
Since DHEA levels in the body decrease with age, you may require additional quantities in the form of supplements to keep the immune system healthy and prevent a decline in various physical functions.
DHEA supplements are often made in labs using extracts of wild yams and soy, but the human body is not capable of producing DHEA from such chemicals.
]As such, eating soy and yams will not boost the hormone levels in your body. So instead of going for products with labels like “made from natural extracts,” choose ones that list DHEA as an ingredient.
The effects of this supplement usually take a few weeks to show, but it ultimately depends on the user.
DHEA supplements come in the form of tablets, capsules, sublingual medication, topical creams, drops, and even chewing gums. A doctor will prescribe the right form for you based on your health condition and specific needs.
Although there are certain health benefits to be derived from DHEA supplements, it is essential that you stick to the recommended dosage to avoid unnecessary side effects.
The exact amount you take will depend on the reason you are taking the supplement. In adults, the usual recommended dosage is 20-50 mg per day.
If you are under the age of 30, you should not take these supplements unless a doctor has prescribed it.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, children and those on medication (like hormone therapy or blood thinners) for existing health problems should refrain from taking DHEA.
As per the research done till now, the following DHEA doses have been studied:
- 50 mg daily for 12 months to treat aging skin
- 30-450 mg every day for six weeks for depression.
Applied topically (to the skin):
- 1% DHEA cream used on hands and face twice a day for up to four months to combat aging skin.
The consequences of long-term use of DHEA supplements are not yet known, but some researchers hold the view that taking these may increase the risk of heart disease, cancer, and stroke.
Since it is a steroid hormone, users may experience certain side effects like irritability, aggressiveness, and trouble in sleeping.
Some other side effects reported by DHEA users include acne, headache, fatigue, irregular heartbeat, and nasal congestion. Women may experience emotional changes, irregular menses, and hair loss.
DHEA supplements should not be taken in excessive doses as side effects of these include deepened voice and excessive facial hair growth for women, while men may increase the risk of prostate cancer and develop enlarged breasts.
DHEA supplements can have interactions with certain medications and herbs like garlic, clove, ginger, and angelica, so always consult your doctor before taking the supplements.
DHEA supplements have considerable benefits on their own, but you can choose to increase the effects by stacking it with some other supplements.
Chromium picolinate is a nutritional supplement usually used for weight loss and to treat Type 2 diabetes. This can also help increase the levels of DHEA in your body so that you can stack the two supplements together. However, remember to start with small doses and consult your health practitioner before trying any stacking.
This is another stack considered to improve testosterone and growth and taken once post workout:
- DHEA: 50 mg
- Arginine: 5000 mg
- L-Lysine: 5000 mg
- D-Aspartic Acid: 3000 mg
- AcetylCarnitine: 3000 mg
- Sarcosine: 3000 mg
Pregnenolone is a precursor to various hormones, including DHEA. Like DHEA, it is produced mainly in the adrenal glands, but also in the testicles, ovaries, skin, and brain.
Pregnenolone can help in increasing metabolism and energy, immunity, and memory. This hormone also acts as a neurosteroid.
Pregnenolone vs. DHEA comparison
- Both are used for anti-aging properties and sexual health and have similar side effects.
- Pregnenolone converts into DHEA, which then converts into different hormones.
- Users of Pregnenolone often report improved visual perception while DHEA users report mood upliftment.
You can check out Pregnenolone supplements or even stack them with DHEA.
The pituitary gland produces human growth hormone (HGH) pituitary gland, and your body uses it to build muscle. It is normally prescribed for children with abnormal growth rates.
However, since HGH, like DHEA, also declines with age, some people prefer using supplements as an anti-aging measure.
HGH vs. DHEA comparison:
- Synthetic HGH is a prescription drug used to treat muscle wasting and hormonal deficiency, while the research is still ongoing about the benefits of DHEA.
- HGH is mostly administered as injections while DHEA is available for use in various forms.
- Children are the primary users of HGH, while DHEA is not recommended for those younger than 18 years.
Try HGH if you want to fight some muscle-related issue.
DHEA is considered to help increase sexual libido and testosterone in men, but some also choose to take testosterone supplements directly.
Testosterone injection vs. DHEA comparison:
- DHEA may help boost testosterone levels naturally rather than going for testosterone replacement.
- DHEA supplements are easier to take compared to transdermal gels and similar delivery systems for testosterone.
If you wish to try an alternative to DHEA to treat decreased libido, you can consider testosterone supplements.
There has been evidence that DHEA supplements can be helpful in treating and preventing several medical conditions.
If you are suffering from depression, mood swings, bone-related disorders, and hormonal problems, which are common health issues today, DHEA may be beneficial. It can also reduce your risk of developing such problems in the future.
However, the jury is still out on whether this supplement can be effective in treating severe conditions like HIV/AIDS, mental function, infertility, schizophrenia, and cancer.
Research is still on, and a variety of conditions are being studied for the effects of DHEA. Till then, stick to the dosage recommended by your doctor.
DHEA supplements can also help to improve and maintain your overall health and well-being, so you can check out the drug online on Amazon or buy it over the counter.