dehydroepiandrosterone (generic name)
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CategoryHerbs & Supplements
5-androsten-3 β-ol-17-one, 19-norandrostenediol, 19-norandrostenedione, androstenediol, androstenedione, C19 steroid, clenbuterol, clostebol, dehydroepiandrosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, DHA, DHAS, DHEA-enanthate, DHEA-FA, DHEA-S, DHEAS, DS, 7-KETO DHE, 7-oxo-DHEA, fenoterol, fluoxymesterone, mesterolone, metandienone, metenolone (metheneolone), methandriol, methyltestosterone, nandrolone, norethandrolone, oxandrolone, oxymesterone, oxymetholone, stanozolol, testosterone, the mother steroid, trenbolone, prasterone.
Note: DHEA can be synthesized in a laboratory using wild yam extract. However, it is believed that wild yam cannot be converted into DHEA by the body. Therefore, information that markets wild yam as a "natural DHEA" may be inaccurate.
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is an endogenous hormone (made in the human body) secreted by the adrenal gland. DHEA serves as precursor to male and female sex hormones (androgens and estrogens). DHEA levels in the body begin to decrease after age 30, and are reported to be low in some people with anorexia, end-stage kidney disease, type 2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent diabetes), AIDS, adrenal insufficiency, and in the critically ill. DHEA levels may also be depleted by a number of drugs, including insulin, corticosteroids, opiates, and danazol.
There is a lack of available studies on the long-term effects of DHEA. However, DHEA may cause higher than normal levels of androgens and estrogens in the body, and theoretically may increase the risk of prostate, breast, ovarian, and other hormone-sensitive cancers. Therefore, it is not recommended for regular use without supervision by a licensed healthcare professional.
EvidenceDISCLAIMER: These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Several studies suggest that DHEA may improve well-being, quality of life, exercise capacity, sex drive, and hormone levels in people with insufficient adrenal function (Addison's disease). Though promising, additional study is needed to make a strong recommendation. Adrenal insufficiency is a serious medical condition and should be treated under the supervision of a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist.
The majority of clinical trials investigating the effect of DHEA on depression support its use for this purpose under the guidance of a specialist. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
The majority of clinical trials investigating the effect of DHEA on weight or fat loss support its use for this purpose. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
Systemic lupus erythematosus:
The majority of clinical trials investigating the effect of DHEA for systemic lupus erythematosus support its use as an adjunct treatment. Additional study is needed to confirm these results.
DHEA may offer some benefit to individuals in terms of aging. Small increases in bone mineral density have been seen, but more study is needed to confirm these findings.
Initial research reports that DHEA does not significantly improve cognitive performance or change symptom severity in patients with Alzheimer's disease, but some experts disagree. Additional study is warranted in this area.
The ability of DHEA to increase bone density is under investigation. Effects are not clear at this time.
Initial studies report possible benefits of DHEA supplementation in patients with cholesterol plaques ("hardening") in their arteries. There is conflicting scientific evidence regarding the use of DHEA supplements in patients with heart failure or diminished ejection fraction. Other therapies are more proven in this area, and patients with heart failure or other types of heart disease should discuss treatment options with a cardiologist.
Initial research reports that the use of intravaginal DHEA may be safe and may promote regression of low-grade cervical lesions. However, further study is necessary in this area before a firm conclusion can be drawn. Patients should not substitute the use of DHEA for more established therapies, and they should discuss management options and follow-up with a primary healthcare professional or gynecologist.
Chronic fatigue syndrome:
The scientific evidence remains unclear regarding the effects of DHEA supplementation in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Better research is necessary before a clear conclusion can be drawn.
Unclear scientific evidence exists surrounding the safety or effectiveness of DHEA supplementation in critically ill patients. At this time, it is recommended that severe illness in the intensive care unit be treated with more proven therapies.
Initial research reports that DHEA supplements are safe for short-term use in patients with Crohn's disease. Preliminary research suggests possible beneficial effects, although further research is necessary before a clear conclusion can be drawn.
Early evidence gives conflicting results as to whether DHEA offers benefit to individuals with dementia.
There is conflicting scientific evidence regarding the use of DHEA supplements in patients with heart failure. Other therapies are proven in this area, and patients with heart failure or other types of heart disease should discuss treatment options with a cardiologist.
Although some studies suggest that DHEA supplementation may be beneficial in patents with HIV, results from different studies do not agree with each other. There is currently not enough scientific evidence to recommend DHEA for this condition, and other therapies are more proven in this area.
Induction of labor:
Preliminary evidence suggests that DHEA may help to induce labor. Further research is needed and people who are pregnant should not self-treat.
DHEA supplementation may be beneficial in women with ovulation disorders. There is currently not enough scientific evidence to form a clear conclusion about the use of DHEA for this condition.
Many different aspects of menopause have been studied using DHEA as a treatment, such as vaginal pain, osteoporosis, hot flashes, emotional disturbances such as fatigue, irritability, anxiety, depression, insomnia, difficulties with concentration and memory, or decreased sex drive (which may occur near the time of menopause). Study results disagree and additional study is needed in this area.
There is conflicting scientific evidence regarding the use of DHEA supplements for myotonic dystrophy. Better research is necessary before a clear conclusion can be drawn.
Low-quality studies suggest that DHEA supplements may benefit women with ovulation disorders. However, results of research in this area are conflicting, and safety is not established.
Partial androgen deficiency:
Restoring DHEA levels to young adult values seems to benefit the age-related decline in physiological functions. However, additional study is required to confirm these preliminary results.
Study results suggest that DHEA offers no benefit to individuals with psoriasis, but some disagree. Additional study is needed before a firm recommendation can be made.
Preliminary evidence from a case series suggests that DHEA likely offers no benefit to individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. Well-designed clinical trials with appropriate endpoints are required before a strong recommendation can be made.
Initial research reports benefits of DHEA supplementation in the management of negative, depressive, and anxiety symptoms of schizophrenia. Some of the side effects from prescription drugs used for schizophrenia may also be relieved. Further study is needed to confirm these results before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Septicemia (serious bacterial infections in the blood):
Unclear scientific evidence exists surrounding the safety or effectiveness of DHEA supplementation in septic patients. At this time, more proven therapies are recommended.
Sexual function / libido / erectile dysfunction:
The results of studies vary on the use of DHEA in erectile dysfunction and sexual function, in both men and women. Better research is necessary before a clear conclusion can be drawn.
DHEA showed no evidence of efficacy in Sjogren's syndrome in preliminary study. Without evidence for efficacy, patients with Sjogren's syndrome should avoid using unregulated DHEA supplements, since long-term adverse consequences of exposure to this hormone are unknown. Further research is needed in this area.
Preliminary study suggests the possibility of using DHEA topically as an anti-skin aging agent. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
DHEA does not seem to improve quality of life, pain, fatigue, cognitive function, mood, or functional impairment in fibromyalgia.
Immune system stimulant:
It is suggested by some textbooks and review articles that DHEA can stimulate the immune system. However, current scientific evidence does not support this claim.
Studies of the effects of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) on cognition have produced complex and inconsistent results. Additional study is warranted in this area.
Many study results in this area conflict but overall the current available evidence in this area is negative. Further research is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn