Best Adaptogenic Herbs to Balance Hormones

Do you feel like your hormones are out of balance? If so, you’re not alone. A majority of women around the world experience hormone imbalances at some point in their lives, but don’t always have the knowledge or resources to fix them. While there are many conventional treatments available, such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and birth control pills, these treatments often come with unwanted side effects, and aren’t always an option for many women. Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine offer a safe and natural alternative to conventional hormone therapies in the form of herbs and other botanicals.

Let’s find out which herbs can help with hormone balance in women, and how to use them according to holistic medicine like Ayurveda, and traditional Chinese medicine.

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Symptoms of hormonal imbalance

Today, we’re dealing with hormone imbalances like never before, but women (and even some healthcare professionals) are often quick to dismiss the signs, attributing them to stress, age, or just coincidence. However, if you’re experiencing any of the following, there’s a good chance your symptoms are due to a hormone imbalance.

  • Mood changes (irritability, depression, anxiety)
  • Painful periods
  • Menstrual cycle changes (shorter or longer periods, or irregular cycles)
  • Sugar or carb cravings
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping, insomnia
  • Brain fog
  • Acne
  • Excess belly fat
  • Hair thinning or hair loss
  • Bloating
  • Constipation

Symptoms of hormonal imbalance can be broad, and difficult to pin down, even in your doctor’s office. Often, synthetic hormones like those found in birth control are prescribed as the only solution to treating symptoms of hormonal imbalances. Instead, we can look at other ways to balance hormones naturally.

For a gentle way to support hormone balance, learn more about Hormone Helper.

An all-natural solution for healthy hormones

Herbs have been used for centuries in Eastern systems of medicine, like Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine. Herbs have powerful medicinal properties that practitioners use to do everything from treat hormone imbalances to enhance vitality and resilience.

Herbal medicine can help support the chemical messengers that regulate your mood, energy levels, reproductive health, menopausal symptoms, and more.

Try these: 7 Wellness Tonics for Hormone Balance, Clear Skin, and More

Herbs contain vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients

Herbs are rich sources of nutrients for the body. Some contain phytonutrients (nutrients from plants) that have natural anti-inflammatory properties, compounds that help manage stress, hormone levels, and so much more.

I also like to recommend herbs because the nutrients inside often work synergistically with the plant itself—something that may not occur if you isolated specific compounds.

9 Adaptogenic herbs to balance your hormones

Adaptogens is the name given to a group of plants and different compounds that are highly beneficial in promoting health, energy, and vitality. Many have been used throughout history in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine. These are some of the most beneficial to support hormone balance in women.

1. Milk thistle

Great for supporting natural detox pathways in the liver, milk thistle has been used for everything from supporting the immune system to promoting clear skin. Milk thistle is a flowering herb that gets its name from the whitish liquid that comes from the plant’s leaves when crushed.

Milk thistle contains antioxidants, and a special phytonutrient called silymarin, which is the compound responsible for its detox benefits (1). In the liver, this adaptogenic herb helps to process and eliminate toxins, as well as metabolize excess hormones before they have a chance to recirculate and cause hormone balance issues like estrogen dominance.

And as a bonus, compounds in milk thistle can also increase antioxidants in your body, which is great for everything from clearing your skin to increasing energy levels.

Most studies use about 420 mg/day of extract (standardized to 70-80% silymarin) (2). There are a variety of milk thistle products available, and the seeds and leaves of the milk thistle plant can be consumed either in pill, powder, tincture, extract, or tea form.

Related: How to Hormone Detox: 6 Simple Steps for Your Liver + Digestive System

2. Shatavari

This ancient Ayurvedic herb has a wide range of benefits, from digestive support to blood sugar control, but its primary use is for women’s health—particularly for balancing hormones. Shatavari has been used traditionally as a nourishing adaptogen and a fertility tonic. Native to India and the Himalayas, the roots of this plant are a staple in Ayurvedic medicine.

One review suggests that this plant may improve conditions such as hormonal imbalances associated with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) (3). It can also help support the body’s response to stress. 

Shatavari has also been used as an aphrodisiac, and as an aid for youthfulness, energy, and mental alertness. This herb also contains compounds that can help to reduce inflammation, and support a healthy immune system—both of which are important for keeping hormones in check.

Read: Natural Fertility with PCOS

3. Dong quai

Dong quai has been used in China for thousands of years to help balance hormones, reduce PMS symptoms and increase libido. Dong quai is sometimes called “female ginseng” and has been used for more than 2,000 years in traditional Chinese medicine (4). 

These days, this herb is a common natural remedy around the world used to do everything from relieve menopausal symptoms to increase energy (5). It can also reduce inflammation, which is a benefit for those who have PCOS. A test-tube study showed that dong quai extract effectively decreased the levels of several different inflammatory markers (6). 

If you’re taking a blood thinning medication, or other supplements that have these properties, use with caution or consult a holistic doctor who is familiar with its effects.

4. Maca

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Maca appears to have the greatest benefit for women who are going through perimenopause or menopause. Researchers called out its potential for use as a “non-hormonal alternative to HRT”.

One study of postmenopausal women found that 3.5 grams per day of maca powder lowered measures of sexual dysfunction, and decreased anxiety and depression symptoms after 6 weeks of use (7). Maca is also useful to improve other classic symptoms of menopause, like disrupted sleep, hot flashes, and heart palpitations.

Read more about maca root for hormone balance, libido, and vitality.

5. Red clover

Red clover may be especially beneficial for those nearing hormonal changes in perimenopause and menopause. One study found a decrease in the frequency and intensity of hot flashes in women who were taking red clover, compared to a placebo (8). 

Red clover contains isoflavones, plant-based chemicals that produce estrogen-like effects in the body. Isoflavones have shown potential in the treatment of several conditions associated with menopause, such as hot flashes and osteoporosis.

Related: What to Expect During Perimenopause

6. Vitex

Also called chaste tree berry, the berries of this tree have been used for centuries in herbal medicine to help balance hormones and regulate the menstrual cycle. Vitex promotes a healthy ratio of estrogen and progesterone in the body. This is crucial for managing period pain and premenstrual syndrome.

Vitex is especially helpful if you have symptoms of estrogen dominance like painful periods, tender breasts, or mood swings just before your period. It’s also thought to improve fertility by helping to support a healthy balance between reproductive hormones, estrogen and progesterone. It may also help reduce testosterone levels in women with PCOS (9). 

Hormone Helper can also help to support balanced hormones, and a health ratio of estrogen and progesterone.

7. Ashwagandha

A staple in Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is an ultra-versatile adaptogenic herb and one of the most popular herbs to support clarity, help the body deal with mental stress, and enhance hormonal balance. There’s also evidence that it supports thyroid function, which is one of the most important parts of your endocrine system.

In one study, participants were given 600 mg of ashwagandha for 8 weeks, and experienced improved thyroid hormone production (10). 

Ashwagandha may also be great to address symptoms of adrenal fatigue. There’s some evidence that this herb supports adrenal function and may promote healthy DHEA levels (11). DHEA is an adrenal hormone necessary for energy, focus, and vitality. 

Read more: How to Fix Adrenal Fatigue & Cortisol Dysfunction 

8. Spearmint

If you’re managing PCOS, spearmint tea might become your new favorite drink. Spearmint has beneficial effects on hormone balance, including decreasing excess androgens (male hormones often elevated with PCOS), and increasing hormones necessary for ovulation.

In one study, women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) drank spearmint tea twice a day and had lower testosterone levels and higher LH and FSH levels compared to women who drank a placebo tea (12). 

In another animal study, spearmint essential oil helped decrease testosterone and ovarian cysts, and increased the number of viable eggs inside the ovaries (13). 

Watch: Top 5 Teas for Hormone Balance

9. Amla

Amla is an Indian gooseberry and a common ingredient in Ayurvedic medicine. The berries are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, which may support healthy hormone balance mainly by decreasing inflammation.

In one animal study, amla improved insulin sensitivity over a 16-week period. Insulin resistance is common with PCOS, and improving it is a big step in the right direction (14).

How to use herbs for hormone balance

While you may have trouble finding most of these herbs in their whole or raw form, capsules, powders, or tablets are readily available in most health food stores.

Supplements are typically standardized to contain a certain amount of the active ingredient, so you know exactly how much you’re getting if you’re looking to balance your hormones.

Herbal teas are another popular way to consume herbs. This method is more gentle than taking supplements and can be a great way to relax and reduce stress levels, which is also a big trigger for hormone imbalance.

Some herbs, like spearmint, are easily available fresh right from the garden and make a great addition to smoothies and beverages.

Balance hormones naturally

Hormone imbalances can be frustrating and embarrassing, but they don’t have to stay that way. With the help of adaptogens and other Ayurvedic herbs, you can find balance in your hormones once again. These herbs are gentle yet powerful, and they can help you feel more energetic, vital, and fertile. If you’re struggling with PCOS, estrogen dominance, or any other hormone-related issue, give one of these herbs a try. You may just find what you’ve been looking for all along.