Increasing testosterone levels above the normal physiological ranges by supplementing with testosterone can lead to testicular atrophy, ED, decreased libido, etc. However, for men or women with free testosterone below the normal physiological ranges it is not necessarily detrimental to increase testosterone, and is very often beneficial. These people are probably already experiencing erectile dysfunction, decreased libido, and in women, vaginal dryness, may also be experiencing increasing abdominal fat, apathy, a burned-out feeling, and general dissatisfaction with life.
Testosterone should be in balance with estrogens and progesterone. Both men and women have all three hormones, but the balance is different for men than for women (naturally). One of the best ways to find out whether your hormone levels are normal or low (or high) and whether they are in relative balance, is to do a 24-hour Urine Hormone Profile that looks at all of your sex and adrenal hormones. One reason men sometimes experience symptoms of low testosterone is not because they don’t have enough, but because they are converting too much of it to estrogen. This is also associated with insulin-resistance and an increased risk for diabetes and heart disease.
A 24 hour urine hormone profile will also measure metabolites of estrogens that can increase or decrease the risk of breast or prostate cancer. It will measure DHEA, a precursor for estrogen and testosterone, as well as metabolites of both DHEA and Testosterone which give clues to how your body is using the them. Although progesterone is not stable in urine, there are progesterone metabolites that are stable in urine and are good indicators of progesterone levels and metabolism. A 24-hour urine hormone profile will look at your adrenal hormones and metabolites to give you an idea of your adrenal health, which dictates how you deal with stress and impacts your health in a myriad of ways. Low libido can be function of poor adrenal health as well as inadequate testosterone levels. Finally, a 24-hour urine hormone profile will look at enzyme activity which can give further information about why a you might be experiencing low libido, and can also give valuable information about risk for diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure.
Hormone balancing is much more than just avoiding using excessive doses of testosterone or other hormones. It may require supplementing with the appropriate bio-identical hormones (monitored by a health care provider trained and experienced in prescribing hormones) or it may be enough to use nutritional or botanical supplementation to support your endogenous hormone production.
A recent search of Pub Med on the term “ginseng” turned up 3917 citations. Of those, 299 were review articles, with 111 of them being published within the past 5 years. The majority of the Review articles were in English, but a number had been published in 9 other languages. A quick review of the 299 review article citations revealed that approximately 61 of them were in the area of basic science, e.g., “what is this substance composed of and what does it do at the biochemical level?”, of which approximately 30 were specifically about constituents and mechanisms. The remainder of the 299, or 238, appeared to be about clinical applications, e.g., “what happens if you use this?”
A wide range of journals were represented, the vast majority of which could be considered mainstream journals (as opposed to journals specifically researching or promoting alternative medicines). Among those represented were journals such as the Journal of Pharmacological Science, Current Medical Chemistry, Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, American Family Physician, and the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology.
35 of the clinically-oriented articles were about the use of ginseng in cancer and cancer prevention. 12 were about diabetes, weight control or blood sugar regulation; 23 had to do with neurological/cognitive function, including Alzheimer’s, ADHD, Parkinson’s, brain injury, and general cognitive function; 9 related to athletic performance; 14 related to menopause; 11 had to do with aging; 20 had to do with cardiovascular health; 3 related to radiation injury; 11 had to do with immune function; 3 were about asthma or lung function; 8 had to do with stress and/or mood; 7 had to do with sexual function; 2 were about addiction; 86 were classified as “other” which included general articles that did not focus on a particular condition, articles about interactions between ginseng and prescription drugs, and articles that were otherwise difficult to classify by looking at the titles. A very few of the articles (6) could fit in more than one category, i.e., aging and cognitive function, and were counted in both categories.