Hello There, Guest!

"Must Grow Bust"'s Herb Summaries
Hi, everyone,

Like many of you, I've sure spent a TON of time on herbalist's websites trying to decipher how each NBE herb acts on the body. I stumbled upon a great .pdf from "Must Grow Bust" that summarizes the main dozen or so herbs and their effects, and I though I would share:

The .pdf: mustgrowbust.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/.../HERBAL-PROGRAM-GUIDE-C.pdf

Direct excerpts for forum purposes:


Alfalfa                       Y                        N                        Y                          N
Black Cohosh             N                        N                        N                          Y
Damiana                   N                        Y                        N                          N
Dandelion Root          N                        N                        N                          N
Dong Quai                N                         N                       N                          N
Fennel                      Y                    Maybe                     Y                          N
Fenugreek                 Y                        Y                        Y                          N
Goat’s Rue                N                        N                        Y                          N
Green Tea                N                        N                        N                           Y
Hops                        Y                        Y                        Y                           N
Licorice Root             Y                        N                        N                           Y
Pueraria Mirifica         Y                       N                         N                          N
Red Clover                Y                        Y                        N                           N
Red Reishi                Y                        N                        N                           Y
Saw Palmetto            N                       N                        N                           Y
Shatavari                  Y                        N                        Y                           N
Soy                          Y                       N                         Y                           N
Spearmint                 N                       N                        N                           Y
Vitex                        N                       Y                     Depends                    N
White Peony             Y                        N                        N                           Y
Wild Yam                  Y                       N                         N                           N

Summary of Herbs:

Alfalfa: Another legume, alfalfa also contains phytoestrogens like spinasterol, coumestrol and coumestan. It’s also a galactogogue known to increase prolactin levels. You should know that alfalfa has mild diuretic properties and can cause upset stomach and diarrhea, ‘though it’s rare. It can also lower blood sugar and interfere with the body’s absorption of iron and Vitamin E – so alfalfa is a no-go if you’re anemic and you’ll want to supplement Vitamin E while on alfalfa.

Black Cohosh: Many people think black cohosh is a phytoestrogen, but growing evidence actually indicated that it doesn’t have general estrogen-like actions – rather, it only acts like estrogen in certain places, mainly the brain, bones, and vagina. It is, however a potent anti-androgen.

Dandelion Root: Great for a cleanse since it enhances the flow of bile in the liver while acting as a general stimulant for the urinary system and boosting digestion. It also helps detoxify your liver of excess estrogens and other hormones.

Damiana: Damiana’s mostly used as an aphrodisiac because it contains β-sitosterol and some aromatic oils that may be responsible for the stimulant effect. But it’s role in breast enhancement is a little tricky – although damiana was found to behave as progesterone in the body, it’s also been shown to raise testosterone levels by inhibiting the aromatase enzyme (which converts testosterone to estrogen). Can be very helpful for estrogen dominance.

Dong Quai: In studies, dong quai has been shown to be non-estrogenic and does not have any hormone-like actions. Especially when used just by itself, it’s mostly just good for boosting circulation thanks to coumarin, which dilates blood vessels and increases blood flow resulting in less menstrual cramps and painful periods.

Fennel: Fennel gets its licorice-like flavor from a group of natural compounds including anethole, photoanethole, and dianethole – all of which are phytoestrogens. On top of its estrogenic properties, it also increases prolactin levels, which is why it’s often recommended for nursing mothers – which can come with a risk, since fennel tea has been shown to lead to premature breast development in babies. As for progesterone, this is still up for debate – some studies say fennel increases progesterone levels and some claim it doesn’t.
Note: Fennel can increase your sensitivity to sunlight so make sure to wear sunscreen, especially if you’re light-skinned.
Fenugreek: Fenugreek seeds are mostly known for their phytoestrogenic activity because they contain diosgenin, which is a weak phytoestrogen shown to behave as estrogen in the human body. But fenugreek doesn’t just have estrogenic properties – it stimulates the ovaries to increase both estrogen and progesterone levels. It also increases prolactin production, making it one of the most popular galactogogue used to increase milk supply.
Note: Fenugreek contains an amino acid called 4-hydroxyisoleucine, which increases the body’s production of insulin when blood sugar levels are high, making fenugreek helpful for those with diabetes and high cholesterol. Of course, it should not be used if you’re prone to low blood sugar.
Also, especially in the first few weeks, you might experience mild gas and bloating but the biggest downside of fenugreek is that it has a maple syrup-y smell and can make you smell like a strange mixture of waffles and curry.

Goat’s Rue: Goat’s rue doesn’t contain any phytoestrogens, but it’s a potent galactogue, known to increase prolactin levels and encourage the development of mammary tissues. It’s most recommended for those with excess androgens, such as PCOS.

Green Tea: Green tea also inhibits 5-alpha reductase, effectively reducing the conversion of normal testosterone into the more potent DHT.

Hops: Hops is one of the most potent breast enhancement herbs since it has fairly strong estrogenic properties thanks to a substance called 8-prenyl naringenin (8-PN), which acts as a phytoestrogen to mimic natural estrogen in the body. 8-PN has also been shown to stimulate prolactin, IGF-1 and progesterone in the body. Hops’ claim to fame? Compared to other phytoestrogens, which range from 1/200 to 1/1,000 of the strength of real estrogen, the 8-PN in hop is about 1/20 the strength.
Note: Hops has mild sedative properties, which is why it’s often used to promote sleep and relaxation so it’ll be great for you if you suffer from anxiety or are high-strung. That being said, hops can worsen depression so stay clear of it if you’re prone to depression.

Licorice Root: Licorice is one of the best breast enhancement herbs because it both contains phytoestrogens, mostly Liquiritigenin, which mimic estrogen in the body and reduce testosterone. In studies, licorice has been shown to reduce blood testosterone levels in women by 50%, thanks to an active ingredient called glycrrhetinic acid, which inhibits 17B-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, the enzyme responsible for testosterone production in the ovaries hair follicles.

Pueraria Mirifica: Contains various phytoestrogens, including deoxymiroestrol, daidzein, daidzin, genistein, genistin, and coumestrol. The chromene phytoestrogens, miroestrol, isomiroestrol, and deoxymiroestrol, are possibly of a similar potency to 17B-estradiol (https://examine.com/supplements/pueraria-mirifica/). Reported to lower the likelihood of developing breast cancer. May lead to estrogen dominance due to the potency of its phytoestrogens, although this has been disputed. No evidence to support a reduction in testosterone levels.

Red Clover: Red clover is a part of the legume family, like soy, and also contains isoflavones, which are phytoestrogens. But unlike the other legumes, red clover contains all four estrogenic isoflavones: biochanin, formonoetin, daidzein, and genistein, making it one of the strongest estrogenic herbs. It’s also one of the strongest PR (progesterone)-binding herbs, so you can use red clover to increase both estrogen and progesterone levels.
Note: Red clover’s also been shown to be helpful in reducing bad cholesterol levels and stimulating the increase in bile acid. It also contains small amounts of coumarins, which dilates blood vessels and helps to keep the blood from becoming thick and gummy – a good thing overall ‘cause it prevents blood clots and arterial plaque.
(catpower's note: reducing cholesterol levels and thinning blood may be particularly beneficial for NBE, as an increased estrogen level is a known risk factor for DVTs -- blood clots in the calf that can travel to the lungs, heart, or brain).

Red Reishi: Lowers testosterone levels by reducing levels of 5-alpha reductase, which is the enzyme that converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

Saw Palmetto: Saw palmetto is commonly used in breast enhancement because it blocks the conversion of testosterone into DHT (catpower's note: by acting as a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor) which is a much stronger form of testosterone. But at the same time, saw palmetto may also reduce the number of estrogen receptors, thus decreasing the effects of estrogen. This estrogen and testosterone-blocking action of saw palmetto is most likely what makes it so effective for clearing up acne.
Despite this estrogen-blocking paradox, Saw Palmetto is  one of the oldest, most popularly used breast enhancement herbs.  It’s commonly recommended as a breast enlarger by herbalists and homeopathists and there’s even a reference to it that dates back to 1898: ...”its (Saw Palmetto’s) most pronounced effects appear to be those exerted upon the urino-genital tracts of both male and female, and upon all the organs concerned in reproduction...to enlarge wasted organs, as the breasts, ovaries, and testicles...” King’s American Dispensatory

Shatavari: This herb literally means ”she who has a hundred husbands” and is a versatile female tonic and the main Ayurvedic rejuventation herb for women of all ages. It contains steroidal saponins and isoflavones which are phytoestrogenic and support the body’s own natural production of estrogen. Shatavari is also a galactogogue and shown to increase prolactin levels and increase growth of the mammary glands.

Soy: Probably the best-known source of isoflavones – the major ones found in soy are genistein and daidzein, both of which are phytoestrogens.

Spearmint: Spearmint tea has been shown to significantly decrease free testosterone in the body while increasing estradiol (the strongest of the estrogen hormones).
(catpower's note: Spearmint decreases free testosterone, but it does NOT inhibit 5-alpha reductase, which prevents the conversion of T to DHT. If you are taking a pro-aromatase herb to promote the conversion of T to estrogen, you may prefer a traditional 5-alpha reductase to spearmint).

Vitex (Chasteberry): Vitex is a super hormone-balancing herb. It contains no hormones itself, but it helps the body increase its production of LH, which boosts progesterone levels during the Luteal Phase of the menstrual cycle. Further helping to increase progesterone levels, vitex has also been shown to stimulate the formation of the corpus luteum, which is responsible for progesterone secretion.
Vitex’s effects on prolactin are a little more controversial – it seems to increase prolactin when taken in low doses (less than 200mg) but decreases prolactin when taken in higher doses (like 900mg).

White Peony: Peony has weak estrogen-like effects on the body and it’s great for reducing testosterone levels by promoting the aromatization of testosterone into estrogen. It’s strongest when combined with licorice, which is recommended for those with excess androgen levels (PCOS) as well as for biological males. Peony has also been shown to have a positive influence on low progesterone levels.

Wild Yam: Wild yam root also contains diosgenin, a weak phytoestrogen shown to protect against breast cancer. But wild yam has not been shown to increase estrogen nor progesterone levels. Many people mistakenly believe wild yam contains progesterone because of its diosgenin content, but the human body cannot convert diosgenin into progesterone – that must be done in a laboratory.
I also wanted to focus solely on anti-androgens for a minute, because I'm rather confused here.

Known herbal anti-androgens:

5-alpha reductase Inhibitors: Green Tea, Red Reishi, Saw Palmetto

Reduce Total T: Licorice, Spearmint

Pro-Aromatase: White Peony

Black Cohosh: "Extracts from these plants are thought to possess analgesic, sedative, and anti-inflammatory properties. Black cohosh preparations (tinctures or tablets of dried materials) are used to treat symptoms associated with menopause, such as hot flashes, although the efficacy has been questioned (11). The inhibitory effects of black cohosh extracts (Cimicifuga syn. Actaea racemosa L.) on the proliferation of human breast cancer cells has been reported recently (12), and Hostsanka. et al (13) have examined the plant’s effects on prostate cancer, another androgen hormone-dependent, epidemiologically important tumor. In that study, the inhibitory effect of an isopropanolic extract of black cohosh (iCR) on cell growth in androgen-sensitive LNCaP and androgen-insensitive PC-3 and DU 145 prostate cancer cells was investigated.
The authors found that regardless of hormone sensitivity, the growth of prostate cancer cells was significantly and dose-dependently down regulated by iCR. At a concentration between 37.1 and 62.7 μg/ml, iCR caused 50% cell growth inhibition in all cell lines after 72h. Increases in the levels of the apoptosis-related M30 antigen of approximately 1.8-, 5.9-, and 5.3-fold over untreated controls were observed in black cohosh-treated PC-3, DU 145, and LNCaP cells, respectively, with the induction of apoptosis being dose- and time-dependent.
Black cohosh extract was therefore shown to kill both androgen-responsive and non-responsive human prostate cancer cells by induction of apoptosis and activation of caspases. This finding suggested that the cells’ hormone responsive status was not a major determinant of the response to the iCR, and indicated that the extract may represent a novel therapeutic approach for the treatment of prostate cancer." (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3693613/)

Green Tea: "In addition to supporting the cardiovascular system and somewhat reducing the risk of cancer and type 2 diabetes (8), green tea may also have an important anti-androgen effect because it contains epigallocatechins, which inhibit the 5-alpha-reductase conversion of normal testosterone into DHT. As previously noted, this anti-androgen mechanism may help to reduce the risk of BPH, acne, and baldness. As yet, no randomized controlled trials of green tea for these androgen dependent conditions have been conducted." (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3693613/)

Note: Likely quite a weak anti-androgen: "To reduce your testosterone production by roughly 20%, it is suggested that you take roughly 5 cups of green tea every day." (https://medicinalherbals.net/natural-anti-androgens/)

Red Reishi: "Red reishi, commonly known as LingZhi in Chinese, is a mushroom thought to have many health benefits. In a research study exploring the anti-androgenic effects of 20 species of mushrooms, reishi mushrooms had the strongest action in inhibiting testosterone (3). That study found that reishi mushrooms significantly reduced levels of 5-alpha reductase, preventing conversion of testosterone into the more potent DHT. High levels of DHT are a risk factor for conditions such as benign prostatatic hypertrophy (BPH), acne, and baldness." (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3693613/)

"Among its many health benefits, reishi mushroom exerts a significant anti-androgenic action.38 Research suggests that its triterpenoid fraction in an ethanol extract is able to inhibit both type 1 and type 2 5α-reductase. In addition, it appears to suppress the growth of cells that are stimulated by testosterone itself, suggesting that it may also have a role to play as an androgen receptor blocker." (http://ndnr.com/womens-health/pcos-treat...en-excess/)

Spearmint: "Spearmint, usually taken in the form of tea, has been thought for many years to have testosterone reducing properties. It is commonly used in Middle Eastern regions as an herbal remedy for hirsutism in females. Its anti-androgenic properties reduce the level of free testosterone in the blood, while leaving total testosterone and DHEAS unaffected, as demonstrated in a study from Turkey by Akdogan and colleagues, in which 21 females with hirsutism (12 with polycystic ovary syndrome and 9 with idiopathic hirsutism) drank a cup of herbal tea steeped with M. spicata twice daily for 5 days during the follicular phases of their menstrual cycles. After treatment with the spearmint tea, the patients had significant decreases in free testosterone with increases in luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and estradiol (9). There were no significant decreases in total testosterone or DHEAS levels. This study was followed by a randomized clinical trial by Grant (10), which showed that drinking spearmint tea twice daily for 30 days (vs. chamomile tea, which was used as a control) significantly reduced plasma levels of gonadotropins and androgens in patients with hirsutism associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome. There was a significant change in patients’ self-reported dermatology-related quality of life indices, but no objective change on the Ferriman-Gallwey scale. It is possible that sustained daily use of spearmint tea could result in further abatement of hirsutism." (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3693613/)

Additional study: "42 women with hirsutism to spearmint and chamomile (placebo) tea groups. Both groups were asked to drink 2 cups of tea per day. Both total and bioavailable testosterone dropped in women drinking spearmint tea. The spearmint drinkers also reported that their hirsutism symptoms got better. There were no changes in the chamomile tea group." (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19585478)

Saw Palmetto: " Its extract is believed to be a highly effective anti-androgen as it contains phytoesterols. This has been the subject of a great deal of research with regards to the treatment of BPH (19, 20), androgenic alopecia (21), and PCOS (22). However, controlled trials and other convincing research on its efficacy are still lacking. In the context of BPH, there have been 2 reasonably sized clinical trials that found that saw palmetto extract use showed no difference in comparison to placebo (23, 24). In meta-analyses, it has been shown to be safe and effective in mild to moderate BPH when compared to finasteride, tamsulosin, and placebo (25, 26). However, a more recent meta-analysis showed that it is only superior specifically with regards to the symptom of nocturia (27). Therefore, evidence for its routine use is far from convincing and additional research is necessary to determine its true effectiveness." (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3693613/)

Additional study claiming it has very weak, if any, effects on 5-ar: "A total of 32 healthy male volunteers (age range 20-30 years) were enrolled in a 1-week open, randomized, placebo-controlled study comparing finasteride (Proscar), a 5 alpha-reductase inhibitor, with Permixon, the plant extract of Serenoa repens. The objective of the study was to evaluate the effect of single and multiple doses of the drugs on the inhibition of 5 alpha-reductase as assessed by serum dihydrotestosterone level determination. Following baseline measurements on day 1, the subjects were randomized to finasteride 5 mg once a day (n = 10), Permixon 80 mg x 2 twice a day (n = 11), or to placebo once a day (n = 11) for 7 days. Serum testosterone and dihydrotestosterone levels, were determined on day 1 (baseline and 12 h) and on days 2 (24 h), 3 (48 h), 4 (72 h), 6 (120 h), and 8 (168 h). After 12 h, a single dose of finasteride 5 mg reduced the serum dihydrotestosterone level by 65% (p = 0.01). The decreases ranged from -52 to -60% with multiple doses of finasteride 5 mg once a day (p = 0.01). As in the placebo group, there was no effect of Permixon on the serum dihydrotestosterone level. No significant difference was detected between finasteride and Permixon or between finasteride and placebo with respect to serum testosterone, except on days 3 and 6, respectively (p = 0.05). However, the corresponding serum testosterone levels remained within the normal ranges." Comparison of finasteride (Proscar) and Serenoa repens (Permixon) in the inhibition of 5-alpha reductase in healthy male volunteers. Strauch G; Perles P; Vergult G; Gabriel M; Gibelin B; Cummings S; Malbecq W; Malice MP, Eclimed Pharmacologie Clinique, Hopital Universitaire Cochin, Paris, France.

White Peony: "White peony has been important in traditional Chinese medicine and has been shown to affect human androgen levels in vitro. In a 1991 study in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine Takeuchi et al described the effects of paeoniflorin, a compound found in white peony that inhibited the production of testosterone and promoted the activity of aromatase, which converts testosterone into estrogen (7). To date, there have been no studies that translate or explore the clinical effects." (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3693613/)

"Peony is another popular anti-androgenic herb. It is often combined with Glycyrrhiza glabra in a ratio of 1:1 in Traditional Chinese Medicine for the treatment of PCOS. Studies have found that this combination is able to decrease the production of testosterone without altering the production of androstenedione and estradiol." (http://ndnr.com/womens-health/pcos-treat...en-excess/)

Licorice: "A small clinical trial published in 2004 by Armanini and colleagues found that licorice root significantly decreases testosterone levels in healthy female volunteers. Women taking daily licorice root experienced a drop in total testosterone levels after 1 month and testosterone levels returned to normal after discontinuation. It is unclear as to whether licorice root affects free testosterone levels (4). The endocrine effect is thought to be due to phytoestrogens and other chemicals found in licorice root, including the steroid glycyrrhizin and glycyrrhetic acid, which also have a weak anti-androgen effect (5, 6)." (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3693613/)

**You must purchase licorice with glycyrrhizic acid ("non-DGL" on the label) for full hormonal effects.

**Licorice has been shown to cause hypertension in high doses.

Additional studies: 1 study showed a nice reduction in testosterone through 2 menstrual cycles, but another study showed no changes. The last one treated PCOS patients either with spiro or spiro + liquorice. Addition of liquorice didn’t further improve androgen levels but it did reduce side-effects of spiro.

Zinc: Shown to decrease alopecia and hirsutism (signs of androgen excess) when taken 50mg/day/8 weeks (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26315303); reported to inhibit 5-alpha reductase activity (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3207614); purported to regulate ovulation and thus regulate estrogen and progesterone levels, which in turn should reduce testosterone levels, but ALSO will RAISE DHT levels in women with low levels of testosterone (https://www.larabriden.com/7-ways-zinc-r...-hormones/); also known to increase testosterone levels in deficient men and women?? (http://www.nickdelgado.com/how-to-safely...-in-women/).

Do you guys take zinc? Should I omit it?

From my review of the above literature, I'd say that white peony + licorice, red reishi, and spearmint show the most promise. Saw Palmetto has widespread appeal although the studies are indefinitive, but we'll include it, anyway. So, what are the recommended doses?

White Peony + Licorice: Ratio of 1:1. Sold by TCM practictioners under the name Shao Yao Gan Cao Tang, recommend 2-3g BID or TID (start low, reviewers on the PureFormulas website report good results at 1 pill, TID). Sold as a tea by "The Hormone Diva," recommends 2-4 cups/day.
Capsules: https://www.pureformulas.com/peony-and-l...herbs.html
Tea: http://thehormonediva.com/product/pcos-tea/

Spearmint: 2 cups of tea BID (easy!)
Just get some tea at the food store! It's widely available and cheap!

Red Reishi: 1-1.5 g daily capsules
Capsules: https://www.amazon.com/Reishi-900mg-Mush...ma+lucidum

Saw Palmetto (extract): 320mg daily
Pills: https://www.amazon.com/NOW-Saw-Palmetto-...to+extract


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