DHEA: Understanding The Benefits, Risks, And Alternatives

Get ready to turbocharge your wellness journey! Discover the powerhouse compound that's been causing a buzz in the health world – DHEA! From energy-boosting benefits to alternatives and potential downsides, we've got you covered. In this article, we'll delve into what DHEA is, how it works, its importance, the benefits it offers, potential downsides, and explore alternative options. Let's unravel the mysteries of DHEA together! 

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The Definition: DHEA, short for Dehydroepiandrosterone, is a naturally occurring hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It serves as a precursor to both male and female sex hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen. As a supplement, DHEA may help individuals target the areas of the body that these hormones are closely involved with. 

The Process: While DHEA is produced by the body, you cannot extract it to make it available in supplement form. DHEA is synthetically made in labs using diosgenin, a chemical found in soy and yams. 

How To Take: There is no average dose for individuals given that the reason for taking DHEA and the amount needed to achieve your goals can vary greatly. Work with a healthcare professional to better determine how much you should be taking. 

History: DHEA was first identified in the 1930s by Adolf Butenandt and his colleagues. However, it wasn't until the 1960s that its chemical structure was fully understood. By the late 90s, it was more commonly understood and started gaining traction as a potential supplement for hormonal issues. 

The Breakdown: What Is DHEA?

DHEA, short for Dehydroepiandrosterone, is a naturally occurring hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It serves as a precursor to both male and female sex hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen. DHEA levels typically peak in early adulthood and decline with age.

How Does DHEA Work?

DHEA operates as a building block for various hormones in the body. When you consume DHEA supplements, your body converts it into androgens and estrogens as needed, thus influencing hormone balance. These hormones play a vital role in regulating metabolism, immune function, and overall energy levels.


What Is DHEA?


Why Is DHEA Important?

DHEA holds significance due to its multifaceted impact on the body. It contributes to:

  • Hormone Balance: DHEA helps maintain the right balance of androgens and estrogens, which is essential for reproductive health and overall well-being.1
  • Bone Health: Adequate DHEA levels are associated with improved bone density, especially in older individuals.2
  • Cognitive Function: Some studies suggest that DHEA might have a positive impact on cognitive function and memory in aging adults.
  • Energy and Mood: DHEA plays a role in energy production and can have an influence on mood and emotional well-being.3

What Are The Benefits Of DHEA?

DHEA supplements have been linked to various potential benefits, including:

Enhanced Muscle Mass

DHEA is believed to aid in the development of lean muscle mass, making it popular among fitness enthusiasts.

Improved Libido

It may contribute to a healthy sex drive and reproductive function.

Weight Management

DHEA has been associated with a potential role in weight loss or weight management efforts.

Immune Support

DHEA may play a part in supporting a healthy immune system.

Are There Any Downsides To DHEA?

While DHEA offers potential benefits, it's crucial to consider possible downsides, which may include:

  • Hormonal Imbalances: Taking DHEA supplements without proper medical guidance can lead to hormonal imbalances.
  • Acne And Hair Loss: Increased DHEA levels might contribute to skin issues like acne and hair loss in some individuals.
  • Interactions With Medications: DHEA supplements may interact with certain medications, so consulting a healthcare professional before use is essential.

What Are The Alternatives To DHEA?

If DHEA supplementation isn't the right fit for you, several alternatives can support your wellness journey:


These herbs, such as Ashwagandha and Rhodiola, help the body adapt to stress and promote balance.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Found in fish oil and flaxseed, omega-3s are renowned for their heart and brain health benefits.

Vitamin D

Essential for bone health and immunity, vitamin D supplements can be valuable, especially in deficient individuals.

Maca Root

This plant is believed to boost energy and support hormonal balance.

Is DHEA Good To Take Daily?

Taking DHEA daily is a personal decision that depends on individual health goals and needs. Here are some key considerations:

  • Hormonal Balance: DHEA plays a role in hormone balance, so taking it daily may be beneficial for individuals with documented deficiencies or imbalances.
  • Low Dosage: If you and your healthcare provider decide that daily DHEA supplementation is suitable, start with a low dosage and monitor your response.
  • Cycle On And Off: Some individuals choose to cycle DHEA use, taking breaks from supplementation to maintain a natural hormonal rhythm.

What Time Of The Day Should DHEA Be Taken?

The timing of DHEA intake can impact its effectiveness. Consider the following guidelines:

  • Morning: DHEA is a precursor to hormones that influence energy levels, so taking it in the morning may be optimal for some individuals.
  • Divided Doses: If your healthcare professional recommends multiple doses throughout the day, follow their instructions for best results.
  • With Food: DHEA supplements are often taken with meals to improve absorption and reduce the risk of stomach discomfort.

Could You Buy DHEA Over The Counter?

Yes, DHEA supplements are available over the counter at various health food stores, pharmacies, and online retailers. However, it's essential to exercise caution and consider the following:

  • Quality Matters: Purchase DHEA products from reputable brands known for their quality and adherence to safety standards.
  • Choose Trusted Sources: Buy from reputable retailers or directly from the manufacturer to ensure you receive genuine products.
  • Read Labels: Check the ingredient list, dosage, and any potential allergens to ensure the product aligns with your needs.

How Fast Does DHEA Work?

The time it takes to experience the effects of DHEA can vary based on individual factors. Consider the following:

  • Individual Response: Some individuals may notice changes within a few weeks, while others might take longer to experience any effects.
  • Consistency Is Key: Consistent daily use, as directed by a healthcare professional, is crucial to give DHEA time to build up in the body and exert its influence.
  • Monitor Progress: Keep track of any changes you observe and discuss them with your healthcare provider during follow-up appointments.

How Can You Choose The Best DHEA Product For You?

Selecting the right DHEA product is essential for a positive experience. Follow these steps to make an informed decision:

Consult a Healthcare Professional

Seek guidance from a healthcare provider who can assess your health and recommend the appropriate DHEA product.


Consider whether you prefer capsules, tablets, creams, or other forms based on your personal preferences and lifestyle.


Start with the lowest effective dosage, as recommended by your healthcare provider, and adjust as needed.

Quality And Purity

Look for DHEA products that are third-party tested for quality and purity to ensure you are getting a reliable supplement.


Check for additional ingredients in the product and ensure they align with your dietary restrictions and preferences.

Brand Reputation

Choose DHEA products from reputable brands with positive reviews and a history of trustworthiness.

What Is The History Behind DHEA?

DHEA has a fascinating history that showcases its journey from scientific discovery to becoming a popular topic in the wellness industry. Here's a brief overview:

  • Discovery: DHEA was first identified in the 1930s by Adolf Butenandt and his colleagues. However, it wasn't until the 1960s that its chemical structure was fully understood.
  • Early Research: In the following decades, researchers explored DHEA's role in the body, leading to its classification as a prohormone with potential impacts on overall health.
  • Popularity Surge: DHEA gained significant attention in the 1990s when some studies suggested it could have anti-aging properties and support overall well-being.
  • Supplement Market: As interest in DHEA grew, it became widely available as a dietary supplement, allowing individuals to explore its potential benefits.

What Is The Current Scene Like?

DHEA continues to be a topic of interest in the wellness community, with ongoing research and discussions about its applications. Here's a glimpse of its current status:

  • Scientific Interest: Researchers are still investigating DHEA's effects on various aspects of health, including its potential impacts on aging, cognitive function, and hormonal balance.
  • Health And Wellness Market: DHEA supplements are readily accessible in health food stores, pharmacies, and online platforms, making it convenient for consumers to explore this compound.
  • Regulatory Landscape: The sale and regulation of DHEA supplements may vary from country to country, with some places considering it a dietary supplement and others regulating it as a controlled substance.
  • Educational Initiatives: Health professionals are emphasizing the importance of informed decision-making when it comes to DHEA supplementation, encouraging individuals to consult healthcare providers before use.

What Lies Ahead For DHEA?

As research and interest in DHEA persist, the future holds several possibilities for this compound:

  • Advancements In Understanding: Ongoing scientific studies may shed more light on DHEA's mechanisms of action and potential applications.
  • Personalized Approaches: With a better understanding of individual variations, DHEA supplementation might be tailored to specific needs and health goals.
  • Combination Therapies: DHEA might be studied in combination with other compounds or therapies to explore synergistic effects on health and well-being.
  • Wider Acceptance: As more evidence emerges, DHEA's role in health and wellness may become more widely recognized and integrated into conventional medicine.


Can DHEA supplements reverse the aging process?

While some studies suggest potential anti-aging effects, DHEA is not a miracle solution for reversing aging. Individual results may vary.

Is DHEA safe for long-term use?

DHEA should be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional, especially for prolonged use, to monitor potential side effects and hormone levels.

Can DHEA help with fertility?

DHEA has been studied for its potential positive impact on fertility in certain cases, but it's essential to consult a fertility specialist for personalized advice.

Are DHEA supplements suitable for everyone?

DHEA supplements are not recommended for everyone. People with certain medical conditions or taking specific medications should avoid or use them only under medical supervision.

What is the recommended dosage of DHEA?

Dosage recommendations vary depending on individual needs and health status. Consulting a healthcare professional is crucial to determine the appropriate dosage.

Can DHEA cause hormone-related cancers?

The relationship between DHEA supplementation and hormone-related cancers (such as breast, ovarian, or prostate cancer) is not entirely understood. Some studies have raised concerns about potential risks, especially when DHEA is used long-term or in high doses. Individuals with a history of hormone-related cancers should avoid DHEA supplementation and consult their healthcare provider for personalized advice.

Can DHEA improve skin health?

Some individuals report improvements in skin health and appearance with DHEA supplementation, but results can vary.

Does DHEA help with stress and anxiety?

DHEA's impact on stress and anxiety is not fully understood, and individual responses may differ.

Can DHEA interfere with hormonal birth control methods?

DHEA may potentially interact with hormonal birth control methods, reducing their effectiveness. It's crucial to discuss this with a healthcare provider.

Can DHEA supplements interact with other medications or supplements?

DHEA can interact with certain medications and supplements, so it's essential to disclose all current medications to a healthcare professional. Unlike other supplements you may take, DHEA can interact negatively with a number of prescriptions you may have. This includes hormone-related medications, antidepressants, anticoagulants, anticonvulsants, and more. 


  1.  DHEA. (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-dhea/art-20364199
  2. von Mühlen, D., Laughlin, G. A., Kritz-Silverstein, D., Bergstrom, J., & Bettencourt, R. (2008). Effect of dehydroepiandrosterone supplementation on bone mineral density, bone markers, and body composition in older adults. Osteoporosis International : A Journal Established as Result of Cooperation between the European Foundation for Osteoporosis and the National Osteoporosis Foundation of the USA, 19(5), 699–707. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00198-007-0520-z
  3. Newman, T. (2018, June 14). How can DHEA benefit your health? Medicalnewstoday.com; Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/308684