Living in a society that never shut down, in an environment that’s driven by fossil fuels, and the world that’s fed by foods full of ingredients we cant pronounce, it becomes difficult not to experience some degree of hormonal imbalances.
The environment we live in and the toxins we consume are constantly changing the way our body responds to and produces hormones. The liver’s toxic burden leads leave little time and energy to manage hormone breakdown and elimination.
Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are found everywhere, from the soaps we put on our body to the water we drink. They’ve been shown to interfere with the proper function of our endocrine system, in some cases they mimicking hormones, and in other cases blocking them.
Why are hormones balance so important, you ask? Well, they’re the rapid-fire communication system the body uses to manage multiple organ systems and processes. So for anyone who’s ever had their email crash in the middle of a workweek, you can understand how disruptions in a communication pathway can result in a lot of systems failing or even falling apart.
Of the entire endocrine system, it seems our toxic and environmental burden has the strongest effect on five important hormones: cortisol, insulin, estrogen, dihydrotestosterone, and thyroid hormone.
Disruption in these messaging molecules can results in acne, weight gain, infertility, hair loss, irregular periods, and the list goes on. Let me break it down for you.
5 Hormone Imbalances
Estrogen aka the female hormone. When we see this hormone in excess, we develop the unwelcomed symptoms of bloating, breast tenderness, and irregular periods in women, and infertility + erectile dysfunction in men. Toxic burden has shown to slow down the metabolism of estrogen, leading to bodily excesses.
Insulin aka the sugar police. This hormone controls the level of sugar in the blood and cells, and too much can cause the cells of our body to develop resistance, leading to a sluggish metabolism, and imbalances of all the other important hormones we mentioned. Because insulin is one of the body’s “major” hormones, it becomes almost impossible for the body to manage all other hormones when insulin goes rouge.
Cortisol aka the stress hormone. This hormone causes havoc when there’s too much, as well as too little. Over production leads to blood sugar elevation, causing weight gain, fatigue, and in some cases, fatty liver disease. A lack of cortisol develops from long-term stress and is associated with exhaustion, cravings, weakened immune system, and intolerance to exercise, just to name a few.
Dihydrotestosterone aka the kingpin of the androgens. This hormone is the most potent version of testosterone and results in male patterned baldness, gynecomastia, prostate enlargement, acne, and male-patterned hair growth in females when in excess.
5. Thyroid Hormone
Thyroid hormone is the ruler of metabolism. Your thyroid hormones control the rate at which you grow, as well as the rate at which your body burns fuel. Deficiencies lead to weight gain, extreme fatigue, bowel irregularity, and dry, brittle nails and hair.
How Stinging Nettle Can Help You Balance Hormones
While changing diet and lifestyle is a given when trying to reduce your toxic burden, there is one simple drink you can make each day to help kick start the process. The herb is called Stinging Nettle, or in it’s Latin binomial, Urtica dioica.
While you may find its roots and leaves in tincture preparations, the aqueous (aka water solution) components in its leaves are the ingredients we want in this case.
Stinging Nettle has some excellent research on hormone support, as its been shown to be a moderate aromatase and reductase inhibitor, meaning is slowed down the enzymes that convert testosterones into estrogens and dihydrotestosterone. Hence, it has has been shown to support acne, amenorrhea, prostate enlargement, PCOS, and all related androgen excess conditions.
While more research is still needed, Stinging Nettle is also said to stimulate hair growth, reduce blood sugar and improve insulin resistance in diabetics, ad provide relief from water retention – all symptoms of hormone imbalances. Furthermore, Stinging Nettle contains ingredients such as serotonin and acetylcholine, which offset the hard effects of stress on the adrenals.
It’s also a rich source of minerals like zinc, magnesium, potassium, and iron, which means a long steeping process is necessary to pull out all the good stuff.
Here’s how to prepare it (the prep time is minimal, but the steep time is lengthy)…
The Hormone-Balancing Drink
Dried loose nettle leaves (not root) – in my experience, the fresher the leaves, the better the flavor
1 L water
Large glass container with cover
Bring 1 liter of water to a boil
Pour over 1/2 cup of dried nettle leaves in glass container
Cover tightly and allow infusing for 4-10 hours (recommended overnight) at room temperature
Consume 1 L of infusion throughout the day. You can reheat it and mix with some almond milk for a latte like infusion, or drink it with a touch of honey for a refreshing cold beverage.
Added Tip: I usually recommend making 2-3 days worth at one time, remembering the ratio to of 1/2 cup leaves to 1 L of water. Store the leftover infusion in the fridge for up to 3 days. It’ll save you some effort in the long run.
Note: you should not drink this tea if you’re pregnant, as it has been shown to stimulate uterine contractions. However, if you’re having a hard time dropping milk to breastfed, drink up, as stinging nettle also promotes lactation.
Planta Med.1995 Feb;61(1):31-2. The effect of extracts of the roots of the stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) on the interaction of SHBG with its receptor on human prostatic membranes. Hryb DJ1, Khan MS, Romas NA, Rosner W.
Aqueous Extract of Urtica Dioica Makes Significant Inhibition on Adenosine Deaminase Activity in Prostate Tissue from Patients with Prostate Cancer.
Cancer Biol Ther. 2004.
Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2008 Aug; 8(6): 646–682. Natural Products as Aromatase Inhibitors. Marcy J. Balunas,a,† Bin Su,b,‡ Robert W. Brueggemeier,b and A. Douglas Kinghornb.*