Testosterone is one of the most important hormones for men. Starting in their puberty, testosterone is the one that causes changes in young boys.
These changes turn them into a fully-grown man after a few struggling years. But even after puberty, testosterone still causes changes in a man. Some of them are beneficial; some of them are not quite so.
DHT is a special molecule, closely related to testosterone. It is actually an activated version of testosterone. It is more active and triggers more aggressive changes.
This can be beneficial, but may also have consequences. In this article, we will dive deeper into what DHT is and why it is essential for males. We will also explain why you would want to lower DHT and how you can do it naturally.
What is DHT?
DHT is short for dihydrotestosterone. As mentioned above, it is an androgen hormone, deeply related to testosterone. It is what stimulates puberty, and all of those sexual characteristics we see arise in young boys.
DHT can be created from testosterone. It is estimated that 10% of our circulating testosterone is converted into DHT. This happens not only in males but also the circulating testosterone in women. However, during puberty, this percentage is much lower. But then something happens, children start converting more DHT, and their puberty takes place (1).
DHT causes changes in the testes, penis, and scrotum in males. It triggers growth in pubic hair, facial hair, and others. This hormone is also responsible for making the prostate grow bigger and favors sexual behavior.
As you can see, DHT is similar to testosterone but much more active and potent. Many changes in the body will only happen after testosterone turns into DHT. However, DHT depends on testosterone. The amount of DHT is always a percentage of the total circulating testosterone.
Every time testosterone levels increase, DHT will also increase. Thus, the only way to control DHT in the body is by changing testosterone production. We can also block the enzyme that turns testosterone into DHT, but the body cannot do this without external aid.
In the body, testosterone production can be controlled by two glands in the brain. They are the hypothalamus and the pituitary. They send a chemical message to the testes to increase or decrease the level of testosterone.
Firstly, the hypothalamus sends a signal to the pituitary using the gonadotrophin-releasing hormone. The pituitary releases luteinizing hormone as a response. Then, this luteinizing hormone travels to the testes and stimulates the production of testosterone.
Testosterone production takes place in the Leydig cells, inside the testes. Then, it can be converted into DHT in different tissues throughout the body. In turn, testosterone is detected by the hypothalamus and triggers negative feedback. When the hypothalamus realizes there’s enough circulating testosterone, it stops secreting gonadotrophin-releasing hormone.
But what would happen if we have too high or too low dihydrotestosterone levels?
An excess of DHT is only visibly noticeable in women. They start increasing pubic and facial hair and having menstrual problems. In males, an excess DHT has long-term consequences. For example, baldness or prostate enlargement (2).
On the other hand, if we have insufficient DHT levels, there will be noticeable problems in males. Boys won’t have normal puberty. Inside the womb, the fetus would not trigger the formation of the male genitalia. And in the adult, we may experience a reduction in body hair growth, or sexual dysfunction (1).
How can DHT affect men’s health?
As you can see above, DHT is associated with a man’s health in many ways.
The name “testosterone” means “man-maker” in Greek. It is an important player in a man’s health from a very early start. In the womb, testosterone and DHT trigger the conversion of male genitalia. In puberty, DHT stimulates changes such as body hair, a deep voice, and an increase in muscle mass.
Even beyond these outside changes, there are many others stimulated by DHT. For example, it stimulates the production of red blood cells. That’s why males have a normal red blood cell count higher than women. It strengthens the bones and promotes mineralization. That’s why females are more susceptible to osteoporosis as compared to males (3).
In a man’s behavior, testosterone also has important effects on creating a dominant and protective personality. It promotes aggression as a way to defend our territory and protect our family. It is also important to modulate sexual performance and facilitate erection (4).
In different organs, DHT has a role of multiplying and growing. For example, it is crucial for sperm production and fertility. But this multiplying function is not always good. For instance, in the liver, high testosterone stimulates the production of LDL cholesterol.
As opposed to testosterone, DHT has more side effects or undesirable outcomes. For example, it is DHT and not testosterone that triggers acne in the skin. After converting testosterone into DHT, the hair follicle is attacked on the scalp. This causes male-pattern baldness, also known as androgenic alopecia. Similarly, DHT works in the prostate gland and stimulates its growth. An excess of DHT is thus associated with a higher risk of benign prostate hyperplasia (2).
Since DHT is associated with more undesirable effects, there are medications to counter this problem. There’s no way to ask the body to stop DHT production by itself. But we can block the enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT. The synthetic drug finasteride does that. It is known to benefit people with a prostate enlargement at a dose of 5 mg (Proscar).
At a lower dose of 1 mg (Avodart), it has the same effect, but only in the skin. Thus, this is the typical dose used to counter male pattern baldness or hair thinning. Another drug we can use for prostate enlargement is Avodart or dutasteride. It works similarly, but it is not used in male pattern hair loss (2).
The effect of DHT on tissue growth in the prostate raises very sensitive questions. Is there a connection between DHT and prostate cancer? According to studies, there’s probably a strong connection. Actually, an androgen suppression therapy can be beneficial in some cases of prostate cancer. On the contrary, testosterone replacement therapy should be carefully evaluated in these patients.
However, the connection between androgens and prostate cancer is not direct or easy to explain. Our circulating androgen levels have nothing to do with tissue levels of testosterone inside the prostate. We can have high levels of circulating testosterone and DHT but lower levels inside the prostate. Thus, there’s not always a reliable way to measure this connection (5).
How can you lower DHT levels naturally?
Testosterone is important for males. It has many functions and beneficial effects. However, we have seen above how DHT is associated with both good and bad outcomes. If you have an excess of DHT, it is more likely to suffer from baldness and BPH. It is also associated with prostate cancer in some way.
Thus, is there a way to lower your levels of DHT and leave testosterone levels untouched? We mentioned above finasteride and dutasteride as two medical solutions. They are synthetic drugs that block the enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT. But we can also have a natural solution. Herbal remedies that block DHT and won’t give you problems with your testosterone.
These natural DHT blockers can be helpful for men with prostate problems. They can also be very useful if you have male-pattern baldness or androgenetic alopecia. They won’t work in telogen effluvium and other causes of hair loss, though.
Our recommended solutions to reduce levels of DHT include the following:
The scientific name of this herb is Serenoa repens. It can be found in the southeastern part of the United States, especially in Florida. Saw palmetto is, at the moment, one of the best natural blockers of DHT.
This herb does a similar process compared to finasteride. It inhibits an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase. This enzyme converts testosterone into DHT.
You can find this herbal remedy in many presentations, including extracts, powders, capsules, and much more. Surely, if you want a highly-concentrated form, we recommend extracts. But if you want to have a more accurate dose, it is better as a supplement or pill (6).
This is a truly impressive herbal remedy and very popular to improve liver function. However, it has an important role in controlling serum DHT, too. The scientific name is Urtica dioica and comes from the nettle root.
Stinging nettle is a traditional solution for patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia. According to studies, this herbal remedy works by reducing levels of DHT in the tissues. By doing so, the rate of growth of benign prostatic hyperplasia is significantly reduced. In these patients, stinging nettle does not only slows down the growth of the gland. It may even reduce prostate size and the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels.
Similar to the above, stinging nettle also works by countering the enzyme 5-alpha reductase. This reduces our tissue levels of DHT, improving prostate health, and hair loss (7).
Pumpkin seed oil
According to clinical trials, pumpkin seed oil works for people who have reduced scalp hair count. It can be administered at a concentration of 400 mg. However, it takes a while before the supplement has an important effect. The time recommended by studies is 24 weeks.
After using pumpkin seed oil supplement for this long, patients typically feel better about their hair growth and report significant improvements. We can achieve as much as a 40% improvement in the average scalp hair count. This is hair regrowth and can be further enhanced with topical minoxidil.
At the moment, science has not uncovered the complete mechanism. We don’t know exactly how this happens. What we do know is that pumpkin seed oil contains a lot of phytonutrients. One of the most important are phytosterols, and some of them work on 5-alpha reductase. By inhibiting this enzyme, phytosterols in pumpkin seed oil may also limit DHT concentration (8).
This is a red pigment found in plants, especially in fruits. It is a vital carotenoid that gives a bright red color to tomatoes. In plants, this substance protects them against free radicals. But in humans, lycopene may also control DHT levels. In this regard, it is an important remedy if you want to promote hair growth.
Moreover, this substance has a double role in the prostate. It reduces DHT levels and other substances called an insulin-like growth factor. Both of them contribute to prostate enlargement.
You can find lycopene naturally in tomatoes, and any tomato-based product. It is also found in watermelon, guavas, grapefruits, and apricot. It is one of the most commonly consumed natural DHT blockers (9).
This famous supplement can be extracted from the bark of a tree known as American Cherry. It is scientifically named Prunus Africana. This is a popular remedy for patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia. It is known to alleviate the symptoms associated with prostate enlargement.
It is excellent for hyperplasia because it inhibits a series of growth factors in the prostate. But besides this growth factor mechanism, it is also a potent anti-androgenic.
Similar to other supplements in this list, pygeum works with the enzyme 5-alpha reductase. This enzyme is important for the conversion of testosterone into DHT. As such, there’s a reduction of DHT and a significant improvement in DHT-related problems (10).
This is one of the most popular supplements, and one of the first ones in achieving an internationally accepted scientific reputation based on conclusive scientific evidence. Green tea has a variety of polyphenols. One of the most important is named epigallocatechin-3 gallate. In short, we can call it EGCG.
Besides a potent effect on cardiovascular disease, EGCG is also an androgen antagonist. It blunts the receptors of DHT in different tissues, interfering with its signaling. But it also inhibits the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, just like many other herbs in this list. Doing so may be very useful for prostate problems and alopecia when associated with an excess of DHT (11).
It is also known under the scientific name Trigonella foenum-graecum. It is an interesting herb with many health properties. It is actually associated with an increase in testosterone levels and a decrease in DHT. As such, it is one of the best natural DHT blockers if you have normal or low testosterone levels.
By reducing DHT and increasing testosterone levels, fenugreek is useful to increase libido. It also improves our sugar metabolism and has anti-diabetic effects (12).
This is, by far, one of the most common stimulants we consume as a society. It is an interesting choice to block DHT production, too. However, the DHT-blocking property is not extremely potent. It works like minoxidil, which needs to be applied directly to the affected area. In this case, in the affected area of the scalp. It blocks androgen receptors and stimulates follicle hair growth (14).
Male-pattern baldness and prostate hyperplasia may coexist in the same patients. They apparently do not have anything in common, except for DHT.
DHT is a converted testosterone hormone. It is activated by an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase. After being activated, DHT can trigger a series of changes in the body. For example, it is responsible for changing the body during puberty in boys. It is also useful to enhance muscle development and bone mineralization.
However, it has side effects that testosterone itself does not have. For example, in the liver, DHT increases the production of LDL cholesterol. In the scalp, DHT destroys the hair follicles and causes male-pattern baldness. In the prostate, DHT causes growth and hyperplasia, contributing to prostate enlargement.
Luckily, there are remedies to reduce DHT levels in the body without affecting testosterone. We have medical options, such as finasteride, but also natural herbs, such as saw palmetto, fenugreek, lycopene, pygeum, and pumpkin seed oil.