When you hear the word “testosterone”, you don’t really think about women because testosterone isn’t typically associated with the female sex. T is heavily attributed to hairy, muscular, and libido raged men because a lot of people think that it’s solely a male hormone.
However, while it is true that testosterone is one of man’s primary sex hormones, it is found in women too. That said, some of testosterone’s characteristics remain the same regardless of gender.
TESTOSTERONE IN WOMEN
Like I just said, testosterone is largely attributed to the male species. This is because men have more testosterone than women but just because women have less in terms of quantity, that doesn’t make testosterone any less important to female health. Subsequently, the same can also be said for estrogen and men.
For both sexes, there are basically two quantifiable measures of testosterone that needs to be noted. These are:
- Total Testosterone – This is basically the entire amount of testosterone that’s present in the body.
- Free Testosterone – While Total Testosterone counts the entire amount, Free Testosterone just counts the bioactive bits.
To both male & female, “free” testosterone levels are just at 1-2% of total test. That may seem like a low number but really, that’s just how nature puts it and this is because most of our testosterone is bound to SHBG. So, what is SHBG? I’m glad you asked.
WHAT IS SHBG?
First of all, when we’re talking about sex hormones, we’re basically talking about two things.
- Androgens – These are the hormones that are in-charge of the development and the maintenance of “male” characteristics. This includes Testosterone, Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and Androstenedione.
- Estrogens – These hormones are the feminine counterpart of Androgens. As such, they are responsible for the development and regulation of “female” characteristics. This includes estradiol, estrone, and estriol.
SHBG is a glycoprotein that binds to the already mentioned sex hormones and transports them to the places where they are needed. Take note though that the sex hormones that’re bound to SHBG are inactive.
That said, SHBG levels are higher in females as compared to men. Moreover, SHBG also has a higher affinity to testosterone as compared to estrogen. What does this have to do with female health, though?
Well, as females have higher levels of SHBG, higher levels of estrogen also equals to higher levels of SHBG. Higher levels of SHBG would also then lead to lower levels of testosterone. Combined, this predisposes women to risks of having hormonal imbalances.
According to this study on the impact of testosterone on women’s health, lower levels of testosterone is linked to depression, osteoporosis, declining libido, and increased fat mass. Subsequently, higher levels of testosterone is associated with aggressiveness and again – depression. To make it easier to understand, the researchers developed a “four-level-hormone classification scheme” to determine the effects of an imbalanced testosterone to estradiol ratio. These are follows.
FOUR-LEVEL-HORMONE CLASSIFICATION SCHEME
- Low E-low T – osteoporosis, depression, and obesity
- High E-low T – obesity, decreased libido
- High T-low E – aggression, depression, increased libido, and substance abuse
- High E-high T – type II diabetes risk, breast cancer and cardiovascular risk.
RISK FACTORS FOR LOW FEMALE TESTOSTERONE
Age is a significant risk factor for both male & female but since testosterone is largely attributed to men, low testosterone is often overlooked by women but it still does happen. In fact, during & after menopause, the risks for low testosterone and low estrogen becomes more prevalent. Moreover, this study also states that compared to 20 year old women, testosterone levels continuously decrease to about 50% prior to menopause.
While the most obvious risk factor to low female testosterone is menopause, there are others such as:
- Long term conventional oral contraception or hormone replacement therapy (HRT). These reduce levels of androgens because of higher levels of SHBG.
- Thyroid hormone replacement therapy can reduce total and “free” testosterone.
- Stress. As this study states, higher testosterone concentrations are likely to drop under anticipatory stress.
- Improper nutrition. This includes excessive weight gain (obesity) and the lack of nourishment (anorexia).
TESTOSTERONE BOOSTERS FOR WOMEN’S HEALTH
For women, testosterone boosters don’t always necessarily boost testosterone. Instead, some of them regulate sex hormones which makes them practical alternatives for hormonal replacement therapy. These are safer options compared to steroids and prohormones that carry a number of dangerous side effects.
Before I show you the testosterone boosters that work for women, let me just discuss a few more things. These are particularly important to tackle since a lot of these T-boosters target these elements.
Symptoms of low female testosterone
- Chronic Stress and demotivation
- Reduced libido
- Mood changes
- Weight loss problems
What optimal testosterone levels does for women
- Better figure – The findings of this study suggest that testosterone is associated with visceral fat after adjusting for insulin resistance. This suggests that test plays an important role in fat distribution. This very reason is why testosterone also has a reputation as a fat-burner and this rings true to women, too.
- Increased libido – One of the most common complaints of women with low testosterone is a reduction in sex drive. Admittedly, testosterone isn’t the only factor that regulates libido. However, it’s a major one. Therefore, there’s a good chance that by increasing testosterone, libido will follow suit.
- Stress – As stress levels intensify, so too will levels of cortisol. Moreover, cortisol and testosterone share an inverse relationship. Ergo, increased cortisol will lead to lower levels of testosterone and vice versa. In that sense, some cases of female health are measured by their testosterone to cortisol ratio.
Now that you know some of the most common symptoms regarding to low female testosterone and what optimal levels of T does for women’s health, let’s tackle some of the best testosterone boosters that work well for women.
It’s found in testosterone boosters for its benefits in libido and physical prowess. However, in truth, there’s really not much evidence on Damiana’s use as a testosterone booster. In fact, the few evidence that Damiana has makes it a questionable choice for men’s health. But we’re not talking about men here, are we?
According to this study, 86.7% of the women treated with Damiana (along with evening primrose oil, ginseng, and royal jelly) rated their menopausal symptoms as ‘much improved’ or ‘very much improved’. In conclusion to the study, the researchers said that Damiana “can be used as a safe natural promoter of health and well-being in women during the menopausal transition”.
Damiana does this by increasing nitric oxide concentrations in the blood stream which then leads to vasodilation and improved circulation. Additionally, another study states that some of the constituents of Damiana could suppress aromatase activity for lower levels of estrogen and higher testosterone. However, some constituents also showed estrogenic activity. This is what makes it a questionable ingredient to men’s testosterone boosters. For women, though, this doesn’t seem to be a problem.
Another ingredient that when put in a man’s supplement, becomes a questionable choice. As a female oriented testosterone booster though, DIM is backed by quite a number of scientific evidence.
DIM unbinds testosterone from its SHBG captivity, leading to more “free” testosterone. Moreover, DIM serves as an aromatase inhibitor that blocks testosterone from converting to estrogen.
According to this study, after DIM administration, “there was an increase in the ratio of 2-hydroxyestrones (C-2) to 16α-hydroxyestrone (C-16), consistent with antiestrogenic activity that results in more of C-2 product compared with C-16”. That sounds really scientific but what this basically means is that there are more of the “safe” C-2 estrogens compared to the “dangerous” C-16 ones that’re associated with auto-immune diseases and obesity after supplementing with DIM.
It’s primarily known as “the stick of man” but don’t let the nickname fool you. It’s been used since ye’ olden times for increasing libido but Tongkat Ali is also a unisex testosterone booster that has evidence backing its benefits to both sexes.
According to this study, Tongkat Ali supplementation resulted in significant increases in total and “free” testosterone and muscular strength in both men & women. Additionally, the study also sates that the rise in “free” test in women might be due to the significant decline in SHBG.
Another study on both men & women found that Tongkat Ali can increase levels of testosterone by 37% while also reducing cortisol to 16%.
All in all, Tongkat Ali seems to aid female health not only by boosting testosterone and libido, it also protects women from the harmful effects of stress and SHBG.
It’s been used in Ayurvedic medicine for its strong adaptogenic value but it’s also good for women’s sexual health.
A study investigated the efficacy and safety of Ashwagandha in improving sexual function in women. Their results are the following:
- Increased arousal
- Increased lubrication
- Increased orgasm
- Increased satisfaction
- Increased number of successful sexual encounters
As a whole, this means that women who were administered with Ashwagandha had a better sexual experience than those who were treated with placebo. As an adaptogen, Ashwagandha also helps battle excessive levels of cortisol for a stress free environment conducive to boosts in testosterone.
If you’ve been looking at testosterone boosters for quite some time now, you might’ve noticed that Tribulus Terrestris is a staple ingredient. However, Tribulus Terrestris isn’t really a testosterone booster so don’t let its popularity fool you.
Instead, Tribulus Terrestris makes you “feel” as if you’ve had your testosterone boosted because of its potent libido enhancing effects. According to this study, the reason behind this could be that Tribulus Terrestris increases androgen sensitivity by 58%.
Additionally, Tribulus Terrestris also doesn’t have the evidence to prove its boosts athletic performance. This is contrary to the strong marketing of this herb as an athletic enhancer. However, it still looks to be safe in enhancing female sexuality.
Horny Goat Weed
Just the name of this herb gets me excited. Horny Goat Weed aka Epimedium is an herb that obviously, gets goats horny. However, the demographic that this herb has isn’t limited to our 4-legged horned fellows. It works for both men & women too!
Horny Goat Weed gets both sexes horny through its active compound Icariin. What Icariin does is boost Nitric Oxide which then enhances blood flow throughout the body (including our private parts). It’s also shown to mimic the effects of testosterone without necessarily changing hormonal status.
Honestly, if I had to rename Horny Goat Weed, I wouldn’t call it Epimedium because there’s nothing medium about the libido boosts that happen here. Instead, I’d call it Epicenter because by the time the effects kick in, there’s bound to be an earthquake just right between the bed sheets from all that hip thrusting.
Let’s call this the sunshine vitamin because essentially, you get the best kind of Vitamin D from the sun. This vitamin has strong links to testosterone levels in both men & women and the links grow even stronger as we age.
This study shows that by supplementing with Vitamin D in men and women over the age of 65, testosterone levels rise as the risks of falling take a dip. You might be questioning, “what does falling have to do with health?” Well, during our younger years, falling isn’t quite an issue as our bodies are still well built to withstand the impact. However, as we get up there in age, our bodies lack the durability that we once had and this essentially reduces the quality of the life we live.
At the study’s end, the researchers concluded that “higher testosterone levels in both genders and higher DHEA-S levels in women predicted a more than 60% lower risk of falling”.
Additionally, we might get away with not supplementing with Vitamin D in our younger years because, well, the sun gives it for free. However, as we get older, Vitamin D supplementation gets more important.
If you’re a woman or a man who’s close friends with a woman (aren’t we all?), you sure as hell know that the nature of women’s hormones are fluctuating. Honestly, that’s what makes women so stimulating to be with because you just don’t know what you’re getting and when you’re getting it. That’s just the way women are.
That said, it’s very hard to gauge what exactly a woman needs in a testosterone booster or if she actually does need her testosterone boosted. Thus, most testosterone boosters geared towards women’s health aim to alleviate the symptoms of low testosterone by regulating hormones back into shape as compared to actually boosting test.
Finally, let me just say that there are plenty more testosterone boosting ingredients found in a woman’s stack. However, I believe the ingredients I stated here offer a great place to start and are always worth looking out for.