Pregnenolone

Pregnenolone, precursor hormone, male female hormones, longevity, emotional well-being, estrogen, testosterone, DHEA, enhance memory, strength, skin. Relieve arthritis, stress, aging, safe.

Pregnenolone the parent (precursor) hormone from which all other vital male and female hormones are made, has been studied for its effects on health, longevity, and emotional well-being sense the 1940’s.   Pregnenolone is made from cholesterol in the body.   It can be synthesized into a number of hormones - estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, aldosterone, cortisol, etc.   It is, in fact, the master hormone from which all the steroid hormones are derived.

Made from cholesterol, pregnenolone is a natural steroid hormone produced primarily in the adrenal glands, but in smaller amounts by many other organs and tissues of the human body, including liver, brain, skin, gonads, and even the retina of the eye.

Your adrenal glands are responsible for manufacturing DHEA.   Actually, the cascade of adrenal hormones starts with cholesterol, from which the brain hormone pregnenolone.   Pregnenolone is then transformed into DHEA. And DHEA serves as the raw material from which all other important adrenal hormones--including the sex hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone and the stress hormone cortisol--are synthesized.   DHEA is the most abundant hormone in your body. But production peaks at around age 20. From then on, your DHEA level decreases with age.  By the time you reach 40, your body makes about half as much DHEA as it used to.   By 65, output drops to 10 to 20 percent of optimum; by age 80, it plummets to less than 5 percent of optimum.   Pregnenolone declines in the body more than 60 percent between the ages of 35 and 75.   Along with this natural bodily decline, our bodies have had to deal with a decrease in the building block of pregnenolone.

Memory Aging and Autoimmune Diseases
Pregnenolone's as the precursor of all hormones is at the very top of the hormone heap confers upon it unique powers. As the ultimate precursor, ready and willing to be converted to any of more than 150 adrenal steroids, pregnenolone can participate in every biochemical action that every steroid hormone is party to.   Thus, pregnenolone influences cerebral function, energy level, the female reproductive cycle, immune defenses, inflammation, mood, skin health, sleep patterns, stress tolerance, wound healing, and much, much more.   This is one hormone that knows where the action is and loves to take part.  As with DHEA and other anti-aging hormones, the production of pregnenolone declines with age.   Research will almost certainly prove that pregnenolone replacement therapy can slow the aging process.   Many scientists and doctors believe that restoring pregnenolone to youthful levels is a powerful anti-aging strategy for both body and brain.   Pregnenolone supplementation is natural and physically harmonious, according to Eugene Roberts, Ph.D., a neurobiologist at the City of Hope Medical Center in Los Angeles. Because of the hormone's role as a precursor, pregnenolone has the unique ability to bring all of the other hormones into balance.   It stimulates production of those other hormones, but only when they are needed.   Taking pregnenolone therefore normalizes and rejuvenates the entire adrenal system.

Pregnenolone has been shown to enhance several aspects of neurological functioning, including cognitive benefits such as enhancing learning and memory, and motor-nerve effects such as improved psychomotor performance. Pregnenolone has been used to benefit connective tissue disorders such as lupus and autoimmune/rheumatoid arthritis. As a neurohormone, pregnenolone has a powerful effect on improving transmission of nerve impulses, which may enhance memory relay pathways.   Pregnenolone may allow skin cells to contract, restoring firmness to slack skin. Pregnenolone has been able to quickly cause other rapid anatomical changes which may be from eliminating edema (water retention), such as helping protruding eyes (as in Graves' disease) to recede, or helping joint cartilage to function normally without pain, or causing lungs to oxygenate the blood more efficiently in people with emphysema.

Hormone Replacement Therapy
Menopause is a dreaded ordeal for the millions of women who choose not to use estrogen replacement therapy because of a four to eight tines higher chance of uterine cancer.   The pharmaceutical companies developed 'hormone replacement therapy," which combines synthetic progesterone with conjugated equine estrogen.   The majority of female consumers of this therapy are probably unaware that the estrogen they are taking is not natural to the human body and comes from a pregnant mare's urine (PMU).   Dr. John R. Lee notes that 52 percent of the estrogens in this concoction are the horse estrogens equilin and equilenin, which are not natural to humans.

Doesn't it make more sense to use a natural substance in hormone replacement therapy?   The best thing about pregnenolone is that is it is completely natural.   The human body, the true "master chemist," transforms pregnenolone into the hormones the body is lacking.   Whether its estrogen, progesterone or testosterone, using pregnenolone, the wisdom of the body makes what is needed most.

Anti-arthritis Effects
During the 1940s, pregnenolone was used successfully as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. A 1950 review article on pregnenolone reported on a study by Henderson and colleagues who found that 300 mg pregnenolone/day for 40 days resulted in a significant decrease in joint pain, tenderness, and spasticity, with improved strength and range of motion. Another study by Freeman and colleagues, with 64 patients, used 500 mg of pregnenolone daily for periods of 2 to 30 weeks. 24 patients showed striking improvements, and 20 showed minor improvements.

Unfortunately, the advent of the 'wonder drug' cortisone (Cortisol) in the 1950s caused pregnenolone to be passed by for arthritis treatment, since pregnenolone's results were slower to manifest. Coincidentally, pregnenolone could not be patented by the drug companies whereas synthetic variants of cortisone could be (and were) patented. By the time the nightmarish side-effects of excessive cortisone were widely known by the medical community in the 1960s (these side effects could include psychotic breakdown, adrenal failure, and even death), pregnenolone had been completely forgotten.

Stress
Like its daughter DHEA, pregnenolone blocks and reverses all of the age-accelerating effects of excess cortisol. Cortisol, you recall, is a pro-aging hormone. (It is also a granddaughter of pregnenolone and the only adrenal steroid hormone that increases with age.)    Normally the adrenal glands produce small amounts of cortisol to protect you from stress.   This is okay, at least in the short run. Prolonged overproduction of cortisol brought on by excessive, unrelenting stress, however, causes an array of damaging effects: brain dysfunction, accelerated skin aging, impaired wound healing, excess fluid retention, depression, and poor sleep quality.   All of these shift the aging process into overdrive.  Pregnenolone also protects you against chemical stress.   Your liver contains enzyme systems that are responsible for removing toxins from your body.   By protecting these enzymes from cortisol, which degrades them, pregnenolone reinforces your body's detox power.
 
Dosage
The classic studies on pregnenolone and stress in the 1940s by Pincus and Hoagland generally used only 50 mg/day to achieve excellent results, while arthritis studies typically used 200-500 mg daily.   Thus, although pregnenolone appears amazingly safe and beneficial, there are still many unanswered questions regarding proper dosage, metabolism, and clinical effects.   Keeping these uncertainties in mind, here are some recommendations for dosage.

For those wishing to err on the side of caution, 25 to 50 mg pregnenolone per day would probably be suitable for use without physician monitoring. Perhaps an additional safety margin (for this already amazingly-safe substance) could be achieved through discontinuing use for one week every month.   Those wishing to use the higher, anti-arthritis doses (200 - 500 mg/day) should probably do so only under the supervision of their physician, even though many human clinical studies with arthritis at these dosages yielded no problems or toxicities.   Morning is the perfect time to take pregnenolone, and a single daily dose is probably best, since pregnenolone is fat-soluble, and probably follows the circadian highs and lows of DHEA and cortisol (highest in the morning, with a drop to baseline by late afternoon).   On an anecdotal note, there have been patients taking 100 - 1,000 mg pregnenolone/day intermittently since 1987, with no discernible negative side effects.

Safety Studies
Fortunately, pregnenolone is amazingly safer than other steroids. Pregnenolone researchers working with both human and animal subjects since the 1940s have consistently commented on pregnenolone’s virtual absence of toxicity. For example, the classic review article on pregnenolone by Henderson and colleagues in 1950 states: It [pregnenolone] has an extremely low order of toxicity; [it] has not shown any adverse effects on endocrine [hormone] physiology ....

Pregnenolone has been given orally to humans at doses as high as 500 mg/day for as long as 30 weeks without evidence of adverse effects. Mice given 5 grams (1/6 ounce) per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight suffered no ill effects. This would be equivalent to a 154 pound (70 kilogram) human ingesting 350 grams (approximately 3/4 pound) per day! In a long-term study, mice that were given one gram pregnenolone per kilogram of body weight three times weekly for 50 doses suffered no toxic reactions -- including no changes in the size and condition of offspring produced after the 50 doses.

In one human study, eight people received 50 to 150 milligrams per day by intramuscular injection for 75 days, with no reported side effects. Dr. Eugene Roberts gave 20 Alzheimer patients 525 mg/day for three months with no toxicity. During rheumatoid arthritis experiments with pregnenolone, Dr. H. Freeman and colleagues gave 500 mg pregnenolone/day for up to 30 weeks, with no toxicity. And Drs. Pincus and Hoagland, two of the pioneer researchers on pregnenolone use by humans in the 1940s, found no toxic reactions with pregnenolone used by hundreds of men and women at dosages of 100 mg/day for four months.

Consult with a physician before using any nutritional supplement
Caution: Pregnenolone should be avoided by children, pregnant women and nursing mothers.    Do not use pregnenolone if you are supplementing DHEA.    Do not use if you suffer from seizure disorders, as pregnenolone can suppress GABA activity, resulting in an increase in central nervous system activity, which may lead to seizures in those with epilepsy.    Men with prostate cancer, or high PSA levels (which may be worsened by testosterone) and women with breast or ovarian cancer (which may be worsened by estrogen) should probably take pregnenolone only with their doctor’s consent and supervision.   On no account use pregnenolone instead of medically prescribed steroids, without telling your doctor what you are doing.

Sources:
Pregnenolone: Nature's Feel Good Hormone. Sahelian, Ray, M.D.  (Garden City Park, New York: Avery Publishing Group, 1997), 57.
Pregnenolone - Master Hormone for Women ...and Men!,  D. Gary Young, Reprinted from Essential Edge Magazine, Fall, 2000
Preg
nenolone: The Superhormone for Your Brain [material on Dr. R. Sih] in The Superhormone Promise, Regelson, W. and Colman, C.  Simon and Schuster, 1996.
Henderson, E., et al. Pregnenolone. J Clin Endocrinol 10: 455-74, 1950
Pregnenolonefrom Selye to Alzheimer and a model of the pregnenolone sulfate binding site on the GABA-A receptor. Roberts E.  Biochem Pharmacol 49: 1-16, 1995.
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Important Note:
The information presented herein by The Natural Path Botanicals is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

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