Prolactin, a hormone produced by the pituitary gland, plays a critical role in pregnancy by increasing the size of a woman's breasts and triggering milk production. Elevated levels of prolactin outside of pregnancy, however, can wreak havoc on a woman's fertility by suppressing the hormones that cause a woman to ovulate. Women with high prolactin levels may develop irregular cycles, find their breasts leak and become infertile. High prolactin levels can also create problems for men, including a decreased sex drive, impotence and sterility. Fortunately, a number of treatments are available for elevated prolactin levels, including a few readily available herbs.
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Take an American ginseng supplement. A 1998 study in "Physiology & Behavior" found that taking American ginseng for as little as two weeks, decreased prolactin levels in male rats at all doses the researchers studied. Start with a dose of 200mg a day, the amount Western researchers frequently recommend. However, you may be able to safely consume 800mg to 2 grams of ginseng a day, if needed to improve your symptoms.
Use the herbal supplement, Ginkgo biloba. A 2008 study in "Hormones and Behavior" reports that Ginkgo biloba significantly reduced prolactin levels in male rats and increased their ejaculation frequency within 14 days.
Determining the correct dosage is difficult with herbs, but 120 to 480mg a day -- the amount typically studied in clinical trials -- should be safe. Start with a dose of 120mg per day, broken into two or three smaller doses, and increase the amount you take, as necessary to reduce your symptoms.
Consume the herbal supplement chaste tree, also known as vitex agnus castus. A 2003 study in "Phytomedicine" examined the effect of vitex on women suffering from severe premenstrual symptoms, a condition thought to be caused by high levels of prolactin, and found that vitex both lowered subjects' prolactin levels and decreased their problematic symptoms.
Take either 60 drops of vitex tincture or 175mg of vitex extract -- both standardised to contain .6 per cent agusides -- each day. Adjust the dosage as needed, to control your symptoms. It may take up to three to six months to see results.
Tips and warnings
- Don't self-medicate with herbs, without first finding out why your prolactin levels are elevated. High prolactin may be caused by pregnancy, breastfeeding, taking certain medications, low thyroid, polycystic ovarian syndrome, kidney or liver disease or even stress. You need to know the cause of your elevated prolactin in order to successfully treat it.
- Discuss taking any herbal supplements with your doctor if you have an ongoing health problem or are taking any other medications or supplements.
- Watch for side effects from ginseng supplements, such as rapid heart beat, insomnia, headaches and diarrhoea. These indicate you are taking too high a dose.
- Ginseng should not be used by pregnant women, people with conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure, and people using medications such as blood thinners.
- Reduce your dose of Ginkgo biloba, if you notice any side effects, such as nausea, dizziness or diarrhoea.
- Check your Ginkgo biloba supplement to ensure it includes no more than 5 parts per million of ginkgolic acid, a toxin occurring in the herb.
- Vitex is a very safe supplement, but may produce side effects -- usually mild -- such as nausea, headaches and upset stomach. Lower your dose if you notice bothersome side effects.
- Do not take vitex if you are pregnant.
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- "Physiology & Behavior;" Effect of American Ginseng (Panax Quinquefolium) on Male Copulatory Behavior in the Rat; Laura L. Murphy, et al.; June 1998
- Internet Journal of the Institute for Traditional Medicine and Preventive Health Care; The Nature of Ginseng: From Traditional Use to Modern Research; Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D.; September 2002
- "Hormones and Behavior;" Ginkgo biloba Extract Enhances Male Copulatory Behavior and Reduces Serum Prolactin Levels in Rats; Kuei-Ying Yeh, et al.; January 2008
- "Phytomedicine;" Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus)--Pharmacology and Clinical Indications; Wuttke W., et al.; May 2003
- Natural Health Solutions for PCOS; Vitex (Chasteberry), Fertility and PCOS; Bill Slater