Prism Blog, Transgender Wellness

Herbs for Transitioning: Masculinizing Herbs

This is a follow-up post to “The Basics.” Also see the feminizing herbs post here.

Hormones and surgery can be expensive or not accessible. Herbs can also be used if you don’t want to use hormones or undergo surgery, but still want to create physical changes in your body, or after being on synthetic hormones for many years to maintain the changes that you have made without the side effects of continued synthetic hormone use. Note: Most are unlikely to have a significant effect without any other transition methods.

Vitex: The Regulating Herb

Vitex is a hormone normalizer that works with the pituitary gland to keep progesterone stable and prevent  it from converting to estrogen or testosterone. This helps to hold secondary sex characteristics that have developed with synthetic hormones. Technically, it increases LH and reduces FSH, which increases progesterone and reduces estrogen and testosterone. This helps it regulate emotions, prevent acne, hormonal edema and bloating, and it can help you transition onto and off of synthetic hormones, as well as stabilize fluctuations in hormones while taking hormones.

These herbs can be used instead of synthetic hormones:

(Ex. to create small changes if hormones are not desired, or after years of taking hormones to maintain changes.)

  • Example combination: pine pollen, ashwaganda, Lu Rong
  • ashwaganda- steroidal precursor to T… and an adaptogen that helps build your immune system!
  • Yohimbe– promotes and supports testosterone levels
  • ginseng/Ren Shen- “yang tonic” in TCM, yang is both the masculine energy in TCM (ex. Ren Shen is sometimes used for impotence), and the energy needed to create change (ex. transition). DO NOT take while on testosterone.
  • sassafrass
  • pine nuts & pine pollen- closest approximation to human androgens
  • wild oats
  • Lu Rong/young deer antler- contains deer testosterone
  • blue cohosh- to stop periods, often taken with black cohosh. ONLY take this herb under supervision of a professional herbalist, it can be dangerous or cause opposite of desired effects if used incorrectly.
  • Blends:
  • Foods:

These herbs can help support synthetic hormones:

(DO NOT combine these with your medications without discussing with a healthcare provider.)

  • buplerum/Chai Hu- for emotional stability
  • stinging nettle– decreases “bound” testosterone and increases “free” or usable testosterone. also provides lymphatic and immune support.
  • white button mushroom- prevents testosterone conversion to estrogen
  • prickly ash- smoothes and eases voice transformation

For side effects of synthetic herbs:

(DO NOT combine these with your medications without discussing with a healthcare provider.)

  • He Shou Wu- for hair growth, prevents male-pattern baldness
  • saw palmetto- prevents male-pattern baldness, especially when combined with 10-30mg zinc daily
  • B5- to prevent acne
  • marshmallow- for constipation
  • motherwort/Yi Mu Cao
  • kavakava, california poppy, skullcap/Huang Qin, lemon balm, aralia or damiana- for emotional imbalances
  • bitters- for digestive symptoms
  • echinacea
  • yarrow
  • turmeric/Jiang Huang
  • nettle
  • dandelion/Pu Gong Ying, milk thistle/Shui Fei Ji-for liver damage
  • garlic/Da Suan- for high cholesterol & blood pressure
  • red root, cleavers, and ocotillo- for lymphatic drainage – to prevent reproductive cancers
  • hawthorne berry/Shan Zha can help prevent cardiovascular problems (which can occur with long-term T use), but can react with pharmaceutical heart medicines and shouldn’t be combined with them.

DON’T combine synthetic hormones with St. John’s wort/Guan Ye Lian Qiao, it stresses the liver. It also encourages bleeding, so avoid before SURGERY too!

References include:
http://www.sfherbalist.com/holistic-health-for-transgender-gender-variant-folks/
http://midnightapothecary.blogspot.com/


All information in this blog is for educational uses only. Always consult your doctor before taking any herbs or supplements, or changing or discontinuing your medications.


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hair loss, Menopause and Beyond, PCOS, Prism Blog, Transgender Wellness

How Does Saw Palmetto Decrease Baldness?

Normally, hair follicles remain active for up to a decade, producing a long strand of 10 year old hair. In alopecia, however, follicles stop producing hair before the hair is long enough to even emerge from the skin. Male pattern baldness, or Androgenic Alopecia, is both genetically determined and influenced by hormones.

Genetics cause some people’s hair follicles to be more susceptible to DHT (dihidrotestosterone), which changes the growth phase of hair follicles. This gene can be present in any sex, but is only expressed when DHT, a form of testosterone, is present. Hence the name “male-pattern” baldness. This is the reason why many trans men develop this pattern of baldness while on T, and why this process of balding stops in most trans women once they start taking anti-androgens (like spironolactone).

Though we cannot change the gene, we can prevent testosterone from converting to DHT to stop this balding process. Testosterone converts to DHT via the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase. Research has shown that saw palmetto inhibits 5-alpha-reductase, preventing this pattern of baldness.


Saw palmetto is very effective for hair growthSaw palmetto together with the supplement beta-sitosterol has been shown to have a 60% effectiveness rate for hair loss reversal. In my experience this does not increase facial hair growth, however studies have shown inconclusive results about its effect on overall testosterone levels. It likely blocks aromatase, an enzyme which converts testosterone to estradiol, a major hormone involved in breast development. If you’re concerned about saw palmetto supplements increasing your testosterone levels, a good alternative is to use it topically. It has been used topically with similar effectiveness.

Saw palmetto also prevents the accumulation of DHT in the prostate, lowering the risk of prostate cancer. It acts on estrogen and progesterone receptors to lower the risk of breast cancer. It’s helpful for colds and coughs, sore throats, asthma, chronic bronchitis, chronic pelvic pain syndrome, and migraine headaches. It is also a diuretic (makes you pee more), a sedative, and an aphrodisiac, so be cautious if those are effect you do not want.

DO NOT take saw palmetto with spironolactone because they are both diuretics and could significantly lower your blood pressure or cause dehydration. People with bleeding disorders or who are taking anticoagulant or antiplatelet medications (“blood-thinners”) such as warfarin (Coumadin), aspirin, or clopidogrel (Plavix) should avoid taking saw palmetto unless under medical supervision. It should also be avoided at least two weeks before or after surgery. Saw palmetto may interact with other medicines, including anti-inflammatory drugs, blood pressure medications, birth control pills and antibiotics.


Another great herb for hair loss is Shou Wu. Shou Wu Pian (aka Fu Ti) is an ancient Chinese herb that increases hair growth. It is generally used for scalp hair growth, but in my experience it increases mustache growth as well. If increased facial hair would be a problem for you, you may not want to take this formula. It’s also important not to take this formula if you are already taking synthetic hormones or other medications as it can increase the strain on your liver.


More hair loss prevention
Massage daily with Rosemary hair oil
Topical borage seed oil works like Propecia to block androgen receptors in hair follicles
Teas of silica rich herbs like horsetail, oats, or nettles
Nourish your kidneys with asparagus, artichoke, celery, aduki beans, parsley
Using a plum blossom needle to stimulate hair growth.

Finally, to support your overall constitution and get treatments tailored specficially to your goals, come in for a treatment!


Where to find:

Shou Wu Pian (aka Fu Ti)

Saw Palmetto with Beta-Sitosterol

Topical Saw Palmetto

Read more


All information in this blog is for educational uses only. Always consult your doctor before taking any herbs or supplements, or changing or discontinuing your medications.


Contact us to see if your insurance covers services at our office!

Join the Prism Family! Subscribe to our newsletter and get $30 off your first visit.