a young couple in love

As we get older, we may find it more difficult to stay sexually active. Could the over-the-counter supplement DHEA be the answer to turbo-charge your sex life?

Can a Supplement Turbo-Charge Your Sex Life?

Q. Is DHEA a safe way to increase testosterone and improve libido? My wife and I take good care of ourselves, but we do have some health problems that require medications. Our sex life has suffered over the last few years.

I take metoprolol for high blood pressure and gemfibrozil for cholesterol. My wife uses progesterone cream and paroxetine for mild depression. We’ve heard that testosterone can really jump start libido, but we hate the idea of shots. DHEA seems like a natural solution but we wonder if there are any risks.

What Is DHEA?

A. DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a hormone the body uses to make both testosterone and estrogen. As a result, DHEA can be helpful intravaginally to treat postmenopausal vaginal dryness (Maturitas, Oct. 2018). In general, DHEA may improve sexual interest, arousal and orgasm, especially in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women (Climacteric, Apr. 2017).

Supplemental estrogen for postmenopausal women may increase the risk of breast cancer, blood clots and heart disease. Consequently, elevating estrogen via DHEA could pose health hazards. In addition, women may experience testosterone side effects such as acne and facial hair growth.

DHEA for Men:

DHEA appears to improve libido for both men and women by increasing testosterone levels. A review of the literature concluded that DHEA may help with erectile function as well as desire (World Journal of Men’s Health, Sep. 2018). At the same time, this male hormone might conceivably contribute to a higher risk of prostate cancer (Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, online Oct. 30, 2018). Although this remains controversial, if you choose to experiment you should make sure your doctor is aware of your decision.

You may be able to raise your own DHEA level by practicing tai chi (Chinese Journal of Physiology, Apr. 30, 2017). If this appeals to both of you, a tai chi (or tai qi) class might be a good activity that can help alleviate stress as well.

Alternatives to DHEA:

Rather than using DHEA over the counter, ask a doctor if testosterone might be appropriate. Shots are not the only way to get testosterone. It is available in prescription patches, gels and creams. Getting the dose right requires medical supervision.

Both of you are taking medications that can reduce sex drive. If your physicians prescribed alternatives less likely to have that effect, you might not need DHEA, testosterone or anything else to turbo-charge your sex drive.

For more information on how drugs impact libido and sexual function you may find our free guide to Drugs That Affect Sexuality.

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  1. Diane
    Madison, WI

    I would have liked to have you give us more information on how we can naturally increase DHEA… any diet, lifestyle or exercise that will benefit the bodies own ability to increase it. I don’t ever agree with exogenous sources of a hormone… it just causes the body to decrease it’s ability to produce it (negative feedback) naturally.. our body has an amazing ability to seek hemostatis but we need to supply it with the right things.

  2. Deloris

    A blood test revealed that my DHEA-S and testosterone levels were very low, so I’ve been taking 25 mg DHEA daily for about a month and a half. I haven’t experienced any changes in sexual function, but my hair has become oily again, like it was before menopause. I hope it also starts thickening and maybe getting some natural color back.

  3. Doug

    When on DHEA, my Estradiol went thru the roof, and I’m a man.

  4. William

    To address the fears about testosterone injections, I can say that you won’t “hate the idea of shots” after you get your first one. The effects of that first shot will have you making another appointment for the next month. They are remarkable. Subsequent shots will never be as good as that first one, but they’re quite good for libido as well. I’ve never had any noteworthy effects (of any kind, including testosterone body levels) from testosterone gels or patches, but individuals vary in their reactions.

  5. Wayne

    DHEA may be helpful at increasing steroids but in my experience only to a limited degree. The converion of DHEA to the desired hormone is rate limited so more DHEA may not lead to more of the desired hormone.

  6. Paul43

    I would like to hear more about this subject.

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