Estrogen, Progesterone, Synthetics, etc. Explained

Klaus Ferlow, HMH, HA—01/2015
Plants contain many estrogen and progesterone-like substances that can be beneficial to women deficient in certain hormones. However, if these substances have been adulterated by pharmaceutical and biotechnological companies, they can be hazardous to health.

HORMONES THAT ARE MADE FROM PLANTS are plants with progesterone-like activity. Phytogrogesterones are plants with progesterone-like activity.

There are many plants that have estrogen or progesterone like substances. In 1936, a species of wild yam was discovered by Japanese scientists. They extracted valuable chemicals out of the root called diosgenin and sarasapogenin. These and soybean extracts are converted for USP grade progesterone in the U.S. In 1943 Russel Marker also successfully extracted a phyto-oestrogene called diosgenin from the roots of the Mexican wild yam, inexpensively and in large quantities. As an herbal extract, diosgenin appears to be free of any major adverse effects. However, this extract was purchased by pharmaceutical giants who synthesized it into an unnatural progesterone-like compound, called progestin, for use in patented medicine. So, while the extract is naturally safe, its synthesis renders it potentially hazardous: two of the most commonly prescribed progestin drugs have over 30 negative side-effects and health!

What is Estrogen?

The word "Estrogen" generally refers to the group of hormones produced by the ovary with similar actions. The three most important are EstroneE1, Estradiol E2, and Estriol E3. Most of the time they are referred to as Estrogen.

The symptoms of estrogen deficiency are hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, vaginal dryness. Other symptoms are severe depression or anger, vaginal and bladder infections, joint and muscle pain, dizziness, rapid skin aging, loss of tone in breasts, fatigue and heart palpitations.

Choosing supplemental estrogen can stabilize moods, relieve hot flashes, increase mental clarity, alleviate sleep disturbances, prevent vaginal and bladder infections, slow bone loss, improve vitality and energy, improve skin and breast tone.

Recent studies and older studies from 20 years ago show that Estradiol/ E2 and Estrone E1 increases a women's risk of breast cancer. But Estriol E3 is protective. If at all possible use the natural form of this hormone to help eliminate the cancer risk posed with the use of synthetic hormones.

Synthetic Ethinylestradiol is used in estrogen supplements and birth control pills. You should avoid this chemical. Women who have a history of breast or uterine cancer and women who are at risk of recurrent urinary tract and vaginal infections, as well as women with artherosclerosis, hypertension, varicose veins, and diabetes need to stay away from synthetic hormones. Go with the natural choice when choosing Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).

There is a common misconception that female hormone levels drop to zero after menopause. In actuality the hormone levels drop below the level necessary for the monthly preparation of endometrium for pregnancy Your body still makes estrogen from androstendione in your fat cells.

After menopause, vaginal dryness and shrinkage of the vaginal mucosa predisposes a woman to vaginal inflammation or vaginitis, and bladder infections or cystitis. Treating these infections with antibiotics is only a temporary measure as the underlying real cause is loss of resistance and resiliency due to secondary hormone deficiency of progesterone and estrogen.

Women who opt for natural hormone therapy have been remarkable free from these problems. Bad effects of estrogen are often linked to estrogen allowing an influx of water and sodium into cells, this affecting aldosterone producing leading to water retention and hypertension. It also causes intracellular hypoxia, opposes the action of the thyroid, promotes histamine release, promotes blood clotting thereby increasing the risks of stroke and embolism. Additionally it thickens bile, promotes gall bladder disease, causes copper retention, and zinc loss. The copper and zinc imbalance causes mood swings!

What are the undesirable side effects of Estrogen?

  • estrogen alone decreases libido

  • estrogen stimulates the growth of fibroid tumors

  • estrogen increases the risk of uterine (endometrial) cancer

  • estrogen increases breast fibrocysts

  • estrogen increases the risk of breast cancer

Many physicians believe that progestins such a Provera are the same as progesterone, by they are not! Many of these physicians also mistakenly believe that natural progesterone shares Provera's side effects. That is also not true. Let your physician know that his prescription progestin begins with natural progesterone and then it is chemically altered to be patentable and therefore a more profitable product to the pharmaceutical industry! Natural progesterone is not new and it is used as a base in over 400 FDA approved pharmaceutical drugs. Warning! Since 90% of soybeans are GMO, synthetical modified and engineered progesterone made from soybeans should be avoided under any circumstances!

Are there any side-effects from using natural progesterone?

Generally side-effects are associates with dosage, and can be easily alleviated by changing the dosage or frequently of the dosage. In the PMS group, using too much may delay the period a day or two. This effect may occur as early as the first month or as late as four month of use. Discontinuing the natural progesterone, then continue after one week, but use a much lower dose. Menopausal women may notice some spotting when they begin using natural progesterone. This should be alleviated with continued use and is nothing to fear. If it does continue, see your health care practitioner.

The post-menopausal and osteoporosis age group should not have any side effects. Occasionally, upon beginning use of natural progesterone, a post menopausal woman could experience some breakthrough bleeding or a "period." This rarely occurs but should it happen it is a normal response and is no cause for alarm. The progesterone is simply causing the body to rid itself of excess stored estrogen, which can sometimes stimulate the uterine shedding. This could be alleviated with continued use. If it does continue for more than several month contact your physician.

Women and teenagers who are irregular or have heavy periods, will see their periods become regular and spotting will be alleviated with continued use of natural progesterone, it may take 3 – 4 cycles.

How about vaginal dryness? Vaginal dryness can occur in women of all ages for various reasons. It is primarily present in post menopausal women as hormone levels drop. Natural hormones can be used and have been very successful in treating vaginal dryness and vulvar dystrophy associated with aging.

Should estrogen be taken without progesterone?

Absolutely not! Estrogen used without progesterone can cause endometrial and vaginal carcinomas. Estrogene alone blocks thyroid and causes water retention, and it can cause fibrocystic breast disease and even fibroid tumors and cysts.

Is it possible to build bone mass?

Yes, natural progesterone helps build bone mass in older women. Once a woman reaches age 75 there is little difference between those who take it and those who don't. Estrogen treatment alone for 5 – 10 years after menopause is unlikely to preserve density or prevent fractures in old age. Progesterone, however seem to help. If you have a lack of progesterone in your body, your body actually decreases it's production of new bone formation. Clinical studies show that women with lowest initial bone mass density have the most to gain, up to 40%, while those who have a relatively good initial bone mass density remain stable or increase marginally. Even with a large calcium intake, bone density will not increase without progesterone.

Can I use natural progesterone if I have had breast and/or uterine cancer?

Yes, you can, but do not use estrogen products

I am already on H.R.T. from my doctor. Why should I switch to natural hormones?

If you have a history of hypertension, diabetes, weight problems, varicose veins and artherosclerosis you should not use synthetic estrogen or synthetic progestins because these conditions will exacerbated. Weight gain may be from 10 – 40 pounds! Keep in mind the increased cancer risk.

How should I best switch to natural hormones?

Start gradually. If you are taking synthetic estrogen or synthetic progestins in combination or alone, start using natural hormone at the same time and then slowly wean off the synthetic hormones after the first month otherwise the symptoms will return with a vengeance! If you are using synthetic progestin alone you can stop using it at the end of its current 12 day cycle after you have begun using natural progesterone.

Is it safe to use natural hormones for a long term?

Yes. It is recommended to use natural hormones for at least five years but individuals may use them as long as they feel they receive benefits to their skin texture and bone density (as demonstrated by bone density tests). It will help vaginal dryness causing painful intercourse.

Do I need a prescription?

No. Natural progesterone from Mexican wild yams or soybeans in a cream base is technically a food product in the U.S. But not Canada. Most of all the other ingredients in the cream are natural. In Canada our physicians are able to supply progesterone cream.

Why is it best to apply natural wild yam /progesterone with a cream?

Natural hormones have fat soluble molecules which readily absorb into the skin and into the fat layers, then to the blood stream. You may also take it orally such as a wild yam tincture but your body fat stores progesterone.

Where is the best place to apply the natural wild yam / progesterone cream?

The inner thighs, inner arms, face, neck, upper chest or abdomen. It is most readily absorbed through the thinner area of skin. Always alternate application areas to keep receptors in your skin sensitive to absorption.

How long does it take to notice the effects?

It may take 2 – 3 months before maximum benefits are realized. Don't give up too quickly. There is no magic pill solution! Some women report immediate improvement. Use the adequacy of vaginal secretion as a guide. If you notice your vagina is moist and your mood is even, you are on the right track!

I have a allergy to soybeans?

You may have difficulties using natural progesterone products.

Is natural progesterone safe?

The safety of natural progesterone is well established up to 800mg per day. There have been no reports to the FDA of problems with it, hence the FDA permits the sale of progesterone cream without prescription in the U.S. On average a quality natural progesterone cream will contain 400mg progesterone per ounce of cream. One ounce is good for a number of days of application. Again, each individual's needs are different.

The safety of natural progesterone has been confirmed in extensive testing at the Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennesee under Joel Hargrove, M.D., Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Hargrove and his Associates prescribe natural progesterone for premenstrual syndrome and menopausal replacement therapy.

What if my physician thinks it is silly?

Natural progesterone has been around longer than any of the synthetics. Encourage your doctor to read the book "Natural Progesterone, The Multiple Roles of a remarkable hormone" by John R. Lee, M.D. and the other books listed in the reference list.

In addition Dr. Lee explains, "Natural progesterone is virtually the same molecule as progesterone the females body makes." By contrast, the synthetic progestin has additional chemical groups that changes its shape. The danger is that cells that bind progesterone will receive false progesterone, but because it is a different shape it will not function properly. Also, with natural progesterone, sodium stays outside the cells where it belongs. With progestin, sodium moves into the cells and brings water with it. The result can be water retention and hypertension, and there are many other examples of similar dysfunction. With natural progesterone here is virtually no bloating and water retention.

Can men use progesterone?

Men also produce natural progesterone in their body but in a much smaller amounts then women and under the age 45 it may cause testicles to shrink and decrease libido. Older men, over 55 can use natural progesterone. At this age it may cause the libido to increase with daily dosage. Older men with rheumatoid arthritis have reported relief from pain and selling after rubbing natural progesterone cream on their joints. Older men with osteoporosis are recommended to use natural progesterone as well as a nutritional regimen for their condition.

What are Progestins?

In the U.S. and many other western countries, the pharmaceutical industry purchases natural progesterone which comes from Mexican wild yams and soybeans, changes it to make non-natural substances called progestins. Progestins are any chemical compounds other than natural progesterone able to sustain human secretory endometrium. They are synthetic and man-made! Progestins such a Provera (medroxyprogesterone acetate) do not undergo the same chemical reaction in our bodies as natural progesterone and they are not as safe to us because of their side effects.

Dr. Niels Lauersen author of the book "PMS: Premenstrual Syndrome and You" says that synthetic progestins are chemically formulated from natural progesterone, but rather than duplicating the properties of progesterone, these synthetic hormones react differently. When a woman is treated with synthetic progestins, her body becomes confused and produces less natural progesterone, causing salt buildup, fluid retention, and hypoglycemia. Synthetic progestins generally make PMS symptoms worse, so if a woman is about to be treated she should be sure that it is only natural progesterone.

What is Hormone Replacement Therapy (H.R.T.)?

Commonly recommended by doctors to women entering this stage of their live, the most common form of HRT is a mixture of progestins and conjugated oestrogens obtained from pregnant mare's urine. Not just the benefits, but more importantly the health risks, of HRT have been questioned (and although the source of equine oestrogen is a "natural" one, this product would probably be best for you if you are genetically modified to have a DNA of a horse!)

Let's go back a few tears to July 2002, when the Journal of American Medical Association published the bombshell findings of a long-term study (initially 8 years) from the Women;s Health Initiative (WHI), overseen by the US National Institute of Health, which stopped three years ahead of schedule because of concerns for the health and welfare of the 16 608 women (aged 50 – 79) involved, due to overall negative results. A headline in the newspaper GLOBE and MAIL of January 30, 2003, after the results of a poll conducted by Eli Lilly Canada became known, read: 44% of Canadian women end HRT in 2002.

WHI study findings such as the following were responsible for the dramatic abandonment of the once-popular HRT:

  • the risk of cancer increased by 26%

  • the risk of heart attacks increased by 29%

  • the risk of stroke increased by 41%!!

  • the risk of cardiovascular disease increased by 22%

  • the rate of blood clots doubled

A subsequent study found that taking HRT for more than three consecutive years could increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease by 50%. Art Hister, M.D. announced on CKNW radio, Vancouver, B.C. with the words "Folks, I have some bad news for you. Women who have taken HRT for three years in a row will become prime candidates for Alzheimer's disease according to a study released!"

Remark: After visiting 30 nursing home in our area I noticed that from 10 patients who had Alzheimer's disease 9 were women, 1 a man. The man did not receive HRT!!

In addition, HRT was responsible for side-effects such as nausea, breast tenderness, premenstrual syndrome (PMS)-like symptoms, depression, liver disorders, enlarged uterine fibroids, fluid retention, blood sugar disturbances, headaches, asthma, weight gain, loss of libido, loss of scalp hair and growth of pre-existing tumours.


What is the alternative?

Many women decided to go with "Natural Alternatives." Historically, over thousands of years herbs such as angelica, black cohosh, chaste tree (vitex), dandelion, don quai, liquorice, ginseng, holy basil, lemon balm, Mexican wild yam, motherwort, red clover have been used to treat symptoms of this otherwise transformative time in women's life called menopause.

Update: Klaus' book Neem: Nature's Healing Gift to Humanity is available from:



Niels H. Lauersen, M.D., "PMS: Premenstrual syndrome and you", Pinnacle Books, 1984

Sandra Coney, "The Menopause Industry", Hunter House, 1991

Anna Rushton, Dr. Sirley A. Bond, "natural progesterone", Harper Collins, 1999Christiane Northrup, M.D., "The wisdom of menopause", Bantam Books, 2001

Carlson Wade, "Natural Hormones" The Secret of Youthful Health, Parker Publishing company

Uzzi Reiss, M.D., "Natural Hormone Balance", Pocket Books, 2001

John R. Lee, M.D., What your doctor may not tell you about menopause", Warner Books, 1996Jan Clark, "Hormones or Natural Alternatives?", Creative Publishing International, 2003

Lorna R. Vanderhaeghe, "An A-Z Woman's Guide to Vibrant Health", Lorna Vanderhaeghe Health Solutions, 2004

Raquel Martin, Jid Gerstung, "The Estrogen Alternative", Healing Arts Press, 1997

Betty Kamen, "Hormone Replacement Therapy, Yes or No?", Nutrition Encounter, 1996