Phytoestrogens - Just Because Its Natural Doesn't Mean It's Good For You

Phytoestrogens are Plant Estrogens

What are Phytoestrogens?

Bioidentical hormones such as natural progesterone can oppose the effect of too much plant estrogens if the intake of plant estrogens is not too much. Phyto means "plant". So Phytoestrogen means plant estrogens. Plant estrogens can be estrogen blocking, a "weak" estrogen. Phytoestrogens can be strongly estrogen stimulating. I have personally seen rosemary make fibroids bigger. I have seen red clover herbal tea make fibroids proliferate. Clover is estrogenic. Phytoestrogens can be progesterone blocking. They may go into the natural hormone receptor and block bioidentical progesterone. If a strong phytoprogesterone blocker is used during a pregnancy. This strong phytoestrogen blocker will cause a miscarriage. There are many folk medicines that were used to create miscarriages. For instance, the "morning after" pill or "Plan B" or RU-486 is a synthetic brand name progestin that goes into the the natural hormone receptor and does NOT stimulate it. This effectively blocks your natural endogenous (from your own body) hormone from the progesterone receptor and stops stimulation of the natural hormone receptor.

Without stimulation of the progesterone receptor, a miscarriage is created. Silphium (a species of giant fennel) was renowned and revered in the ancient world for its ability to create miscarriage. The only problem is that it only grew in a 30 mile band along a dry mountain side facing the Mediterranean. It was wiped out by overharvesting because of its abortion causing properties, and was said at one time to be worth its weight in silver. Attempts to cultivate it failed. This is an example of an herb that has strong progesterone blocking effects.

The last category of hormone active plants are progesterone receptor stimulators. There are very few progesterone stimulators. Most herbs are estrogen stimulating, estrogen blocking, or progesterone blocking. Very few herbs are progesterone stimulating. The one herb, that is somewhat progesterone stimulating is Maca, a cruciferous herb, used for thousands of years, in Peru as a sexual stimulant, and fertility drug. In fact, when the Spaniards first moved to Peru, at high altitude, their horses did not reproduce well. They were able to induce horse reproduction by feeding them Maca. The best Maca is cooked, boiled and sundried. The maca is then powdered. If the the maca is irradiated, then the Maca does not work. They irradiate the Maca powder to eliminate the fungus and bacteria.

There is one other Chinese herb that is progesterone like, but I cannot find the name at this moment.

Most herbs that are hormone active (mimic or block hormones) are either estrogen stimulating, estrogen blocking or progesterone blocking (abortifacients). Very very few herbs are progesterone stimulating.

Not a Hormone mimic

There is another class of phytochemicals. These phytochemicals directly affect your own natural estradiol levels and progesterone levels. These phytochemicals directly modulate your own bioidentical hormones. The fist most obvious one is caffeine found in coffee or tea. 2 cups of coffee increase your estradiol levels by 70% by a Bringham Young University study. Chaste berry will stimulate the corpus luteum to produce more progesterone. However, if you do not have a corpuse luteum after the age of 35 (most of the time), then the Chaste Berry has nothing to stimulate and you will not have increased the natural hormone. Dong Quai a Chinese herb lowers estradiol by some undiscovered metabolic pathway. Indole-3-Carbinol,or I3C, a phytochemical from cruciferous plants such as brocchli, brussel sprouts, and cabbage inactivates estradiol by methylation. Indole-3-Carbinol gives your liver the raw material to inactivate estradiol more quickly. If you take too much Indole-3-Carbinol, you can actually get hot flashes from the lowered levels of estradiol. Di-indole-methane, or DIM, is one of the 20 chemicals derived from I3C made in your stomach. DIM has less nauseating effects than I3C (but I3C doesn't have nauseating effects to begin with), but I have not had much luck with DIM and uterine fibroids when I used it clinically for 2 years. Some of my endometriosis patients think that DIM works for endometriosis. Be careful, manufacturers of I3C like to include rosemary with I3C to prevent to spare the hassle of refrigeration. But rosemary even in small amounts in the I3C to prevent oxidation has made my patients sick because of the estrogenic effects.

So basically herbs are not inconsequential. They can directly fit into the hormone receptor. They can be estrogen stimulating, estrogen blocking, and progesterone blocking. Very few herbs are progesterone stimulating.

Herbs can also affect your hormone levels. They may raise or lower your own estradiol or progesterone by stimulation of the organ that makes the hormone or impair or help the body's ability to excrete the hormone.

I would now like to write about common herbs found in the health food store that will affect your hormone balance. This is by no means an exhaustive list. To find an exhaustive list go here.

Some Common Hormone Disruptive Herbs found in the Health Food Store

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is commonly used in lotions and even bioidentical progesterone creams. However, the ancients used aloe to create miscarriages. Aloe taken in sufficient quantity will create a miscarriage during the first trimester. Aloe contains a chemical that is a progesterone blocker. An alcohol extract of aloe may be used to prevent implantation.


Pomegranate is used to create miscarriages in the ancient world as well. The Greeks used this plant as a contraceptive. Modern research confirms strong estrogen activity. It is still used in India, East Africa, and the Pacific as a contraceptive. Female rats fed Pomegranate seed and paired with male rats had a 72% reduction in fertility. Guinea Pigs fed pomegranate seeds had a 100% reduction in fertility. (This is from the Encyclopedia of Birth Control by Vern Bullough). Ironically, pomegranate is widely touted in recent years are having antioxidants and nutrients useful for pregnancy. Pomegranate may have useful nutrients, but their zealous marketers have not considered the hormone disruptive effects of pomegranate.

I had one endometriosis patient that loved pomegranate. She bought a whole bunch of pomegranate and pomegranate juice when Trader Joe's had a sale. She then complained that her endometriosis flared for 2 weeks. Her friends laughed at her and thought that she was making it all up. However, after reading my avoidance list on things to avoid. She told me the story and it all began to make sense to her.

Melaleuca (Tea Tree Oil)

Tea Tree oil contains an estrogen mimic that creates gynecomastia or man breasts in young boys. Bloch, MD, a pediatric endocrinologist, observed young boys that developed man breasts. Their parents were giving them tea tree oil. He took the tea tree oil away. The gynecomastia went away. He then tested the tea tree oil on breast cancer cells in the test tube. He found the tea tree oil increased the breast cancer cells growth. He concluded that tea tree oil mimicked estrogen. Guess what tea tree oil will do to your Estrogen Dominance Disease. READ more about it here.


This is another common herb used in soaps and lip balms. I had several patients over the past 10 years that I could not get well. They happened to make their living by either growing lavender or using lavender in the making of their soaps. I had never seen any mention of lavender as a hormone disruptive herb in the folk medicine. However, Bloch, MD proved that lavender too was an estrogen mimic. So if you are using lavender this will make you migraine headache that varies with the cycle worse. If you are using lavender soap, it will make your fibrocystic breast disease worse. Read about Bloch, MD's study and presentation here (scroll to the bottom of the page). READ the scientific article here.

Sunflower Oil and Safflower Oil

Sunflower and Safflower are in the same botanical family. So you must consider that they have the same phytochemicals. Sunflower seeds contain coumestrol. Sunflower seeds given to the mother rat effected permanent reproductive problems in the rat pups. Female rat pups whose mother ate sunflower seeds after being fully grown did not ovulate. Male rat pups whose mother ate sunflower seeds had altered mounting behavior and fewer ejaculations. Neonatal rats and immature rats exposed to sunflower seeds had premature estrous cycles.

Anecdotally, I have had an endometriosis patient binge on potato chips cooked with sunflower oil. After that she claimed that her endometriosis flared. Many "health food" store cosmetics and shampoos use sunflower oil. This has made many of my patients worse. Sunflower oil is cheap to use as an ingredient.

And More ...

There are many more herbs that cause miscarriage and are an estrogen mimic. You may get an exhaustive list here if you buy their bioidentical hormone cream. Unfortunately, most of the stuff in the health food store has some kind of estrogenic herb or herb that blocks progesterone and will make your Estrogen Dominance worse. If you happen to be taking the natural hormone cream, a progesterone blocking herb will make the natural hormone cream useless. The progesterone blocking herb will block the the natural hormone. The cosmetics in the department store will usually have some kind of synthetic chemical in the cosmetic that is estrogenic or progesterone blocking. You may go here to a website specializing in cosmetics that do not have hormone disrupting environmental estrogen chemicals or hormone disrupting herbs.

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