Managing excess testosterone in women: Understanding risks and natural remedies

In women, elevated levels of testosterone can lead to various health concerns and hormonal imbalances. Picture by Mor Shani /Unsplash

In women, elevated levels of testosterone can lead to various health concerns and hormonal imbalances. Picture by Mor Shani /Unsplash

Published Jul 25, 2023


Testosterone is predominantly recognized as a male hormone but it is also produced in the ovaries and female adrenal glands in small quantities.

There is now increased chatter about testosterone levels in women due to media coverage of track star Caster Semenya, who was barred from competing due to her naturally high levels of testosterone.

Semenya, a double Olympic 800m champion, was discriminated against under rules requiring her to reduce her testosterone levels, mandating medication to reduce her testosterone levels, by the World Athletic Track and Field governing body.

A “News24” report recently stated that Semenya had won a lengthy court case over World Athletics’ requirement for hormone treatment for the athlete to compete.

The measures and procedures enacted in 2018 not only affected Semenya but all women athletes, who are classed as having “differences in sexual development (DSD)”.

According to a 2017 study on women and testosterone by Ruth Clapauch, testosterone directly influences sexuality, mood, body composition, skin and hair, meibomian glands in the eyes as well as acts on the hematologic and immune system.

Bone and cardiovascular system effects are at least in part mediated through aromatization to estrogens.

In women, elevated levels of testosterone can lead to various health concerns and hormonal imbalances.

Understanding the risks associated with high testosterone levels and implementing natural remedies can help manage symptoms and improve overall well-being.

How does testosterone benefit women?

Research indicates that in the female body, small amounts of testosterone are usually released into the bloodstream from the ovaries and adrenal glands. Testosterone helps a person maintain bone mass, generate new blood cells, maintain libido, and regulate mood.

The combined effect of testosterone and oestrogen assists with the growth, repair, and maintenance of female reproductive tissues.

Why do testosterone levels rise in women?

A medical condition known as intersex, which affects people who have chromosomal, hormonal, or physiological sex differences that don’t correspond to the traditional, binary definitions of male or female, maybe the root cause in some situations.

In rare cases, excessive levels of testosterone in women may be a sign of a more serious illness

What are the risks associated with high levels of testosterone?

Excessive testosterone levels in women can lead to the following risks:

According to the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, PCOS affects up to 10% of women of reproductive age. It is characterised by high testosterone levels, irregular periods, ovarian cysts, and fertility issues.

According to the Endocrine Society, high testosterone levels often lead to insulin resistance in women with PCOS, increasing their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

More research suggests that women with increased testosterone levels may have a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, including coronary artery disease.

Lastly, elevated testosterone levels have been linked to psychological symptoms, including depression and anxiety.

A study published in the Journal of Women’s Health indicates that women with higher testosterone levels may have an increased risk of developing mood disorders.

Identifying symptoms:

Symptoms that may indicate higher levels of testosterone in women include:

1. Irregular menstrual cycles

2. Excessive hair growth (hirsutism): facial, chest, back or other body hair

3. Acne breakouts

4. Hair thinning or balding (male pattern baldness)

5. Mood swings and irritability

6. Enlarged clitoris

7. Increased muscle mass

8. Reduction in breast size

9. Loss of sex drive

Making certain lifestyle changes can also affect testosterone levels.

Healthy Diet: Consuming a well-balanced diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats can support hormonal balance and overall well-being.

Regular Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity, including aerobic exercises and strength training, can help regulate testosterone levels and manage associated symptoms.

Stress Reduction Techniques: Practising stress-reducing techniques, such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises, can contribute to hormonal balance and overall mental health.

Herbal Supplements: Some herbal supplements like spearmint, saw palmetto and liquorice root have shown the potential in reducing testosterone levels in women.

However, it is recommended to consult a healthcare professional before incorporating any herbal remedies.

While high testosterone levels in women can pose certain risks, proactive lifestyle changes, medical interventions, and natural remedies can help manage symptoms and improve overall well-being.

It is important to consult healthcare professionals for personalised advice and guidance based on individual needs and circumstances. By taking a holistic approach, women can effectively maintain hormone balance and optimise their health.