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Herbs and Supplements with Estrogen Action Q&A

Herbs and Supplements with Estrogen Action Q&A

Below are some of the most common questions about the estrogenic action of herbs and supplements we get from our subscribers, visitors, and community. The estrogen-like action of herbs and supplements can be very confusing. The intention of this Q&A is to help dispel any of the confusion, but it may also raise more questions. Please feel free to post your questions and comments below this article! We value healthy discussion and would love your feedback!

1. Q: My doctor tested my hormone levels, he says I have estrogen dominance. Is Red Clover, Licorice rt. and Royal Jelly okay to take? Will these increase my estrogen? Should I avoid them completely?

A: Through my learning and research, I have come to find that herbs and supplements that contain phytoestrogens or have the propensity to mimic estrogen, may protect our bodies from estrogen dominance. Though not all natural health care practitioners may agree, most do. The reason is because of xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens come from human-made chemicals like plastics, pesticides, paint, body care products, etc. These are ingested, breathed, or slathered onto our skin daily. Xenoestrogens are endocrine disruptors. These chemicals have the ability to interfere with the natural functions and development of our bodies. The main function of the endocrine system is to serve as our body’s message center. Hormones deliver messages, the endocrine system coordinates hormones.

Xenoestrogens have the ability to bind to our estrogen receptor sites, disrupting the function of the endocrine system. Not only can they mimic our natural hormones, but they can block other hormones from binding to receptor sites. Xenoestrogens elicit a very strong estrogenic action. All xenohormones are endocrine disruptors. They can alter how natural hormones are produced, metabolized, and eliminated.

A person who consumes a diet rich in phytoestrogens may be more likely to protect their body from xenoestrogens. Phytoestrogens eaten daily may bind to receptor sites first, blocking the xenoestrogens from binding. Plus, phytoestrogens elicit a weaker estrogenic effect than xenoestrogens.

Red Clover, Licorice rt. and Royal Jelly have all been found to have the propensity to mimic estrogen in the body, but they also have superior nutritional benefits as well. The superior health benefits of these 3 outweigh any concern for increasing estrogen in the body. They may actually protect our bodies from xenoestrogens. To actually increase estrogen levels, they would need to be consumed in very large concentrated amounts over a long period of time, which is not recommended. Herbalists and most natural health care practitioners would not use phytoestrogens in concentrated forms, especially if their patient has an estrogen dominant condition.

2. Q: I heard that because Red Clover has an estrogenic action it is not safe for pregnancy. Should I avoid it if I think I am pregnant or during my pregnancy?

A: This is going to depend on who you ask. I was recently at an herbal conference and this exact question came up. I was sitting in a room of about 45 female herbalists, when this question was asked, they all agreed they suggest it not be used until the last trimester of pregnancy. Yet all of the herbalists who are mothers admitted they used it for most of their pregnancies, with no adverse reaction. Many clinical herbalists said they have never had a single pregnant mama or baby have any adverse reaction when red clover was suggested.

I have used it for pregnancy preparation, through the last trimester of pregnancy, and during the breastfeeding of both of my children. I never used concentrated amounts long term. I always use this herb as I would a nourishing food. Red Clover blends well in an infusion with other nourishing herbs like nettles and red raspberry leaf. Because it is detoxifying for the liver and kidneys, I have used it in the childbearing years, and after to aid my body in recovery postpartum. It is extremely hard on the liver, heart and kidneys to develop another human life inside of the female body. Using Red Clover infusion from time-to-time aids the body in proper function of the liver, heart and kidneys, which is essential to a healthy pregnancy.

In all of my research and use, I have never seen Red Clover infusion elicit an estrogenic effect on a pregnant mother. You would never want to use a cream made of Red Clover Isoflavone, which is a concentrated form and may increase estrogen in the body.

3. Q: I consume flax oil daily, but I heard it contains estrogen. Will this cause my body to become estrogen dominant?

A: Flax seeds contain lignans, which are the second strongest group of phytoestrogens, isoflavones being first. It is important to understand that plants that contain phytoestrogens are not the same as our natural endogenous estrogens, which are steroid hormones. Phytoestrogens are chemical constituents in plants. Flax is very high in lignans, as well as fiber. When bacteria in the digestive tract acts on the lignans they are converted into phytoestrogen. Lignans have been found to be anti-estrogenic on estrogen receptor–positive breast cancer.** It is thought that lignans boost production of a substance that fastens on to human estrogen and then it is carried out of our bodies via urination. We do know that the high fiber and lignan content of flax helps to remove excess bad estrogens from the body. Lignans also help prevent healthy cells from free radical attack.

Studies have shown high levels of estrogen in the urine of people that consume flax daily. This shows the ability of flax to remove excess estrogen from the body, while promoting healthy digestion and balanced estrogen levels. Flax oil is also an extremely healthy source of omega 3 fatty acid. Omega 3s have been shown to aid the body in hormonal balance, production of healthy cervical mucus, and healthy blood flow.

So, to make a long story short, no, there is no evidence that flax oil is going to make your body estrogen dominant. In order for flax seeds to be beneficial they must be ground, or in oil form. The body cannot digest whole flax seeds, they will pass through the digestive system unused, if eaten whole.


4. Q: I was diagnosed with low estrogen. I have read on other sites that using soy isoflavones in the first half of your cycle will stimulate ovulation and boost my estrogen levels. I am considering using a soy isoflavone supplement to boost my estrogen levels, but is that safe or a good idea?

A: The soy debate may be one of the hottest topics concerning fertility today. Soy contains isoflavones, and has the most concentrated levels of isoflavones of any plant that is consumed by humans. Honestly, I feel that soy used in any form that is concentrated may cause estrogen dominance. This is because for one, soy already contains high amounts of isoflavones. Second, soy products, including soy isoflavone creams and pills, contain even more concentrated levels of isoflavones. This is because of the way these creams and pills are made. Isoflavones from soy beans are chemically isolated in a laboratory, they are then concentrated to make soy isoflavone supplements. These supplements contain more isoflavones than natural soy beans, or whole soy foods.

The goal should not be to manipulate a specific hormone in the body. Supporting and nourishing the systems that produce and control hormones is best. You can do this through good nutrition, herbs, supplements and natural therapies. I have seen time and time again, women really mess up their natural cycles using soy isoflavone supplements. If you choose to use a soy isoflavone supplement, it would be best to do so under the supervision of a health care professional, who can also do regular hormone testing. This would enable you to determine if this product would be right for you.

It is also important to consider why you have low estrogen to begin with. The hormonal system is an intricate system of communication. If something in that system is not functioning properly, a hormone level may drop, or increase to unbalanced levels. The main function of the endocrine system is to serve as our body’s message center. Hormones deliver messages, the endocrine system coordinates hormones. So, if a hormone level is out of balance, it may be signaling a problem with a part of the reproductive system; like egg health for example. Healthy follicle (follicles contain eggs) and adequate follicle count are essential for the release of the hormone estrogen. Adding estrogen to the body does not solve the problem if a system of the body is malfunctioning, especially in the case of estrogen.

It is important to have clear communication with your doctor about your specific hormone test results. Ask your doctor why he/she thinks your estrogen levels are so low, what may be causing this in your case? Having the answer to that may guide you in the right direction to healing the problem.

5. Q: I have both endometriosis and uterine fibroids. I take Royal Jelly daily and have felt amazing results from it. My question is, I read the other day that Royal Jelly has the propensity to mimic estrogen, is this true and should I stop using it, since I have estrogen dominant fertility issues?

A: The answer to this may lie in what type of Royal Jelly supplement you are taking. If you are using Royal Jelly alone in a capsule form, you may want to consider the research before choosing it.

You would have to consume a lot of Royal Jelly for it to increase your estrogen levels. A study done in Japan on rats, published in 2007, shows that Royal Jelly has the propensity to mimic estrogen. This study also showed the potential for increased size of uterine cells in the rats studied. What I have learned from studies where humans use mice or rats, is that scientists often inject very high, concentrated doses into the rats. This is not how a human would consume a supplement, usually. Because of this, it is hard to determine the true outcome of a study, when considering we are human, not rats. Because endometriosis and uterine fibroids are both disorders with uterine cells, there is a slight concern that Royal Jelly may increase uterine cells, which may not be good for these conditions.

In contrast, Royal Jelly has been found to be extremely nourishing to the endocrine system, aiding in hormonal balance, egg health, decreases in inflammation, and boosting of the immune system. These benefits may actually aid the body in healing of endometriosis and uterine fibroids.

Royal Jelly supplements are often sold in a liquid form combining the bee pollen and bee propolis, like the Active Bee Power Royal Jelly we sell in our Natural Fertility Shop. Bee propolis has been found to be extremely beneficial for women with endometriosis.

A study published in Fertility and Sterility (2003;80:S32) showed that 60% of women with endometriosis-related infertility who took 500mg of bee propolis twice a day for 9 months became pregnant, as opposed to 20% in the placebo group. Endometriosis pain, scar tissue, and adhesion formation are thought to be triggered by an inflammatory response. Bee propolis has been shown to be extremely anti-inflammatory which may reduce endometriosis.

Based on the above information, I would have to say the benefits of Royal Jelly for healing hormonal imbalance, and fertility issues where inflammation is present, gives hope. When we choose to consume super foods like Royal Jelly, we are choosing to nourish and heal the body. I have never had anyone report, nor have I heard of any reports of Royal Jelly exacerbating endometriosis or uterine fibroids.


  • Ali, A.F.M. and Awadallah, A. (2003). Bee propolis versus placebo in the treatment of infertility associated with minimal or mild endometriosis: a pilot randomized controlled trial. A modern trend. Fertil Steril.2003;80(Suppl 3):S32 Retrieved from:
  • Jungeström, M., Thompson, L.U. and Dabrosin, C. (2007). Flaxseed and Its Lignans Inhibit Estradiol-Induced Growth, Angiogenesis, and Secretion of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor in Human Breast Cancer Xenografts In vivo. Clin Cancer Res. (13) (3) 1061-1067; DOI: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-06-1651. Retrieved from:

Dr. Christine Traxler M.D., OB/GYN
Dr. Christine Traxler M.D., OB/GYN

Dr. Traxler is a University-trained obstetrician/gynecologist, working with patients in Minnesota for over 20 years. She is a professional medical writer; having authored multiple books on pregnancy and childbirth; textbooks and coursework for medical students and other healthcare providers; and has written over 1000 articles on medical, health, and wellness topics.  Dr. Traxler attended the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences and University of Minnesota Medical School,  earning a degree in biochemistry with summa cum laude honors in 1981,  and receiving her Medical Doctorate degree (MD) in 1986.

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  1. Avatar

    Hi Elizabeth,
    I’m a man, and after reading this, can I safely say that either gender consuming royal jelly is fine for men as it provides hormone balance? I am taking it in a very small amount.

  2. Avatar

    Since starting puverty my testosterone has been higher than normal. However I have completely regular periods and such. The only thing I have from it is increased hair growth and acne on my back. I have a normal BMi of 19.8 and for the rest have nothing wrong with me. But I wonder what can cause it :S Also this year I tested for prolactine and it was a bit too high. My estrogen was normal and to the high side for the stage I was in (after ovulation), it was 288 and max was 298 or something. So still within range. Sometimes in the past my androstenedione was too high but it was normal now and last time as well. I have been taking some herbal stufff once in a while like red clover and maca. oh btw I am 30 now altho I only look 20. But this has been going on since I was 15

    • Dear Ann,

      I am curious about your diet and lifestyle and if you ovulate monthly. Would you say you are a healthy weight for your height and eat a clean wholefood diet, exercise regularly and manage stress well? What herbs do you take other than Red Clover and Maca if any?

      Has your doctor determined why testosterone levels are high?

      Testosterone is necessary for women to help support a healthy sex drive and build bones. It can be too high and some of the many causes for elevated testosterone in women are:
      – Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
      – Diabetes
      – Cushing’s syndrome
      – Adrenal health issues
      – ovarian health issues
      – Thyroid disorders

      It may be helpful to know the cause to determine the best program for helping the body return to balance.

    • Avatar

      Hey Elizabeth,

      I eat a vegan diet for 11 years but already had high testosteron before that. i ovulate every month; i track my fertility with the ladycomp and see the drop and rise in temperature very clearly.
      I am at a healthy weight with bmi 19.7.

      I have always exercised regularly; eat wholefoods and clean; stress is fine. I can get nervous easily but I try to avoid situations that may cause that. I do sleepwalk and sleeptalk and sometimes clench my teeth.

      So far no other herbs. Sometimes I try spearmint tea.

      Dr hasnt said why. She doesnt investigate further.
      I get more body hair each year which is kinda annoying.

    • Hi Ann!

      Thank you for these details! It may be most helpful to ask your doctor to investigate further if you want to know the cause.

      As a vegan, do you eat a lot of soy?

      One herb known to support healthy androgen levels in women (including testosterone) is Saw Palmetto. Have you heard of this herb (click the link to learn more).

  3. Avatar

    Great info however the CRITICAL question was not answered…. Does Royal Jelly increase Estrogen??? I REALLY need to know this because my body produces to much during my cycle causing some major issues.

    • Dear Shannon,

      A study done in Japan and published in 2007 shows that Royal Jelly has the propensity to mimic human estrogen, similar to that of plant phytoestrogens. Will it increase your estrogen levels? We can not know this.

      When considering using plants or nutrient-dense fertility superfoods like Royal Jelly, it is important to understand the protective role they can have. Our guide,
      Clearing up the Confusion on Phytoestrogens, may help with that.

  4. Avatar

    This is a great article. I’ve read in many
    other places before that but
    I did not get this type of effective and
    more useful text. It is really important now to
    vary your anchors as this seems more natural to user.

  5. Avatar

    I’m starting to take a phytoestrogenic supplement for vaginal dryness. Can I also take a Hormone-regulating herbal supplementat the same time, or is that too much?

  6. Avatar

    I chart my fertility and have noticed that the night after ovulation (I don’t do ovulation tests, but my basal temp continues to rise after this point, signalling the luteal phase) I have trouble getting to sleep, often staying awake nearly all night. It’s a pretty regular pattern. It doesn’t continue, it’s just that night, or occasionally the one preceeding as well. Can you suggest what might be happening hormonally and any herbs that might help?

    • Dear Meredith,

      Sleep disturbances can be a result of hormone fluctuations, specifically of estrogen and progesterone. It is at ovulation that the biggest shift between the two happens.

      A few healthy get-to sleep tips are to be sure you are getting enough…
      – vitamin D
      – magnesium (I take a 400mg chelated Magnesium supplement before bed) – general suggested use is 500 mg per day, 45 minutes before bed
      – EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) which supports healthy behavior and mood and sleep (learn more about Fertilica Cod Liver Oil)
      – vitamin B complex

      Chamomile flower, Milky Oat seed, Passion flower, Lavender, Hops and Valerian root are commonly known as sleep herbs. – Melatonin may also be a supplement to learn about.

      Difficulty sleeping may also be a sign of the need for adrenal health support.

      I hope this is helpful and that you find a sleep aid that works for you!

  7. Avatar

    Hello. I’m 22 years old and a fit girl. I exercise regularly. My problem is I’m just 5.1 feet in height. I have very small breasts and am trying to understand the reason behind it. Could you suggest a remedy, a pill, or herbal method to increase the size of them and also any natural estrogen which I could take to see a change in my breasts?

    • Dear Shaina,

      To my knowledge there are no herbs that will increase and help a woman sustain a larger breast size. There may be herbs that temporarily increase the size of milk ducts, but again this if often only temporary and slight.

      I can not explain why your breasts are so small. It may be genetic, a result of your exercise levels, low body fat, or how fit you are. It is very likely just the way you are, which is perfect!

  8. Avatar

    Hi there. I recently had blood tests which showed my estrogen levels are double what they should be. Firstly, what is “normal” and what can I do to balance out the estrogen? I see you have a product DIM which is supposed to help. Do you ship to South Africa?

    • Dear Sharon,

      Normal estrogen test value ranges may vary slightly from laboratory to laboratory. Some labs use different measurements or test different samples. It is going to be best to talk to your healthcare provider about the meaning of your specific test result and ask what he considers a “normal” level to be.

      Consider referring to our Estrogen Fertility Guide to learn what may be considered for supporting hormone balance and healthy estrogen levels in addition to DIM.

      The Natural Fertility Shop can ship to South Africa. Contact customer care for ordering assistance.

  9. Avatar

    I am a pre op transsexual male to female, what can I use to raise my oestrogen levels prior to being put on HRT and Androgen blockers/killers?

    • Elizabeth Willett, MA, CH

      Hello Philippakristiana!

      The goal of our programs is to support the body in re-learning balance and/or supporting balance when fertility issues are present.

      I am not sure how the male body is going to respond to natural options for increasing estrogen (natural estrogen creams for example, or phyto-estrogen supplements) since the male hormonal system works differently than the female hormonal system. We feel, in your case, it would be best to leave this up to the experts (your doctors) through this process.

      Best wishes!

  10. Update 2014 – We are back! We have been away for a while and we sure have missed all of your wonderful questions and thoughts on our articles. I apologize for not being able to reply to past comments. Moving forward, one of our staff herbalists will be here to respond to comments! We look forward to connecting with our readers once again!

  11. Avatar

    i have endometriosis and am trying to concieve.i have read contradicting views about consuming dairy products, red and white meat, chamomile and respberry tea on various sites. I would like to know as to weather these things are good or bad when having a cyst because of endometriosis and trying to conceive.

  12. Great Page! What about Chia seeds vs. Flax seeds. Since there are no hormone characteristics of chia at all it seems to be the safer choice to me. Also, chia is higher in omega 3’s, is loaded with Calcium and other essential minerals and has a shelf life of 5 years.

  13. Avatar

    I was diagnose with a small fibroid and would like if I can take royal jelly because I been trying to get pregnant for 2 an half years. I’m also taking fibrocell and pau d arco. Thank you