Sexual reproduction is of the utmost importance for humans. The hormones related to reproduction (and other functions) are thus important for adequate mental and physical functioning. DHEA (or dehydroepiandrosterone) is a hormone in the body that can be converted into testosterone or estrogen based on each person’s need.

Taking DHEA as a supplement is growing in popularity for improving testosterone and estrogen levels [1], but most of the evidence circles around older women rather than healthy young adult males. DHEA is also useful for increasing fertility [2] and is touted as a great anti-aging drug, but evidence for many of the claims is scarce or non-existent.

Benefits of DHEA for the brain include protecting against cognitive decline [3] and there is much anecdotal evidence of the enhancements that young adults can see from using a DHEA supplement.

Also Known As

DHEA, Pradesterone, Hydroxyandrosterone, 3β-Hydroxy-5-Androstene-17-one

Editors’ Thoughts on DHEA

I have never used DHEA and it seems like there is a lot more research to be done before I would consider it. As a 25 year old male, the only thing that stands out as beneficial for me is to increase fertility in the event I’m trying to conceive with a partner.

Otherwise, the evidence doesn’t look incredibly appealing from my perspective. That being said, much of the evidence is based on elderly and women especially. Those who are suffering during menopause or just through a change in hormones might see tremendous benefits that I’m unaware of.

Mansal Denton, Nootropedia Editor


Benefits of DHEA

The main benefits of DHEA within the body are to produce more DHEA (measured through serum content) and then testosterone and estrogen. These are the three factors most often measured and are usually what’s touted when considering supplementation of the drug.

The evidence suggests that taking DHEA supplements will produce a notable increase in the level of DHEA in your body [4]. In short, it is bioavailable and well-absorbed. However, this produces hormonal changes in somewhat unreliable or difficult to measure ways. Estrogen is notably increased when taking DHEA, but this is predominantly done on post-menopausal women [5].

One study stands out for documenting testosterone and estrogen increases after only 28 days of supplementation in young male athletes aged 19 – 22 [6]. These soccer players stand as some of the only test subjects to show positive correlations between testosterone increases in young, male adults.

Often considered a testosterone booster, DHEA does not have the evidence to support usage for men who desire more erectile health, function, or sex drive. The only benefit of DHEA for in the sexual realm is with regard to fertility and that is wholly focused on female fertility [7].

FInally, many of the anti-aging benefits of DHEA are not documented similar to common notions. One might reasonably expect an anti-aging drug to improve hormones, cognition, prevent memory loss, and improve sex drive in elderly people, but the DHEA relation to age is recorded differently. The average 70 year old has 20% the DHEA as a 25 year old [8], which suggests merely increasing DHEA in the elderly is potent and useful for unrelated aging markers [9].

Anyone who is elderly may benefit from some aspects of taking DHEA supplementation, but the specific benefits for young adults is less clear.

Side Effects of DHEA

There are both long and short term studies of the DHEA side effects. In a year long study, 50 mg of DHEA was associated with no adverse or toxic effects in postmenopausal women [10]. Another study of 25 mg over the course of 2 years was also considered safe [11].

There are rare and mild side effects (predominantly seen in women), such as increased acne or even facial hair growth [12]. Both of these are very rare, but possible in some instances.

There is speculation (anecdotal evidence) that DHEA can interact with your body’s choline utilization, which is supposed to make piracetam and DHEA a powerful combination (or any racetam for that matter). Given the money required to test DHEA and piracetam, there are no studies on the subject, but is interesting to consider nonetheless.

DHEA Dosage

Taking a DHEA supplement requires care because of the relatively small dosage that you need in order to consume the drug. In most situations, people over the age of 40 can expect to consume a DHEA dosage of 25 – 50 mg per day. Prolonged use of 100 mg is considered safe for the same elderly demographic.

For younger adults, the numbers are less clear because of the few studies. From what we know, people use 200 mg of DHEA for testosterone boosting, but the lone study on young adult males shows 100 mg used.

A good starting point would be 50 mg and then increase from there depending on how well your body accepts the drug.

How and Where to Buy DHEA

Athletes competing on a professional level should be mindful any time you buy DHEA because it is often a banned substance due to the hormone boosting properties. If you are a professional or even semi-professional athlete (in high school), this may not be a substance that you can use without having regulatory issues.

Elderly people can find DHEA supplements at local health food and grocery stores. It is important to consider the dosage when you purchase DHEA so that you do not end up with a product that is expensive on a per dosage basis.

The ease of researching and comparing DHEA supplements online makes the internet a much safer and better (not to mention more affordable) place for purchasing this exogenous hormone.

We recommend Natrol DHEA because it has 50 mg servings and is an affordable product from a reputable brand.

Selected Community Experiences

I started buying DHEA when I was 17. My first dose was 50mg, I was screaming (literally) in my car as I drove to school. I was practically dripping with testosterone, energy, swag and confidence(MOSTLY JUST FUCK-TONS OF ENERGY). That one 50mg dose had lasting effects for 3 days after. I could basically activate this excitement inside myself If I so chose. This feeling of excitement is very hard to explain, but I could feel something inside my abdomen tighten and my heart-rate would rise, and a smile was forced across my face. following the third day, I felt very lethargic. All day I was tired. Like my body (or adrenal glands) were burned out. I knew it was a powerfull substance.” [13] – Toppguy

“Brands I have used successfully: natrol, nature's bounty, Twinlabs, Life Extension. It reverses the effect of missed or poor sleep instantly (i.e. when I get up after sleeping fewer hours than I need, for example if I wake up at 4 am and can't get back to sleep) I take 50 to 75 mg dhea when I finally get up to go to work at 8am. This allows me to function, and reduces the sleepiness in the afternoon, eliminates the headache and brain fog etc). I have suffered from poor sleep for about 20 years so this is very helpful to me.” [14] – Soldier99

References (Click to Expand)
  1. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20863330
  2. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20729538
  3. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20497239
  4. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20863330
  5. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19321570
  6. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21789881
  7. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16997936
  8. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12630070
  9. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17627814
  10. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18029465
  11. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11581005
  12. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18029465
  13. //www.reddit.com/r/Nootropics/comments/ncy1g/so_i_was_accidentally_gifted_dhea/
  14. //www.reddit.com/r/Nootropics/comments/ngw6l/what_does_dhea_do_for_you/
Other Scientific Resources (Click to Expand)
  1. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16617690
  2. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6235241
  3. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21051590
  4. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22032408
  5. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3025870
  6. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20375886
  7. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20720262
  8. //www.pnas.org/content/95/8/4089.full
  9. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11339818
  10. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18555503
  11. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8049138
  12. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22037250
  13. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16137639
  14. //discover-decouvrir.cisti-icist.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/eng/article/?id=1936455
  15. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16621522
  16. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11934890
  17. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17395704
  18. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15183694
  19. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16487434
  20. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18079198
  21. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20172962
  22. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18502118
  23. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15994348
  24. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22342541
  25. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1400863
  26. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7962278
  27. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12630070
  28. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11600526
  29. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17627814
  30. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18359622


Nootropedia is meant to be a resource for individuals researching drugs and supplements that are good for brain health, otherwise known as nootropics, and thus we are the Nootropics Encyclopedia. Because of our in-depth coverage of this topic, our community has requested that we cover other brain health topics and "lifehacks" so that has become the focus of Nootropedia.