Boost Your Testosterone with Sunlight and Supplements
Boost your testosterone — men and women both — with these natural herbs and vitamins, including light therapy.
LIGHT THERAPY may restore flagging libido and subpar testosterone in men, says a recent study. This caught my eye. It grabbed my attention not only because I’m always on the look out for non-pharmaceutical means to increase testosterone, given that it – like many hormones – declines as we age, but also because sunlight is also good for making vitamin D, which is another hormone (yes vitamin D is a hormone) that many of us need more of.
Then I started thinking that if I’m going to tell you about how sunlight can increase testosterone (and vitamin D), I might as well get into other natural ways that testosterone can be increased for both men and women.
In this article, you’ll discover:
- Why bright light can boost your testosterone and libido;
- Which supplements have a good chance of improving your testosterone levels;
- What are aramotose inhibitors and their effect on testosterone; and
- Why women need testosterone (gals, don’t miss this part).
Why Bright Light Can Boost Testosterone and Libido
Earlier in the week, a “testosterone-sunlight study” was summarized in various articles posted all over the Interwebs. I liked the one in U.S. News and World Report, Shedding Light on Low Male Libido, which I’ll summarize for your edification.
He and his Italian researchers said that the testosterone level of men exposed to two weeks of daily periods of bright light increased by more than 50% and their sexual satisfaction tripled.
Prior investigations conducted by his team and other researchers found that both sexual interest and testosterone levels naturally go up in tandem during spring and summer. In the northern hemisphere, men typically see their testosterone levels fall off between November and April, before beginning a gradual climb back up during the summer. And while peak testosterone levels aren’t reached until October, Dr. Fagiolini said the impact that rising testosterone levels have on sexual activity is clear as early as June.
June happens to be the top month when it comes to most rates of conception.
The reason that these serious science-types are interested in libido and testosterone is due to how many men (and as you’ll soon learn, women) experience their decline over time.
Up to one-quarter of all men suffer from low sexual desire. Middle aged men over age 40 are particularly vulnerable, said Fagiolini’s team.
The Light-Testosterone Experiment
The subjects were 38 Italian men who experienced either hypoactive sexual desire disorder (inhibition) or sexual arousal disorder (inability to produce sexual arousal, or the inability to meet or keep up typical responses to sexual arousal).
The first thing in the morning, half the men spent 30 minutes sitting three feet from a special UV-filtered light box that emitted very bright light. The other half of the group – the control group — was exposed to a very low level of light.
- Those in the light-box group increased sexual satisfaction levels from 2 to 6 on a scale of 10.
- Light-box treatment was linked to a notable rise in testosterone levels, up from 2.3 ng/mL to 3.6 ng/mL during the same time frame. In the U.S. testosterone is often measured in ng/dL (nanograms per deciliter) rather than ng/mL (nanograms per milliliter). Using a testosterone conversion tool, we can determine that 2.3 to 3.6 ng/mL are equal to about 225 to 350 ng/mL.
- Those in the control group had no change in their testosterone levels, and for them sexual satisfaction rose by less than one point.
Dr. Fagiolini offered three ideas about why bright light might boost your testosterone and sexual desire:
- It may have an inhibitory effect on the activity of key testosterone-depressing glands in the brain.
- It appears to boost levels of the pituitary gland’s luteinizing hormone (LH), which is known to increase testosterone levels. Recent research indicates that light-box therapy increases LH levels by about 70 percent.
- Because LH levels also have an impact on ovulation in women, light therapy might help women struggling with sexual dysfunction.
Dr. Brad Anawalt, an endocrinologist and professor of medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle, has “two simple plausible explanations” for the study’s findings:
- Though testosterone levels are usually highest in the morning, inadequate exposure to daytime light might drive morning levels down, therefore exposure to bright light might raise testosterone concentrations, leading to improved libido; and
- Given that many men, and women with low libido suffer from depression, bright light that mimics sunshine may help ease depression, and improved mood can result in improved sex drive.
I think it’s safe to assert that you can be kind to your testosterone by getting sunlight often, and as we’ll soon see, vitamin D — the “sunlight vitamin” — as well.
Supplements That Boost Your Testosterone
The following supplements have been vetted by studies reviewed by Examine.com and the Life Extension Foundation as able testosterone-boosting herbs and vitamins.
I’ll summarize their findings, but know that if you really want to increase your testosterone, consider getting Examine.com’s Testosterone Guide, one of a collection of 16 protocols for improving various health conditions.
Dosage: 200 mg
Examine.com says 200mg, but that’s the upper limit you should consider. Typically, a doctor will start you with 25 to 50mgs.
DHEA is very well-studied, and appears to boost testosterone most of the time in persons older than 40 years of age.
It increases testosterone and estrogen in women (see below) with minimal to no side effects regarding androgenicity (man-like side effects) at a dose of 50mg, which is what many fat burning and anti-aging supplements contain.
Women may also use the derivative compound called 7-Keto, which is a metabolite of DHEA that cannot turn into either estrogen or androgens.
Dosage: 3,000 IU
At least one study of 3,000 IU has noted an increase in testosterone concentrations in men with low vitamin D status. A follow-up in men with normal vitamin D status failed to replicate this information.
It appears that a deficiency of vitamin D suppresses testosterone production and normalizing this deficiency normalizes testosterone.
Many of us are deficient in vitamin D, particularly those who work inside, do not play outside much and live in higher latitudes where the summers are short, the winter’s long and the sun is shy.
I looked around the Interwebs seeking something more robust information about how vitamin D may affect testosterone. It seemed to me that the ability of the sun to make vitamin D in our bodies could be part of the reason behind the results of Dr. Fagiolini’s study.
My search took me from Italy (Fagionlini’s study) to Germany.
Researchers in Germany tried to answer the question, “Can vitamin D increase the levels of testosterone in men?”
They used 200 overweight men and gave them vitamin D3 for 12 months, and found that although the vitamin did not have much effect on body composition, it did have a small but significant impact on testosterone.
Testosterone rose from about 280 ng/dL to 375 ng/dL.
Why did an increase in testosterone occur?
There are several reasons that vitamin D may have played a role in the increased testosterone levels detected in this study:
- In experiments on mice, those that do not have receptors for vitamin D suffer from less-than-normal levels of testosterone.
- The testicles have receptors for vitamin D, suggesting that this vitamin plays some role there.
- A previous cross-sectional study in people found a link between vitamin D levels in the blood and testosterone levels in the blood.
Taken together, the Italian and German studies suggest that vitamin D may modestly alter testosterone levels in men.
That’s all well and good, but there’s one more study I stumbled upon that summarized its findings in an abstract entitled, Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men.
Rather than concluding that vitamin D has a “small but significant” affect on testosterone, it said that vitamin D could cause “a significant increase in total testosterone levels.”
Testosterone of the participants in the study from about 300 ng/mL to 375 ng/mL over the course of one year taking a daily dosage of 3,332 IU of vitamin D3.
I wholeheartedly suggest that you take vitamin D3, particularly in the fall and winter.
Dosage: 30 mg
Zinc is often cited as a testosterone booster, but this only occurs in people with a zinc deficiency, which reduces testosterone concentrations in serum (blood).
If you’re deficient in zinc and supplement to bring it to normal levels, your testosterone levels will rise with it, but only to what’s normative for you.
Dosage: 200 to 400 mg
Similar to zinc, supplementing magnesium when deficient in magnesium will restore testosterone levels to normal. People without a magnesium deficiency should not supplement magnesium, as it will not raise testosterone levels above normal.
That said, I’ve read in several places that an estimated 45% of us are deficient in magnesium, so you might consider it.
I use Mike Mahler’s magnesium product called Aggressive Strength Recovery Oil. (You’ll hear more about Mike below.)
Dosage: 5 grams
Ashwagandha may increase muscle and strength through its effect on testosterone.
Ergo-log.com reviewed a study of men who took a daily dose of five grams of Ashwagandha each day for 90 days and increased their testosterone by as much as 40%.
That’s a monstrous amount for a natural supplement to increase testosterone in so short a time period! And it also happens to be what I’m currently using, both to augment testosterone and for Ashwagandha’s positive effects on stress, given its stellar reputation as an adaptogen.
(An “adaptogen” is a natural substance considered to help the body adapt to stress and to exert a normalizing effect upon bodily processes. In addition to Ashwagandha, well-known examples include ginseng and rhodila.)
Five grams is a lot of Ashwaganda, about one heaping teaspoon. If you want to try five grams, I suggest buy it in powder form and add it to your smoothies.
Dosage:Read the label
People who take Pine Pollen to increase testosterone often give glowing testimonials. Some studies on it, however, are equivocal. That said, there are several that support the contention that Pine Pollen can improve testosterone levels in both men and women, as those in the Pine Pollen Research tab attest.
In his book, The 4-Hour Chef, Tim Ferriss wrote that,
“I went to a friends house after having one of these pine pollen cocktails. His female dog, who’s afraid of everyone, came out and humped my leg for about 45 minutes. It definitely has a strong effect on pheromones.”
Presumably you’re not a female dog, and even if you were I’m confident that you’d find a more discreet way of showing your affection. I’m not a female dog either, but I did dry a pine pollen powder extract for a month. I didn’t get my testosterone tested to see how it was effected and I didn’t notice anything different. It could be that taking a tincture form of pine pollen would have produced more obvious effects, as it’s supposed to be more effective than powder.
Irrespective of my experience, there are many positive testimonials presented at Lost Empire Herbs, a seller of Pine Pollen. Click on the “Reviews” tab here and see for yourself.
Dosage: Depends on your weight
Speaking of Ashwagandha, it’s the second main ingredient in an herbal connection designed by Mike Mahler to boost testosterone. Mike is a fitness and hormone expert who runs the website, MikeMahler.com. I’ve used his Aggressive Strength Testosterone Booster and it works, not only for me but the many, many people who have given testimonials to Mike.
The first ingredient in Aggressive Strength is Bulbine Natalensis, an herb native to South Africa. Three things to know about Bulbine Natalensis are:
- An improvement in testosterone only happens by ingesting the exact right amount. Ingest too little and you won’t improve testosterone, and too much of it will actually cut your testosterone.
- It needs to be of highest quality to be effective.
- It can increase testosterone by 347% and cut estrogen by 35%. (1)
Mike Mahler has figured out which Bulbine Natalensis to use and in what dosages. I can say this with confidence given my experience with it, as well as the many testimonials on his website.
Military fitness trainer and author of Military Fitness: A Manual of Special Physical Training, Nate Morrison says that he integrates AS into his training programs. He says,
We have seen a remarkable increase in strength, stamina, aerobic capacity, mood, recovery time between sets and between exercise sessions is way down, and much much more. It’s like being 18 all over again! We use it because so many people are in fact clinically low in testosterone and high in estrogen and it gives our clients a distinct edge.
If you’re serious about boosting your testosterone, I recommend you check out Aggressive Strength Testosterone Booster.
Dosage: Follow label
Blend together zinc, chrysin, muira puama, maca root, stinging nettles, lignans, potassium and black pepper extract and you get a very effective testosterone enhancer called Super Miraforte, made by the Life Extension Foundation.
The ingredients in Super Miraforte have been extensively studied in clinical trials. Some impressive results include:
- Chrysin and nettle root extracts work together to cut conversion of testosterone to estrogen.
- Bioperine® helps transport chrysin (a flavonoid) into the bloodstream.
- Muira puama, a rainforest herb classified in the Brazilian Pharmacopoeia as an aphrodisiac, was found to yield positive results in regard to libido in 62% of men with decreased libido.
- Lignan extracts from the Norwegian spruce convert to enterolactone in the intestine, where they are absorbed into the bloodstream and give biological benefits. This is especially important for the aging prostate gland.
Click here for references supporting above assertions.
Science. 1984 Sep 7;225(4666):1032-4
Altern Med Rev. 2007 Sep;12(3):280
Am J Nat Med. 1994;1:8-9
Eur J Cancer Prev. 2002;11(Suppl 2):S48-57.
Br J Nutr. 2007 Aug;98(2):388-96.
Cancer Causes Control. 2006 Mar;17(2):169-80.
When asked by a 55-year-old male with low testosterone what he can do to improve it, Dr. Aziz is the author of The Perfect 10 Diet, replies that in addition to supplementing with zinc and vitamin D, the man should also try Super MiraForte:
“You can also take… a formula from Life Extension® that I personally take, called Super MiraForte. You should see improvement.” (2)
Before we leave this section on supplements useful for boosting testosterone, check out this:
Scientific Studies on Pine Pollen, Ashwagandha and Bulbine Natalensis
- Buhner, Stephen, The Natural Testosterone Plan: For Sexual Health and Energy
- Effect of pine pollen extract on experimental chronic arthritis
- Antinociceptive and antiinflammatory activities of pine (Pinus densiflora) pollen extract.
- Vitamin D and its metabolites in the pollen of pine. Part 5: Steroid hormones in the pollen of pine species
- Testosterone, epitestosterone and androstenedione in the pollen of Scotch pine P. silvestris L.
A Note on Aromatase Inhibitors
A novel mechanism of increasing testosterone in men is through inhibiting the aromatase enzyme (also known as CYP1A1/2, an enzyme responsible for a key step in the biosynthesis of estrogens). This enzyme serves many purposes, one of which is to convert androgens (like testosterone) to estrogens.
What’s important to know here is that inhibiting the enzyme itself can increase testosterone and lower estrogen. Aromatase inhibitors can be useful as single supplements to take to switch the body to a more androgenic state. (An androgen is a steroid hormone that stimulates or controls the development and maintenance of male characteristics.)
Supplementation with an aromatase inhibitor may be prudent to avoid the increase in estrogen that may naturally happen coincident with an increase in testosterone.
Note: Chrysin and stinging nettles ingredients in Super MiraForte are estrogen inhibitors, as is indole-3- carbinol.
Why Women Need Testosterone
To tell that tale, I want to summarize for you a spot-on article written by Edward R. Rosick, DO, MPH, MS called Why Aging Women Need Testosterone. Let’s quickly go over:
- Why it’s not just about progesterone and estrogen
- The effects of testosterone on women’s strength and fitness
- Testosterone deficiencies may lead to heart disease
- Why testosterone might inhibit breast cancer
- How to increase testosterone naturally
Remember, if any of this information interests you, go read Dr. Rosick’s full article.
It’s not just about progesterone and estrogen
Women also produce testosterone in their ovaries and adrenal glands at one-tenth the level as men. Like men, a women’s levels of testosterone peak in their twenties and decline thereafter. Like men, women not only experience a decline in testosterone production, but also in hormones such as dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), which falls dramatically for women after menopause.
Many doctors think that only the levels of the “female” hormones progesterone and estrogen have a significant bearing on a woman’s health and well-being; however, over the last decade increasing suggests that testosterone is a very important hormone for women, especially in terms of staying fit, lean, and sexually active.
Fortunately for women all over the world, Dr. Susan Davis is doing research to examine the ways in which testosterone supplementation can benefit women. At the Jean Hailes Foundation, a not-for-profit organization in Australia dedicated to women’s health issues, Dr. Davis and her colleagues have been studying testosterone’s importance in women’s overall health.
According to Dr. Davis, testosterone supplementation can significantly benefit young and otherwise healthy women with low levels of testosterone who suffer from low libidos and sexual dysfunction. She believes that testosterone is important in maintaining a woman’s energy level and sense of well being, regardless of her age.
Low testosterone levels in pre- and postmenopausal women can diminish motivation, induce fatigue, and contribute to low libido. Even women in their twenties who are taking birth control pills may suffer from low testosterone and its effects, as oral contraceptives are known to lower testosterone levels.
Testosterone’s Effects on Strength and Fitness
In addition to its psychological and sexual effects, adequate levels of testosterone play an important role in helping women maintain a healthy body composition.
We’re talking being trim with the curves in the right places.
Women begin to gain body fat 10 years before they experience menopause. Many gain weight when taking birth control pills. Doctors often overlook the role that testosterone can play to help to lower this weight gain, because they’re uninformed about the use of testosterone replacement therapy in women.
A study reported in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism indicated that obese women given low doses of synthetic analogues of testosterone (nandrolone) lost more body fat and subcutaneous abdominal fat, and gained more muscle mass, than women given a placebo. (2)
The study participants followed a low-calorie diet but did not change their exercise habits; after nine months, those women taking nandrolone (an anabolic steroid with weak androgenic activity) had lost twice the body fat and gained six pounds of lean muscle mass compared to women in the placebo group.
Testosterone Deficiencies May Lead to Heart Disease
Besides helping women maintain lean muscle mass and an enjoyable sex life well into their forties, fifties, sixties and beyond, new evidence points to more positive effects of testosterone on a woman’s health as she ages.
An intriguing report in the Journal of Women’s Health examined the hypothesis that testosterone deficiency is a key predictive factor for heart disease in aging women or women who have had hysterectomies.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in postmenopausal women. Women who have hysterectomies are three times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease compared to women who have not had one. Women who have hysterectomies generally receive estrogen replacement therapy but not testosterone replacement.
Does Testosterone Inhibit Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, and despite billions of dollars spent on research and treatment since the 1970s, it has been steadily increasing in incidence.
It’s estimated that in 2004, about 300,000 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and about 46,000 will die from the disease.
Many researchers believe that high estrogen levels are a major risk factor for developing breast cancer, and some have postulated that high testosterone levels in women also may pose an increased risk for breast cancer. On the other hand, other researchers believe the association between high testosterone levels and breast cancer in some limited studies may reflect that testosterone and estrogen levels are highly correlated in women, as testosterone can be a precursor for estrogen synthesis.
Multiple studies now show that testosterone may help guard women against breast cancer.
A study in 2000 looked at the effects of testosterone and tamoxifen (a widely used chemotherapeutic agent for breast cancer) on breast cell stimulation. The study showed that breast cells exposed to estrogen showed cancer-like rapid growth, but showed much less growth when also exposed to testosterone.
Ways to Increase Testosterone Naturally
Many women are still leery of hormonal supplements such as testosterone, and they don’t have the luxury of having a physician who is well versed in integrative therapies.
Most mainstream physicians still cling to the idea that testosterone is a man’s hormone and supplementing with it has no place in women’s health, even with the abundance of scientific evidence showing otherwise.
The good news is that there are some proven, natural ways a woman can safely increase her testosterone levels to keep up optimal health as she ages. The top two cited in Dr. Rosick’s article:
- Resistance training — After just six sets of repetitive motion squat exercises, significant increases were noted in both free and total testosterone levels. Studies show that testosterone levels increased significantly in women who did either endurance or resistance exercises, regardless of their age.
- DHEA supplementation – DHEA is a precursor to testosterone and estrogen. As with testosterone, DHEA levels peak in women in their twenties and then slowly but steadily decline, dropping by about 10% every decade of life, just like with men. Some intriguing early studies have correlated the decline in DHEA production with many of the degenerative changes seen in aging in women and men, such as heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis.
Given the evidence above presented, I hope you realize that testosterone is important to women as well as men. If you know women who is having a tough time going through or adjusting to menopause, send them this article.
Before you seek high and low to find an endocrinologist who believes that it’s smart to keep your hormones balanced at more youthful levels as a way to age with more vitality, try some supplements such as those listed above that have a good chance to boost your testosterone.
Testosterone is only one of about 100 hormones, but it’s among the most significant. The right testosterone level is essential for both men and women to maintain a healthy body composition, positive outlook, energy and libido.
Another thing you can do to boost your testosterone is resistance training. This means lifting something heavy with your largest muscles, such as your legs, back, shoulders and chest. Building muscle will improve your testosterone levels. You don’t even need weights — your own body weight will do. Read some of these articles to get you started.
Questions, comments? Have at it in the Comments section below.