Plant flavonoids are known to be antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer. Some are estrogenic and some alter the production of sex hormones. Some block aromatase enzyme activity.
Androgens are the precursors of estrogen by the action of the aromatase enzyme. A balance of androgens and estrogens in the body is necessary for normal sexual function. Deficiency of aromatase causes hepatic steatosis (fatty liver.)
Aromatase inhibitors influence the production of brain neurosteroids (testosterone, progesterone, pregnanolone, dehydroepiandrosterone and tetra-hydrocorticosterone.) They alter psychiatric and physical conditions.
Aging causes an increase in aromatase levels, which increases estrogen and reduces testosterone. A deficiency of testosterone causes “osteopenia, extreme fatigue, depression, insomnia, loss of aggressiveness and erectile dysfunction.” These symptoms can be relieved by aromatase inhibitors. Aromatase inhibitors may be a way of defending the body from estrogen-dependent cancers of the breast.
The authors studied the estrogenic and anti-aromatase activity of the leaves of damiana (Turnera diffusa.) The plant grows well in subtropical America and was used medicinally by the Mayas.
An extract of damiana showed anti-aromatase activity, especially by the damiana components, pinocembrin and acacetin. (Acacetin is structurally related to chrysin, which is an aromatase inhibitor.) An extract showed weak estrogenic activity, especially by components apigenin 7-glucoside, Z-echinacin and pinocembrin.
CONCLUSION: Damiana extract can produce weak estrogen activity in the body, but, may increase testosterone levels by blocking the aromatase enzyme, which is beneficial during aging.
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