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DHEA is a dietary supplement often claimed to provide benefits for numerous age-related conditions and to increase sexual desire or performance. However, more research is needed to confirm these claims. While low doses of the product are often well tolerated, long-term, high-dose use is probably not safe and may lead to significant side effects such as acne, hair loss, and high blood pressure.

What Is DHEA?

DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a hormone produced by both men and women. It often declines with age. Currently, it is classified as a dietary supplement and is, therefore, available without a prescription. Because it is a supplement, there is very little regulation of the manufacturing and sale of this product.
DHEA is often claimed to be a wonder drug or a "fountain of youth." It is used for many different age-related conditions and is popular as a supplement to increase sexual desire or performance.
(Click DHEA Benefits for more information on what the supplement is used for.)

How Does It Work?

DHEA is a hormone. In the human body, it is mostly produced by the adrenal glands (small glands that sit above the kidneys). Researchers are not exactly sure what DHEA itself does, although it is known that the body transforms DHEA into other steroid hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen. It is difficult to predict to what extent the body will convert DHEA into testosterone or estrogen in any particular individual. Some people will convert DHEA mostly into testosterone, while others will mostly convert it into estrogen.

Is DHEA Effective?

DHEA appears to work for several different uses. However, there are many claims that are completely unsubstantiated or greatly exaggerated (see Does DHEA Work? for more information).
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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