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Dehydroepiandrosterone is a naturally occurring hormone that is sold as a dietary supplement. It is often claimed to be beneficial for treating various age-related conditions and is commonly used to enhance sexual desire and performance. Many people can take low doses safely for short periods of time, but high doses may cause side effects such as menstrual irregularity, acne, and hirsutism.

What Is Dehydroepiandrosterone?

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) 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.
Dehydroepiandrosterone 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 Benefits of Dehydroepiandrosterone for more information on what the supplement is used for.)

How Does It Work?

Dehydroepiandrosterone 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 dehydroepiandrosterone itself does, although it is known that the body transforms it into other steroid hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen. It is difficult to predict to what extent the body will convert dehydroepiandrosterone into testosterone or estrogen in any particular individual. Some people will convert dehydroepiandrosterone mostly into testosterone, while others will mostly convert it into estrogen.
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Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
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