PREGNENOLONE: THE MOTHER HORMONE
You will sometimes hear DHEA described as the "mother hormone". The term would be better applied to pregnenolone, which is the basic precursor, or starting raw material, for the production of ALL the human steroid hormones, including DHEA, progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, cortisol and aldosterone. But pregnenolone is not itself steroid hormone.
Pregnenolone has been studied extensively since the 1940's, when it was used both experimentally and medically. Pregnenolone was phased out of medical use; yet ironically pregnenolone is radically safer and more versatile than the specific steroid hormones which replaced it! Pregnenolone is safe even at 1 gram (1000mg) dosages, a claim no steroid hormone can make (20 mgms or more of prednisolone, one of the main synthetic prescribed steroids, would be dangerous long-term).
One of it's most important actions of pregnenolone is to counter damage caused by the natural stress hormone, released by the adrenal glands, called "cortisol" (after the adrenal cortex, where it is made). Cortisol is helpful in modest amounts, but toxic at higher levels. Amongst other things, it damages brain function and this can lead to blunting normal memory. Blocking this process may be one of the main reasons for the known memory-enhancing effect of pregnenolone. It also improved the mood and efficiency of factory workers, which may also be due to benefiting brain function, as well as enhancing mood.
Other actions of pregnenolone include limiting allergic reactions and reducing inflammatory processes, such as arthritis. It also improves energy levels by protecting our energy-producing mitochondria from environmental toxins.
Interestingly, in a study of rats subjected to spinal cord injury, administration of pregnenolone in combination with the anti-inflammatory medication indomethacin and an immune-modulating substance (bacterial lipopolysaccharide) promoted recovery of nerve function. The effect was more pronounced with combination therapy than with any one of these substances given singly or in combinations of two. We don't yet know if this works in humans the same way.
Pregnenolone enhances the activity of the cytochrome P450 detoxifying enzymes, which help our cells (especially the liver and brain) to detoxify xenobiotic poisons of all sorts.
The body's own production of pregnenolone is reduced with aging, stress, depression, hypothyroidism and toxin exposure. The work of Ray Peat Ph.D, has shown that pregnenolone may be a general "anti-stress" metabolite. However this may not always be present in our bodies at optimal levels, precisely because it may be used up in producing all the steroid hormones, not leaving enough to fulfill its stress buffer role. Hence the need for supplementation.
Pregnenolone is generally safe and effective at doses of 50 mgm. to 200 mgm. per day. If you are self-dosing, judge it from your mood and energy levels. On no account use pregnenolone instead of medically prescribed steroids, without telling your doctor what you are doing.