Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a natural hormone made by the adrenal glands. The body uses DHEA to make other hormones such as testosterone and oestrogen. The body makes less DHEA as people get older.
The link between DHEA and depression is not clear. Some have suggested DHEA may regulate mood. Others believe that some people with depression have lower levels of DHEA compared to non-depressed people.
There is some scientific evidence on DHEA for the treatment of depression. Two studies found that DHEA was more effective than a placebo (dummy pill) at treating depression. However, these studies only had a small number of participants. More studies of better quality are needed.
Men and women using DHEA may experience side effects related to hormones. These include oily skin, acne, voice deepening, hair loss and aggression. Women may experience male pattern hair growth (e.g. hair on face, back or chest).
Safety concerns have been raised for the use of this supplement in the long term. For example, there are concerns that DHEA may affect other conditions including those that are sensitive to hormones. DHEA is also known to interact with some medications.
DHEA is restricted in Australia. A doctor’s prescription is needed to buy it.
While DHEA is available in some countries such as the U.S., it is a prohibited substance under Australian Customs legislation. It cannot be imported into Australia. See: www.tga.gov.au/personal-importation-scheme
DHEA has serious potential side effects. It is not recommended for self-help. If you are interested in taking DHEA please talk with your doctor.
Last reviewed and updated: 4 May 2019