Over the course of the last few decades, estrogen has gone through the same kind of reputation slingshot as . . .well . . .Toyota.

First, estrogen was adored by all. Both health experts and women hailed estrogen-replacement therapy as the fountain of youth. A solution that would restore sanity, comfort and beauty to women entering menopause.

But when several studies came out showing that supplemental estrogen increased women’s risk of endometrial cancer by as much as 800%, along with increasing other health risks, estrogen lost its glamorous appeal . . .

Estrogen has now become the villain. As the latest term for estrogen-related problems, “estrogen dominance” implies, estrogen dominates your body with a vengeance, cracking the whip to get breast cancer cells to proliferate and igniting hot flashes to make you lose your cool.

But like most stereotypes, estrogen is both and neither of these. Because estrogen is not just one estrogen. It is many different compounds.

And the more you understand about the range of estrogenic compounds and how they behave in your body, the more you can gain control over your health and put estrogen in its – I mean, their – rightful place.

The True Identity of Villainous Estrogen Revealed . . .

See, yes indeed estrogen spurs cancer growth. In fact 60-65% of breast cancer is estrogen positive breast cancer, meaning estrogen stimulates the cancerous growth. This is even more predominant in older women with breast cancer.

And – yes, guilty as charged – estrogen is the pyromaniac making your temperature go bonkers at a moment’s notice during menopause.

Yes, it’s estrogen . . . but let’s be specific. The 17 beta-estradiol form is the strongest estrogen produced by the human body. And this form of estrogen seems to be associated with breast cancer and cell proliferation.

Estrone is another potent form of estrogen, but not nearly as strong as 17 beta-estradiol. The estrone form seems to be responsible for your menopausal conflagrations, as well as being associated with breast cancer growth.

The potency of these estrogens as well as the specifics of how they interact with your cells’ chemistry has everything to do with how they affect your body.

Let me explain . . .

Some Estrogens Stimulate And Others Inhibit

Hormones like estrogen take basically two steps before they affect your body.

They’re like an ignition key. First they have to fit into the lock – or hormone receptor – on a cell. And then they have to actually turn the ignition to get things running.

The 17 beta-estradiol form does all of this. It fits into the estrogen receptors on cells and then turns on the ignition to start certain activities like starting DNA transcription to get cells to reproduce and grow.

But there are other estrogens. And unlike the estrogens that turn certain cell functions on, some forms don’t have the wherewithal to turn the ignition.

But before you think that these other estrogens or estrogen-like compounds are duds – understand this: They serve a very specific purpose. When they sit in the ignition, they occupy the receptor, which in turn means the more powerful estrogen – like 17 beta-estradiol – can’t get in there to insert itself in the lock and turn the ignition on. They can’t signal your breast cells to start multiplying.

Instead, the more potent estrogens – without a keyhole to fit in – float around in the blood, powerless.

Better yet, as your body notes the high levels of these estrogens in the bloodstream, it gets the message that there is too much. So your body starts to lower production of these powerful estrogens.

Weaker Estrogens Help Protect Against Cancer

One of these “weaker” estrogens is the hormone estriol. The placenta makes estriol during pregnancy. This form of estrogen is significantly weaker than 17 beta-estradiol.

And interestingly enough, not only does this hormone “lock out” 17 beta-estradiol, but has been shown to correlate with the remission of breast cancer. In fact in one study conducted by researcher H.M. Lemon, women who had high levels of this estrogen were less likely to get breast cancer.

And in another study, when post-menopausal women with spreading breast cancer were given this form of estrogen, 37% of them experienced a remission or complete stop of the tumor’s growth.

The lesson here? All estrogens aren’t bad. In fact even 17 beta-estradiol is made for a reason – it helps your breasts grow during adolescence, for one. But your body has an elaborate system of checks and balances to keep these in potent ones reined in.

However, with stress, environmental pollutants, illness and even other medications, our bodies’ ability to keep this delicate dance of estrogens up can easily be compromised.

And for this nature has another answer – plants.

Pomegranate’s Phytoestrogens: Helpful Not Hazardous

Plants like soy, red clover, black cohosh and (yes, our favorite) pomegranate contain their own estrogens called phyoestrogens (“phyto” means plant) or compounds with estrogenic effects.

In fact pomegranate contains a wider variety of phytoestrogens than any other plant. And one of the phytoestrogens found in pomegranate is another very weak estrogen – 17 alpha-estradiol. This form of estrogen is actually a mirror image of 17 beta-estradiol. But while 17 beta-estradiol is the most potent of estrogens, 17 apha-estradiol is the mildest.

In vitro (laboratory petri dish) studies as well as studies on mice have shown that, indeed, this and other estrogens from pomegranate occupy the ignition switch so stronger estrogens can’t take affect.

And there are other pomegranate compounds that are not estrogens, yet they also compete with estrogens for those ignition spots. Researchers noted that the conjugated fatty acids found in pomegranate, such as punicic acid, shut out other estrogens from binding with receptor sites in a manner similar to the cancer drug tamoxifen. And alpha-eleostearic acid, newly identified in pomegranate, seemed especially potent in inhibiting estrogen-sensitive breast cancer cells.

But pomegranate goes even further in keeping your estrogen activity in check.

Other recent research indicates that pomegranate extracts not only block estrogen activity, but block the enzyme that makes estrogen from its precursor androgen. This makes pomegranate a potential aromatase inhibitor (AI), the name of a class of drugs used for the treatment of estrogen-positive breast cancer. And unlike AI drugs, pomegranate has none of the side effects like joint pain, heart problems or bone fractures.

Certainly, the research on breast cancer and pomegranate is still in its early stages. Most of the studies demonstrating pomegranate’s ability to not only block breast cancer development but also kill cancer cells are done in laboratories or on animals. To date, there are no clinical trials.

But the promise is hopeful. As Dr. Sherrill Sellman notes in her book  Hormone Heresy: What Women MUST Know About Their Hormones,

“The ability of the many components found in the pomegranate fruit to help safely modulate and regulate hormones is certainly good news for women of all ages. These weaker and safer forms of estrogens. . . will not contribute to estrogen dominance.”

Women have turned to this fruit for generations to keep them in good health. And with no documented side effects. Quite the opposite, the evidence gives us plenty of indication that we can only benefit from getting more of this most medicinal fruit and its complex array of phytoestrogens and estrogen-like molecules.

We’d like to hear from you! What’s your take on this discussion on estrogens and phytoestrogens – Join the conversation . . .



Berger GS et al. Exogenous estrogens and endometrial carcinoma: review and comments for the clinician. J Reprod Med. 1977 Apr; 18(4): 177-80

Estrogen Receptor Status May Determine Chemotherapy Use. http://news.med.cornell.edu/nyp_health/nyp_health_2006/estrogen-receptor-status-.shtml

Tran, HNA et al. Pomegranate (Punica granatum) seed linolenic acid isomers: Concentration-dependent modulation of estrogen receptor activity. Endocrine Research, 2010. 35(1): 1-16.

Sellman, Sherrill. Hormone Heresy: What Women MUST Know About Their Hormones. Bridger House Publishers, Hayden, ID, 2009.

Watson et al. Nongenomic actions of estradiol compared with estrone and estriol in pituitary tumor cell signaling and proliferation. FASEB Journal, September 2008, 22.

9 Responses to “ Should You Be Scared of Estrogen? ”

  1. Kimmieb says:

    How many miligrams of pomegranite are required to counteract hormonal changes and problems like night sweats?

  2. Elaine says:

    If a woman is past menopause, and she is producing much less 17 beta-estradiol why do we need (or indeed is it even wise) to “occupy the estrogen receptors with a weaker estrogen”?

  3. Kim Holtzman says:

    Thank you for your participation in our blog!

    Kimmieb – If you are asking specifically about our products – such as BalancePom – most women report good results within a few weeks by taking 2 – 3 capsule per day. Each capsule contains 250 milligrams of pomegranate powder. But every supplement is different, depending upon which part of the fruit is used. For example, our CardioPom is very rich in the polyphenol antioxidants – which are great for heart health – but it does not contain much of the components known to help balance our hormones. BalancePom and AgelessPom are great for helping balance out those wild swings in our hormones.

    Elaine – You’ve asked a great question – one that requires more than a quick answer. So I’ve asked Dr. Sherrill Sellman to answer your question. She will post a response in the next couple days…stay tuned!

    Keep posting your comments and questions here!

  4. Shelley says:

    Is it safe to take BalancePom if you previously been diagnosed with estrogen positive breast cancer?

  5. Elaine – In response to your question – unfortunately we live in world which is awash in estrogen-mimicking chemicals which act as powerful stimulating estrogens. In addition, we can metabolize our own endogenous estrogens into a more potent form when our liver is over burdened and not able to properly metabolize estrogen. So, while we may be reducing 17 beta-estradiol during menopause, we are constantly exposed to other equally potent forms of estrogen. Using supplements that offer the beneficial and protective effects of the safer estrogens throughout our life, makes good sense for living a health 21st life.

    Shelley – Yes, it is absolutely safe to take BalancePom. The estrogenic compounds found in the pomegranate fruit are not those that stimulate cancer growth. There is a tremendous amount of in-vitro research showing that these safe pomegranate compounds can actually inhibit cancer cell growth. In fact, BalancePom is a great product to incorporate into a prevention program. I certainly would recommend it to my patients who have had a breast cancer “episode”.

  6. Rena says:

    I’m 57, post-menopausal, and have had estrogen-positive breast cancer 15 years ago. After using the Pom oil (up to 12 drops a day)for a brief time for my horrendous hot flashes, I experienced total relief from them. Probem is, after 1 1/2 years of no periods, they suddenly returned along with other period symptoms, such as cramping, breast tenderness and sore nipple. It’s obviously stimulating my breast tissue.
    I stopped using the oil. How can this be safe for me? I can’t deal with these flashes any longer, but I don’t want to risk cancer again, nor experience these period symptoms again either! What can I do? Will the Balance Pom caps do the same thing to me?

  7. Kim Holtzman says:

    Hi Rena,

    Regarding your returning periods, it sounds like there could be a lot more going on there. I’d suggest you consult with a qualified healthcare provider to see what other factors may be involved in this development.

    As for the safety of pomegranate seed oil, especially as it relates to breast cancer, I can assure you that our pomegranate seed oil is absolutely safe. There are numerous published studies showing that pomegranate seed oil can slow or reverse cancer cell growth, including breast and prostate cancers. There have been no findings of any cancer being stimulated by pomegranate seed oil or other pomegranate extracts. Both our AgelessPom seed oil and BalancePom capsules are safe and effective products that can help alleviate menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes.

  8. Elaine says:

    What drug interactions are there with your oral pomegranate products. I’ve read it might interact with some drugs like grapefruit does.

  9. Neal says:

    Hi Elaine,

    We have not had any reports of interactions with our products and prescription drugs. With regard to fresh pomegranate juice and drug interactions, there are only a handful of published studies on this topic. There are some indications that pomegranate juice may interfere with statin drugs, but other recent studies showed this was not a factor. As with any drug, you should check with your doctor or pharmacist to get the latest data on the specific drug you are taking. They should have a complete list for each drug of possible interactions with foods, such as pomegranate.

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