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It’s all about the molecules!

I never dreamed I’d get into the molecular structure of hormones but what is exciting about them is that you can SEE the difference between industrial hormones, our own hormones and plant hormones. It’s amazing and I think would put an end to any arguments about what is good for you and what isn’t.

There are lots of different types of hormones, such as plant hormones, synthetic hormones, chemical and industrially produced hormones.  So what’s the difference between them, why are some good and others bad? Well it’s all about the molecules…

Ready? Here we go….

First of all, let’s look at the hormones our bodies create.

Here are the three different estrogens, next to them are progesterone and testosterone.

the oestrogens

Don’t worry that they all look the same, they are meant to. They all have a basic four hexagon shape. This is because they are all made from cholesterol. What makes each one different are those funny letters hanging off them, they represent molecules and atoms. This is why our body can convert some of our hormones into others, because they are just hanging different molecules off the same structure. Some transsexuals taking testosterone have found that their bodies just convert it back to estrogen. Mentally they might want to be a different sex but their bodies are trying to hang on to their natural balance (impressive to us, but very annoying for transsexuals).

So what about synthetic hormones?

This is our own estrogen again (left) and next to it (right) is Premarin which is synthesised from pregnant mares urine to make traditional Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).


As you can see, the Premarin molecule has lots of extra molecules. The difference between the two is greater than any of the differences between estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. These extra molecules are also specific to horses and some commentators such as gynaecologist John Lee speculated that this and the fact that we are given them in unnatural doses could be the reason they are linked to health problems such as cancer and heart disease.

This is natural progesterone (left) next to synthetic progesterone (right).

molecular structures progesterone

The maker of this diagram has painted all the extra molecules in black, just in case we’re not sure what should and shouldn’t be there!

Now let’s talk about plant estrogens. Here they are:

isoflavones coumestans

These are Isoflavones and Coumestrol (plant estrogen). They are similar but not identical to our own estrogen. In my book, I talk about how plant estrogens attach to our estrogen receptors and offer different doses of hormones depending on whether our bodies have enough estrogen or not. This is a great tool for hormonal balance. Recent research has shown that we also have special plant hormone receptors in our cells, that are just looking for plant hormones. This could be another tool to help us achieve hormonal balance.

So far, all the hormones look pretty similar, even the synthetic ones.

But what about industrially produced hormones I hear you cry? Here is Polyethoxylate found in household detergents, next to it is a paraben (Methylparaben to be precise) these are hormone mimics found in cosmetics and toiletries.


They’ve got a basic hexagon shape but many extra molecules. Just glancing at that, you can tell you wouldn’t want to inhale too much detergent. Industrial and chemically produced hormones cling to the side of our estrogen receptors, which means other estrogens cannot attach and sometimes they even send out wrong messages.  The other problem is that our bodies find it hard to get rid of chemical and industrial estrogens, and they get stored in our fat and have also been found lurking in breast cancer tumours.

Having studied lots of texts about different kinds of estrogens I have, for the sake of simplicity, come up with this analogy.

If your hormones were in charge of cleaning your house, the estrogen you create yourself would have a list of things to do. Wash the floor. Cook the Dinner. Change the beds.

It would go about them in an orderly manner and then leave.

If you start taking HRT, even once your house was clean it would still be badgering you, “Come on, let’s clean again, I feel like hovering, what’s that dust over there?” Eventually though it would get fed up and leave too.

Plant estrogens, on the other hand, study the situation carefully. If the house is not yet clean it rolls up it’s sleeves and helps out, but if the house is spic and span already it puts on some soothing music, gets everyone to have a sit down and relax and then when you’re asleep quietly leaves.

Industrial and chemical estrogens would boot the door down, take over the broom cupboard and cleaning equipment, and shout, “Come on! Wash the Dinner. Cook the Beds. Change the Floor. Cuckoo, ding dong. Is that voices I’m hearing? Don’t ask me to leave. I’m going no where baby!”