What is Estrogen

Called the female hormone, estrogen is not really a hormone and not really present in females only. Estrogen is a group of hormones that is present in both men and women, only that women have significantly more estrogen counts than men.


Edward Adelbert Doisy and Adolf Butenandt determined the estrogen structure in 1929. Since then, the medicine world started to do more research about this hormone.

It was in 1930 when the first effective oral estrogen, called Emmenin, was introduced by the Collip and Ayerst Laboratories. Another pharmaceutical drug company in Germany also formulated a drug similar to Emmenin. This was given to German women suffering from menopausal symptoms.

Only in 1938 when nonsteroidal estrogen called diethylstilbestrol or DES was formulated. This is a cheaper yet more powerful alternative to other estrogen products. However, DES has serious side effects, leading to the promotion of estrogen therapy. The Food and Drug Administration only approved this therapy in 1941 as a treatment for menopausal symptoms.

Estrogen Types

Here are the two types of estrogen:

  • Steroidal. This is composed of natural estrogens found in women—the estriol, estradoil, and estrone. Estradiol is found mostly in non-pregnant women and estroil is found in pregnant women. Meanwhile, estrone is produced during the menopausal stage.
  • Nonsteroidal. This is composed of both synthetic estrogens and natural substances that have estrogenic activity. Nonsteroidal synthetic estrogen is called xenoestrogen. Plants or plant products that are producing estrogenic activity are known as phytoestrogens. Fungi-produced estrogens are called mycoestrogens.

Estrogen Functions

You might have heard about hormonal changes that affected major changes in the body like onset of menstruation and menopause. These two are directly affected by estrogen. Here are other functions of estrogen:

  • Promotes development of the female’s secondary sexual characteristics like increased body fat especially in the buttocks, widened pelvis, breasts, smoother skin, and facial hair.
  • Regulates some functions of male reproductive system like sperms’ maturation and healthy libido.
  • Increases teeth’s exudation and vascular permeability.
  • Other structural functions are: accelerates burning fat while controlling height increase, reduces the muscle mass, stimulates endometrial growth, increases the vaginal lubrication and uterine growth, thickens the vaginal wall, maintains skin and vessel, reduces bone resorption, and increases bone formation.
  • Balances fluid by retaining salt and water.
  • Reduces bowel motility.
  • Affects female mood swings. Sudden changes in estrogen level significantly affect the mood, according to many studies. Usual female depressions like postpartum and postmenopause are regulated after restoring the estrogen level. 

Due to these and more estrogen functions, the medicine world has been using the group of hormones for many medical applications.

Estrogen Medical Uses

Estrogen is famous as part of oral contraceptives. Hormone replacement therapy also uses estrogen to treat menopausal symptoms like sweating, irritability, fatigue, dizziness, chilly sensations, urinary incontinence, vaginal dryness, and hot flashes. Estrogen is known to decrease bone fracture and increase bone density.

Estrogen is also used, though rarely, in curing prostate cancer. Breast cancer, on the other hand, is not actually treated with estrogen but is instead triggered by this hormone. That is why anti-estrogen therapy is available for those suffering breast cancer.

Although it posts some side effects, estrogen is still a helpful group of hormones especially for women. It only needs more researches and studies to perfect what estrogens can do now.


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