Brain Health The Health Benefits of Pregnenolone The Supplement That Is Promoted for Brain Health By Cathy Wong Updated on February 07, 2023 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Caitilin Kelly, MD Medically reviewed by Caitilin Kelly, MD Caitilin Kelly, MD, is a clinical physician at Indiana University Health Bloomington Hospital and is board-certified in internal medicine. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Benefits Side Effects Warnings and Interactions Dosage and Preparation Alternatives Pregnenolone is a steroid hormone that plays a key role in the production of other steroid hormones, including progesterone, DHEA, and estrogen. It is found naturally in the body, where it is produced from cholesterol in the brain, adrenal glands, and gonads. Some people also take pregnenolone in supplement form to help improve memory, ease depression, and more. If you're considering a pregnenolone supplement, it's helpful to know what research says about the benefits it can provide. It's also important to consider pregnenolone's potential side effects and warnings, enabling to you better decide if it is the right option for you. Before taking pregnenolone or any other dietary supplement, talk with your healthcare provider to learn whether it is safe for you. Verywell / Cindy Chung Health Benefits of Pregnenolone People take pregnenolone supplements for a variety of reasons. Here are a few of its proposed health benefits. Promotes Memory and Learning Some research suggests that pregnenolone can promote memory and learning while also providing other brain-based health benefits related to cognitive function. It works by protecting against inflammation in the nervous system, with neuroinflammatory diseases often coinciding with decreased pregnenolone levels. One neuroinflammatory condition is Alzheimer's disease. Studies report that patients with Alzheimer's often have "significantly lower" pregnenolone levels that those without this disease, and the lower the level of pregnenolone, the greater the disease's severity. Reduces Depression Symptoms Pregnenolone directly affects other substances in the human body, such as MT-associated proteins (MAPs). MAP defects have been linked with major depressive disorder (MDD) and taking pregnenolone may positively affect MAP levels, potentially helping to ease depressive symptoms. A small-scale 2017 study involving 11 patients with bipolar depression supported this effect. After taking a pregnenolone supplement for six weeks, the intervention group had decreased MAP levels, which correlated with positive changes in the subjects' self-reported depressive symptoms. Improves Schizophrenia Symptoms Taking a pregnenolone supplement may also help improve symptoms for people with schizophrenia. A 2019 review found that pregnenolone augmentation therapy provided significant cognitive improvements for this demographic, also enhancing participants' general functioning. Research published in 2018 adds that taking pregnenolone for one month appears to provide benefits for individuals experiencing their first schizophrenic episode who have not yet started antipsychotic treatment. Fewer Drug and Alcohol Cravings When people with alcohol use disorder (AUD) try to quit drinking, the cravings they experience can make this process much harder. In a 2023 study involving 43 people with AUD, those taking 300 milligrams (mg) of pregnenolone daily had fewer alcohol cravings after being exposed to stress or typical drinking cues. A 2022 study found similar results for people with cocaine use disorder. In this case, participants took either 300 mg or 500 mg of pregnenolone daily. After two weeks, they had reduced stress and cue-induced cravings for this drug. The group taking 500 mg daily also had reductions in their stress and cue-induced anxiety levels. Additional Health Benefits Pregnenolone is said to aid in the treatment of several other physical and mental health conditions, some of which include: Adrenal fatigue Allergic lung disease Autism Fatigue High cholesterol Hypothyroidism Infertility Inflammatory conditions Mood disorder Multiple sclerosis Obsessive compulsive disorder Osteoporosis Pain conditions Rheumatoid arthritis Stress Type 2 diabetes Some of pregnenolone's positive effects are thought to be due to this steroid binding to cannabinoid receptors within the body's endocannabinoid system, thereby producing similar benefits as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) but without this drug's psychotropic effects. Possible Side Effects of Pregnenolone Several pieces of research involving the use of pregnenolone report that it is well tolerated. However, these studies also fail to say what side effects, if any, users experience when taking it in supplement form. Since pregnenolone is a steroid, its side effects may be similar to those created by other steroids. Short-term side effects of steroids include: Confusion Depression Euphoria Increased appetite Insomnia Upset stomach Using steroids long-term has also been associated with certain side effects, such as: Adrenal issues Cataracts Glaucoma High blood pressure High blood sugar Increased infection risk Muscle weakness Poor wound healing Round face Skin thinning and bruising Thinning bones Warnings and Interactions for Pregnenolone Pregnenolone may not be safe for certain individuals. For instance, one study looked at postmenopausal women. It found that as their pregnenolone levels increased, so too did their risk of ovarian cancer. Therefore, this type of supplement may not be recommended for this demographic. Since it can influence hormone levels, it may also be advised to avoid using pregnenolone if you have or are at risk for hormone-sensitive conditions. This includes breast cancer, prostate cancer, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids. Although pregnenolone is present naturally in the body, when it is introduced in artificial form, it is known as a bioidentical hormone. Research on bioidentical hormones indicates that it is difficult to predict how these substances will affect the body's natural physiological responses. Also keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances, such as harmful metals. The safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has also not been established. That's why it is always recommended to talk to your healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement. Dosage and Preparation of Pregnenolone The dosage amounts of pregnenolone used in various pieces of research vary widely. Therefore, there is not enough scientific data to provide a recommended dose of pregnenolone. For example, in one study showing positive effects for people with alcohol use disorder, the pregnenolone dosage used was 300 mg or 500 mg daily. But a study involving people with schizophrenia noted benefits at a much lower dose of 50 mg per day. Preparation methods for pregnenolone supplements also vary. You can find it in capsule or pill form, with some products offering it in powder form, as a cream, an oil, or even as a nasal spray. Alternatives to Pregnenolone If you're seeking a natural remedy to help preserve memory, some studies show that increasing your intake of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids may have memory-enhancing effects. A number of alternative therapies may also aid in the treatment of depression. For example, herbs such as St. John's wort might help relieve symptoms of depression, while mind-body practices like acupuncture and meditation could help improve mood. Regular exercise and time spent outdoors can also reduce stress and improve mood. The Mental Health Benefits of Fish Oil A Word From Verywell Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend pregnenolone as a treatment for any condition. It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using pregnenolone for any health purpose, consult your healthcare provider first. 19 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Vallée M. Neurosteroids and potential therapeutics: Focus on pregnenolone. J Steroid Biochem Molec Biol. 2016;160:78-87. doi:10.1016/j.jsbmb.2015.09.030 Murugan S, Jakka P, Namani S, Mujumdar V, Radhakrishnan G. The neurosteroid pregnenolone promotes degradation of key proteins in the innate immune signaling to suppress inflammation. J Biol Chem. 2019;294(12):4596-4607. doi:10.1074/jbc.RA118.005543 Akwa Y. Steroids and Alzheimer's disease: Changes associated with pathology and therapeutic potential. Int J Mol Sci. 2020;21(3):4812. doi:10.3390/ijms21134812 Barbiero I, Bianchi M, Kilstrup-Nielsen C. Therapeutic potential of pregnenolone and pregnenolone methyl ether on depressive and CDKL5 deficiency disorders: Focus on microtubule targeting. J Neuroendocrinol. 2021;34(2):e13033. doi:10.1111/jne.13033 Daftary S, Yon JM, Choi EK, et al. Microtubule associated protein 2 in bipolar depression: Impact of pregnenolone. J Affect Disord. 2017;218:49-52. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2017.04.024 Cho M, Lee TY, Kwak YB, Yoon YB, Kim M, Kwon JS. Adjunctive use of anti-inflammatory drugs for schizophrenia: A meta-analytic investigation of randomized controlled trials. Australian New Zealand J Psychiatry. 2019;53(8):742-759. doi:10.1177/0004867419835028 Cai HL, Zhou X, Dougherty GG, et al. Pregnenolone-progesterone-allopregnanolone pathway as a potential therapeutic target in first-episode antipsychotic-naïve patients with schizophrenia. Psychoneuroendocrinol. 2018;90:43-51. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.02.004 Milivojevic V, Sullivan L, Tiber J, et al. Pregnenolone effects on provoked alcohol craving, anxiety, HPA axis, and autonomic arousal in individuals with alcohol use disorder. Psychopharmacol. 2023;240:101-114. doi:10.1007/s00213-022-06278-3 Milivojevic V, Charron L, Fogelman N, Hermes G, Sinha R. Pregnenolone reduces stress-induced craving, anxiety, and autonomic arousal in individuals with cocaine use disorder. Biomolecules. 2022;12(11):1593. doi:10.3390/biom12111593 University of Maryland Baltimore. Pregnenolone: Summary report. Maurya SW, Dev K, Shigh KB, et al. Synthesis and biological evaluation of heterocyclic analogues of pregnenolone as novel anti-osteoporotic agents. Bioorganic Med Chem Letters. 2017;27(6):1390-1396. doi:10.1016/j.bmcl.2017.02.004 Jiang J, Liu X, Liu X, et al. The effect of progesterone and pregnenolone on diabetes status in Chinese rural population: a dose-response analysis from Henan rural cohort. Eur J Endocrinol. 2019;181(6):603-614. doi:10.1530/EJE-19-0352 Spaeth J, Camacho A, Rios B, McKinney T, Miller A. Allosteric modulation of CB1 by pregnenolone. FASEB J. 2015;29(S1):LB50. doi:10.1096/fasebj.29.1_supplement.lb60 Grennan D, Wang S. Steroid side effects. JAMA. 2019;322(3):282. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.8506 Trabert B, Geczik AM, Bauer DC, et al. Association of endogenous pregnenolone, progesterone, and related metabolites with the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancers in postmenopausal women: The B~Fit cohort. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2021;30(11):2030-2037. doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-21-0669 National Library of Medicine. The Clinical Utility of Compounded Bioidentical Hormone Therapy: A Review of Safety, Effectiveness, and Use. Kashani L, Shams N, Moazen-Zadeh E, et al. Pregnenolone as an adjunct to risperidone for the treatment of women with schizophrenia: A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Psychiatric Res. 2017;94:70-77. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2017.06.011 International Journal of Environmental Science & Technology (IJEST.org). Memory supplements: Best supplements for brain health and memory. Cleveland Clinic. Depression: Alternative therapies. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist Online Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.