The Health Benefits of Pregnenolone

The Supplement That Is Promoted for Brain Health

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.

possible side effects of pregnenoline
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:

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.

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.
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