Hormones that are exactly the same molecules made by the various endocrine glands qualify as bio-identical. These are generally derived from plant sources found in soy and wild yam root. Because the hormones are extracted from these plants and then put into a form that the body can absorb, they are synthetic. So all bio-identical hormones are synthesized from the plant source into a form that the body recognizes and can use.
Bio-identical hormones can be obtained with a prescription from both conventional and compounding pharmacies. Hormones that are not bio-identical also are available in conventional pharmacies and they are either derived from non-plant sources or are modifications of the molecules that naturally occur in our bodies. The benefits of using a conventional pharmacy are convenience and probable insurance coverage of the hormones. Compounding pharmacies are becoming more plentiful, making them more convenient than they once were. Many deliver and some even accept insurance. The hormone dosages and forms can be tailor-made for the individual, which cannot be done at the conventional pharmacies. Both conventional and compounded bio-identical hormones have the same potential risks, benefits and side effects. It is prudent to measure hormone levels (either in the blood or saliva) to check for their absorption since we all differ in our ability to absorb the various forms and dosages of the hormones. Too much of a good thing can cause serious side effects. Too little of a good thing is just a waste of time and money!