Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and its sulfated metabolite DHEA-S are endogenous hormones secreted by the adrenal cortex in response to adrenocorticotrophin (ACTH). Much has been published regarding potential effects on various systems. Despite the identification of DHEA and DHEA-S more than 50 years ago, there is still considerable controversy as to their biological significance. This article reviews the metabolism and physiology of DHEA and DHEA-S, the influence of age and gender on concentrations, and changes in endogenous concentrations associated with disease states and other factors, including diet and exercise. This article is unique in that it also summarizes the influence of drugs on DHEA and DHEA-S concentrations, as well as concentrations of DHEA and DHEA-S observed after the administration of DHEA by various routes. Sections of the article specifically address DHEA and DHEA-S concentrations as they relate to stress, central nervous system function and psychiatric disorders, insulin sensitivity, immunological function, and cardiovascular disorders.