If you search through Medline™ or some other scientific research database looking for information on ecdysterones, you’re going to be disappointed… because there’s nothing to support that it really works for anything. While it might be all the rage among entomologists (insect experts) for performance supplementation and trying to build muscle or lose fat, it just doesn’t live up to its claims. Clearly, not a supplement to get excited about… unless you’re using it, in which case you should be furious for wasting your hard-earned money.
Suma, beta-ecdysterone, 20-beta-hydroxyecdysterone, beta-ecdysone, Cyanotis vaga
You can find ecdysterones in plants, but it takes some serious re-engineering to get any useful amount out. Plants that contain ecdysterones include maral root (Russian), suma (Brazilian), and quinoa (Yuppie). Most supplement extracts, however, are from Cyanotis vega.
Ecdysterones also come from insects. Yes, insects. If you don’t like to eat insects, they are also found in viruses, parasitic worms, and crustaceans. Bon appetite!
Getting ecdysterones out of insects used to be fairly expensive (around $20,000 per kilogram). However, now, thanks to the miracle of modern technology, we can cultivate it (grow it cell by cell) and suck it out of plants, so you’re now seeing this compound in a lot of products. That doesn’t mean they work. It just means you’re seeing it in a lot of products; namely, performance supplements.
Athletes have tried supplementing with ecdysterones to get ripped, to increase muscle, and to have the strength-to-weight ratio of an ant. But all they get is “ripped off.” Flat out, until good, solid clinical research (on humans) can show us otherwise, we’ll lean to the side of “this stuff is worthless.” Save your money, please.
No deficiency conditions are known to exist.
Research indicates that Ecdysterone may be useful in the treatment of:
Okay, the basic idea behind ecdysterone is interesting, we admit. Insects are really strong. If a human had the strength-to-weight ratio of an ant, he or she could lift a car. Cool. So, eating insects or at least their hormones should make us strong, right? Well, yes and no. Insects are packed with high-quality protein (which is great for our muscle-building efforts), but other than that, all those fancy hormones, such as ecdysterone, that give them their fantastic super powers just don’t seem to make it up the food chain — to us, if we ingest them.
Well, it doesn’t work. But here is how it would work if some of these outrageous theories about ecdysterones where true.
It all started in 1963 when Russian scientists found that ecdysterone maintained a positive nitrogen balance and increased protein synthesis in vertebrates (animals with backbones). Meaning, our bodies learned how to use protein more efficiently. This appeared to be one of the main attributes of ecdysterone. While this is interesting, no concrete evidence exists to suggest that it actually does this when humans supplement with it by itself.
Lately, marketing claims are in abundance about “steroid receptor effects” of this compound in herbs acting like steroids to boost muscle mass, “cortisol receptor blocking” (preventing that nasty stress hormone cortisol from shrinking our muscles), and “stimulation of anabolic or androgenic steroid receptors.” We say, whatever — it’s a far stretch from the truth. Unless, of course, someone can prove otherwise.
A natural source: insects The best way to obtain the most natural state of ecdysterones (from insects) is free: just get on your bike and ride through the countryside with your mouth open for a few hours. You’ll catch a slew of bugs that contain plenty of ecdysterones. Sounds fun but not realistic.
An herbal source: plants Despite a lot of hype about ecdysterones in plants, no significant amount can be extracted. Still, if you are going to take an herb for ecdysterones, there are a few that exist and that are commonly used.
Suma is one herb that does contain ecdysterones and is probably worth checking out, though for other reasons. It’s sometimes called Brazilian ginseng since it’s used all over that country to boost performance in those working in the fields and in the bedroom and for its supposed blood-sugar balancing, cancer-fighting, and joint-support effects. Some might call this performance enhancing, but remember, it’s still just anecdotal evidence.
Another plant called maral root (Rhaponticum carthamoides) is cultivated by Russians for energy, endurance, low sex drive, and recovery and has some small amounts of ecdysterones contained in it.
Ecdysterone can also be derived, in greater amounts, from herbs such as Cyanotis vaga and leuzeae.
Many of the original studies on ecdysterones were done in the Soviet Union around 1988, and the researchers theorized that the primary action was that it supposedly helped increase protein synthesis (the use of protein in your liver) and therefore promoted positive nitrogen balance, which would then theoretically lead to greater muscle gains.
Okay. There are a couple of issues here. For one, these studies were conducted in an uncontrolled environment. Two, they were done in the Soviet Union using anabolic steroids as a complimentary sidekick. And three, if you consumed protein, in any higher amount than you normally do, chances are pretty good you’d gain some muscle mass anyway.
Although research on ecdysterone has looked at many variables, including muscle capacity, immune function, muscle tissue, and fat loss, most of this research points to unfounded effects, which are used to promote an otherwise worthless supplement.
If you are applying for a lead role in The Fly 3 or if you’re on the TV show Survivor, insect hormones could be great for their high-protein content; that is, of course, if you’re into that kind of thing. But for those of us looking for hormones to build muscle and lose fat, we suggest you get another hobby or look elsewhere for supplementation. Until good, solid clinical research (on humans) can show us otherwise, we’ll lean to the side of “this stuff doesn’t work.” So save your money, please.
The recommended amount of ecdysterone is around 500 mg per day, which is the amount used in studies. But, we’ve heard anecdotal reports of people using as much as 1,200 mg safely per day. Typically, though, most products contain about 75 to 100 mg per day, which might be an ineffective range.
Ecdysterone is recommended to be taken with large amounts of protein (ideally, 30 to 50 grams).
Ecdysterone is typically recommended with a high-quality protein, such as whey or casein.
Ecdysterones appear to be quite safe. Plants use them as natural insecticides, although humans do not. Contrary to theory, ecdysterones don’t influence testosterone production, so they don’t come with androgen-related negative side effects either.
No known toxicity.