When first isolated, there was little interest from the commercial sector due to the lack of a cost-effective way to extract or synthesize the chemical. However, recent breakthroughs have meant that it can now be isolated cost-effectively. This has led to experimentation with its use as an anabolic steroid in sport and bodybuilding.
Despite lacking FDA approval, it has proven to be moderately successful as a commercial product in the countries in which it is produced, likely due to its efficacy in promoting muscle growth and fat loss, and lower frequency of side-effects usually associated with anabolic steroids. Such side effects are still fairly common, however, as a result of increased testosterone and DHT production, and include androgenic changes in females such as growth of facial and body hair and deepening of the voice, as well as gastrointestinal problems for both sexes, such as nausea, bloating, and diarrhoea.
Clinical studies by ICN Pharmaceuticals demonstrated that the results are further improved when the drug is combined with a high-protein diet, to the point of equaling or even surpassing the beneficial effects of conventionally derived steroids such as Dianabol . The same studies showed the effective dose for a human to be around 5 mg per kg of body mass, daily. The compound becomes toxic only at doses of 6400 mg per kg of body mass per day.
In addition to its potential use as an anabolic growth hormone, 20-hydroxyecdysone has proven to cause moderate increases in testosterone production in males. This has led to speculation and a small number of partially successful trials in testing its use in improving overall sexual function. There is also some evidence to show that 20-hydroxyecdysone has effects on some kinds of blood cells such as lymphocytes and neutrophils, and may act as an immunomodulator .
An academic review published in 2003 concluded that "The impressive development of preparations containing ecdysteroids suggests that this class of molecule has indeed at least some of the claimed effects. The scientific justification for such commercial developments relies, however, on just a few references (ca. 10), often with the same ones being cited to support quite different effects". Clearly, more research is needed to determine the significance of the effects of 20-hydroxyecdysone in mammals and how they affect the safety profile of 20-hydroxyecdysone when it is taken as a dietary supplement by humans. 20-hydroxyecdysone is still considered a steroid "hormone" and may cause side effects that normal steroids produce.