From Ergo Log
Creatine works better in combination with an extract of Russian Tarragon, Latin name Artemisia dracunculus. There was already plenty of circumstantial evidence, but now there's a human study available. Adam Parker, a sports scientist at Angelo State University in the US, presented it at the annual meeting of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
Creatine works better if you ingest it with a slug of fast carbohydrates. Carbs send your insulin level shooting up, and insulin boosts the muscle cells' uptake of creatine. We're talking about 60-90 g glucose here. It's not expensive, but it piles on 240-360 kcals. And that's a shame: you're doing your best to ban sugar from your diet and then you go and add them to the supplements you're incorporating in your nutritional pattern.
That's why supplements manufacturers and strength athletes are interested in other things you can add to improve the uptake of creatine by the muscles. One of these is Russian Tarragon. Athletic Edge Nutrition uses a patented extract of Russian Tarragon in its Creatine RT – and funded the study that's the subject of this post.
The study looked at 12 men and 4 women, all of whom were experienced weight trainers. The number of participants was low because the researchers only wanted test subjects that didn't use creatine. And they are thin on the ground in American gyms.
For a period of 8 weeks, some of the group took a placebo. Others took 6 g creatine daily, combined with 90 g glucose [Cr+CHO]. The rest took 6 g creatine, 1100 mg Russian Tarragon extract and 40 g hydrolysed collagen. Hydrolysed collagen does contain calories, but has no effect on muscle mass or insulin activity [CR+RT].
The table above shows that during the first [weeks 0-4] and second [weeks 4-8] half of the supplementation period the maximum strength increased by about the same amount in all three groups.
The figure below is more interesting. In both groups that took creatine the lean body mass increased more than in the placebo group. During the first four weeks the placebo group gained hardly any lean body mass, whereas the creatine groups gained over 1.5 kg. And yes, that was a statistically significant effect.
The most impressive effect in the figure was not statistically significant. At the end of the supplementation period the fat mass of the CR+CHO group had increased by just less than 1 kg. In the placebo group it had increased by just over 1 kg. The subjects that had taken the combination of Russian Tarragon and creatine on the other hand had lost 2.4 kg fat. Yabadabadoo.
The conclusion that the researchers draw is not surprising. "Although there was a limited sample size for each supplement group, preliminary data suggests that consuming Creatine + Russian Tarragon is as effective as consuming Creatine + Carbohydrates in regards to gains in LBM and strength over the course of 8 weeks of resistance training".
A potential problem with Russian Tarragon extracts is the presence of estragol and methyleugenol. These substances are probably not harmful when they are in the plant or in water-based extracts. [J Agric Food Chem. 2011 Nov 9;59(21):11367-84.] But in pure or purified forms these same substances may cause damage to DNA, and may be carcinogenic. In the alcohol-based patented Russian Tarragon extract found in most supplements on the market, the estragol and methyleugenol have been removed.