On the savannah lands of Brazil grows a plant called Heteropterys aphrodisiaca. Traditional healers have used it for hundreds of years against fatigue and to strengthen muscles and bones. Biologists at the Universidade Estadual de Campinas discovered that extracts of this plant can make athletes' tendons stronger.
The researchers recently published the results of an animal study in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. They started by teaching male rats to run on a treadmill. This took three weeks, after which the real experiment started. Half of the trained rats were given 0.5 ml of an extract of Heteropterys aphrodisiaca every day, and ran five days a week on the treadmill. The other half were given nothing. The researchers increased the load gradually during the eight weeks of the experiment.
Below you can see how the researchers made the extract.
The researchers also had a group of rats that didn’t train. Half of the sedentary rats were given Heteropterys aphrodisiaca extract for the eight weeks; the other half did not get the extract.
At the end of the experiment of 8-11 weeks the researchers examined the Achilles tendon of the lab animals. They noticed that the tendons of the animals that had run and been given Heteropterys aphrodisiaca had become stronger. Their tendons also contained higher levels of hydroxyproline, a marker for collagen production. Collagen is the protein from which tendons are made.
The researchers are not sure exactly how the supplement works. They looked at the activity of the enzyme matrix metalloproteinase-2 and -9, but the results were not conclusive.
"Heteropterys aphrodisiaca is a potential aid to optimize tendon remodeling in athletes, where the disparity of the faster physiological muscle adjustment in relation to the tendon often leads to lesions, because the tendons may not resist the increased tension produced by the stronger muscles", the Brazilians conclude.
BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011 Jun 28;11:51.