Many of you may be familiar with the term "adaptogen." Adaptogens are, in essence, plants with constituents that help the body adapt to various stresses. By optimizing the response to negative external stimuli, bodily function is preserved in a variety of settings. Specific to bodybuilding, adaptogens can help optimize hormones like cortisol, improve CNS recovery, improve exercise performance (especially during challenging workouts), and much more. The big 3 in traditional medicine are the well-known Ashwaghanda, Bacopa Monierri, and Rhodiola Rosea. But one particularly interesting adaptogen that you may not have heard of is B. Diffusa, which is acclaimed for various benefits in the Eastern world, but has only recently undergone mammalian trials for evidence-based effects.
Glucose Control/GDA effects
One very notable effect of B. diffusa is its ability to reduce blood glucose. Personally, I had no knowledge of this benefit prior to digging deeper into the literature, and I was very impressed by the potency of the plant in doing this. We often see compounds like banaba, bitter melon etc in GDA products, but based on the evidence, it looks like B diffusa actually outperforms these "classic GDAs" as far as magnitude of effect is concerned.
In one study on diabetic rats, B. diffusa controlled blood glucose in a manner equipotent and even more effective than the most effective anti-diabetic drug used in clinical practice for Type II DM: Metformin . The fact that a clinical control was used in the study was very cool, and this appears to be a trend in other B diffusa studies as well.
For instance, another trial showed that B. diffusa was effective as a GDA in not only diabetic rats, but in normal rats as well. This is obviously important to us, since most of us aren't type II diabetics, so the fact that it works in healthy populations is reassuring.
In this study, B diffusa was compared against another clinical anti-diabetic drug: Glibenclamide. Once again, B diffusa was found to be more effective than Glibenclamide in controlling blood glucose ...again, very very impressive. It also improved plasma lipids like cholesterol and triglycerides, making it heart healthy as well. Another trial also compared B diffusa to Glibenclamide and again found it more effective...this means the results are reliable and reproducible, and it is just one more of several trials demonstrating the efficacy of B diffusa as a GDA  .
Suffice to say, having been previously unaware of this effect of the plant, I was pretty pleased with the breadth of data demonstrating GDA effects, and I suspect this plant will find its way into GDA products down the road.
Hormonal Optimization - Cortisol and Estrogen
As far as cortisol control is concerned, an effect common to almost all adaptogens is reducing cortisol when it gets too high. Cortisol optimization is superior to reducing cortisol, since cortisol is an essential hormone and should not be suppressed indiscriminately. Rather, optimization is the best approach, and B. diffusa does just that in in vivo models .
As far as estrogen goes, B diffusa has a dual MOA for reducing estrogen pathway expression. First, it is a mild SERM, capable of displacing estrogen from its receptor and preventing downstream effects. More importantly though, we once again see the adaptogenic effects at play, as it can actually downregulate the estrogen receptor. This is a known mechanism of potent clinical anti-estrogens, and B. diffusa was actual found to have an in vitro potency comparable to the SERD known as Faslodex . So by both blocking and downregulating expression of the estrogen receptor, estrogen levels can be optimized.
Diuresis and "Hardening"
Many consumers who have used B diffusa report a "muscle hardening" effect. What's likely occurring is actually diuresis, as B diffusa has been used for centuries as a natural diuretic and may be one of the more potent herbs in nature at achieving this, with up to a 220% increase in extra water loss noted in vivo [9-11]. This could be beneficial for reducing blood pressure and preventing kidney stones, but the main benefit to bodybuilders is the cosmetic effect: less water retention in extracellular tissues makes the muscles more prominent and "cut up." Human clinical trials do exist demonstrating the diuretic effect, and it is prominent even in people with nephrotic syndrome (which is characterized by severe edema/fluid retention).
Obviously the focus of many bodybuilders is not their overall health, but I think we don't place enough emphasis on maintaining proper bodily function, so anything that can benefit one's well-being should not be ignored. B diffusa has innumerable studies demonstrating effects wherein it may:
1. Optimize immune function
2. Improve liver and kidney function
3. Reduce pain
4. Improve antioxidant status
That concludes this week's Coop's Corner article. I thought it was very cool how relatively unexplored this adaptogen is in the supplement realm, particularly for the GDA effects which are quite potent, but also for hormonal optimization and a cosmetic, leaning-out look.
Stay tuned for next week's article!
1. Antihyperglycaemic and renoprotective effect of Boerhaavia diffusa ... - PubMed - NCBI
2. Antidiabetic effect of Boerhavia diffusa: effect on serum and tissu... - PubMed - NCBI
3. Antidiabetic activity of Boerhaavia diffusa L.: effect on hepatic k... - PubMed - NCBI
4. Antioxidant effect of Boerhavia diffusa L. in tissues of alloxan in... - PubMed - NCBI
5. Hypoglycaemic effects of some plant extracts are possibly mediated ... - PubMed - NCBI
6. An in vitro study on antiproliferative and antiestrogenic effects o... - PubMed - NCBI
7. Activation of pS2 gene transcription is a primary response to estro... - PubMed - NCBI
8. Cloning of cDNA sequences of hormone-regulated genes from the MCF-7 human breast cancer cell line.
9. Aqueous extract of Boerhaavia diffusa root ameliorates ethylene gly... - PubMed - NCBI
10. Effect of Unex on ethylene glycol-induced urolithiasis in rats. - PubMed - NCBI
11. Studies on medicinal properties of Convolvulus pluricaulis and Boer... - PubMed - NCBI