In a previous post, I discussed the use of nettle root extract for raising testosterone levels. However, given the variety of products out there, I feel it is in the interest of my readers to guide them through both the real and virtual aisles. The nettles plant is a complex mixture of compounds of which only a select few are important to influencing testosterone.
This post will define those compounds and which extract is optimal for their presence.
Root Extract vs. Leaf Extract
Let’s tackle the easiest and most forthright choice of all. The root contains “the goods” or active compounds while the leaf does not. That does not mean the leaf does not also have interesting compounds but just not what we’re interested in here.
This is a common occurrence in the plant world; different parts of the plant are richer or exclusively contain certain active compounds.
So you’ve narrowed down the field considerably to a root extract.
Methanol vs. Water Extract
On the surface this should be a no-brainer. The compounds of interest found in the root are not soluble in water and require a stronger solvent like methanol to be extracted from the root.
However, a lot of products on the shelf do not specify how the extract was produced; only that it is of a particular strength like a 4:1 extract.
This perhaps is a blessing in disguise since it narrows the field to only those products clearly labeled as a “methanolic root extract” of a particular strength.
Standardize, standardize, standardize…
A discussion of the process and importance of standardization of herbal supplements was dealt with in a previous post.
You should always choose a standardized extract when possible since it guarantees a certain level of active compound. The same species of plant can have high to no active compound depending on a variety of factors.
Therefore the strongest methanolic extract of the root might have none or inadequate amounts of active compound(s) depending on the level in the starting material. “Zero in equals zero out”!
Now we have greatly narrowed the field to choosing only a metanolic root extract that has been standardized for a specific compound.
Standardized for What?
The products on the market are standardized to one of three compounds: silicic acid, scopoletin or 3,4-divanillyltetrahydrofuran.
Silicic acid or silica is good for hair and skin but not what we’re looking for as a testosterone regulator. Furthermore, since it is water soluble we wouldn’t expect the extract to have the active compound. This is the most common product on the market.
Scopoletin has numerous interesting health effects but is not known to influence testosterone levels. It seems to have a unique effect on blood pressure; lowering it when it high and raising it when its low. The products on the market are standardized to 10-30 ppm. That’s “Parts per million” folks! That means there are very small amounts of this compound. So its hard to believe this small amount can have any effect. While this compound is not water soluble and would require a strong solvent perhaps the active compound is co-extracted with it and hopefully in greater quantities than ppm.
More rare on the market but worth looking for is a standardized extract to 95% (3,4-divanillyltetrahydrofuran). 3,4-Divanillyltetrahydrofuran is in fact the active testosterone regulator in methanolic nettles root extract.
Navigating the Perilous 3,4-Divanillyltetrahydrofuran Waters
Since products that are standardized to 95% (3,4-divanillyltetrahydrofuran) are associated with bodybuilders and steroids there are a lot of shady operations selling this product from those in China to overpriced “gray-market” steroid vendors.
However, I did find what looks like a decent product from a U.S. company that has been around for 15 years. The product is Andro-XY Plus from Biospec Nutritionals (http://www.biospecnutritionals.com/nutritional_products.cfm?id=1021). This does not guarentee the source of their 95% 3,4-divanillyltetrahydrofuran didn’t come from China.
Those interested in searching for what’s available out there can type in the query string, “nettles root extract standardized for 3,4-divanillyltetrahydrofuran” into their search engine.
The product “standardized to 95% 3,4-divanillyltetrahydrofuran” has turned out to be… shall we say… not as advertized. Not remotely. Too good to be true, and not true.
At first glance, I was not sure how to respond to your comment on 95% standardized 3,4-divanillyltetrahydrofuran products. Your comment can only be described as “shall we say…not clear. Not remotely.”
However, in a Google search it appears that this was a hotly contested subject on one of the largest bodybuilding forums. The only way to tell if a product is 95% pure is to have an independent lab put it through a rigorous chemical analysis using such techniques as GC-Mass Spec., NMR, and HPLC and compare it against a known pure reference sample.
It seems that most of the criticism of the products out there was generated by the supplement company Thermolife, owned by the famous bodybuilder Ron Kramer. Of course they make a product that claims to contain a 97% standardized product called T-Bol. Kramer states that other companies used a brown colored powder that was tested by the “independent” analytical lab, Research Triangle Park Labs. He goes on to accuse this facility of using a reference sample provided by the customer. If this is true it is outright scandalous on both parties parts. As a side note, this lab was raided by the DEA for testing illegal synthetic cannabinoids contained in so called, Spice, for companies making these products.
Kramer had the independent lab, Chromadex, test this brown powder used in products claiming 95% 3,4-divanillyltetrahydrofuran against a pure standard. They found it to be just a crude nettles extract around 5% 3,4-divanillyltetrahydrofuran. Chromadex does appear to be a legitimate operation with ties to the University of Mississippi and the USDA. Kramer also suggests that a 95% product should be close to white and not brown as in all other competitors’ product. To his credit, he admits his company had been duped with initial powder contained in T-Bol products but has since been rectified.
Amusingly one poster to the forum T-Nation (as in Testosterone Nation) said this:
“im 5 weeks into my 7 week tbol only cycle at 60mg/day and i woke up this morning and my nips are puffy and tender!!! “