SARM’s or Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators are now popular in bodybuilding. For better or worse, this group tends to push the boundaries on performance and biohacking.
The term refers to compounds that have similar anabolic properties to anabolic steroids but with reduced androgenic (producing male characteristics) properties.
As the name implies, selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs), are compounds that selectively target and activate androgen receptors in the body. Such tissues include skeletal muscle and bone while avoiding activation in other tissues, such as the prostate gland. They are “selective” in that way.
This means that they are less likely to cause the unwanted side effects associated with traditional anabolic steroids, such as acne, hair loss, and prostate enlargement. The tissue-specific effects distinguish them from steroid hormone replacement therapy.
When I first started hearing about them, I didn’t pay much attention as I’m generally not all that interested in synthetic compounds. But then I heard that one of my favorite herbs, and a popular one at Lost Empire, Cistanche may in fact work as a SARM. Once I heard that, I knew I had to dive deeper.
Used for Centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine
It was a favorite of Genghis Khan, and is noted primarily for its sexual benefits (but also works on the brain, immunity, and more too).
Hormones are not just about the number of hormones you have circulating in your blood. Total and free testosterone are great numbers to look at for men’s hormone health. But they’re really only showing one side of the coin.
You can think about hormones as a traffic system in your body. It’s not just about how many cars (hormones) are on the road, but also about the road conditions and traffic signals (receptors). These dictate where the cars go and how fast. We have ways to measure the number of cars, but we’re not so good yet at understanding the traffic system.
SARMS can change up the traffic system.
This study titled, Echinacoside Increases Sperm Quantity in Rats by Targeting the Hypothalamic Androgen Receptor, published in the journal Scientific Reports, focused on one of the active constituents of Cistanche named echinacosides. (Interestingly, these can also be found in Echinacea, where you see the similarity in name.)
The critical point is that echinacosides (ECH) were found to block androgen receptors in the hypothalamus in mice. This is important because the hypothalamus is the master endocrine gland. Most hormones, testosterone included, work in the body via feedback loops. By blocking the androgen receptors in the hypothalamus, some of the feedback to lower FSH and LH production, which in turn leads to lowered testosterone production, gets stopped.
Again, this is in essence, like changing the traffic system. Something like adding in a new road that allows more cars, aka more testosterone, to flow. In this study, scientists found ECH acts like a construction crew for that new road!
Some of the specific exciting findings of this study included:
- ECH enhanced sperm quantity.
- ECH increased testosterone and LH levels in both blood and the pituitary and testicles as shown in the graph below.
- ECH increased the expression of key steroidogenic enzymes in the testis. These enzymes are responsible for sex hormone conversions from cholesterol all the way to testosterone.
- ECH can cross the blood-brain barrier and, to a lesser extent, the blood-testis barrier. This means it gets access to these important areas to be able to act on them.
- ECH increased the expressions of HPG-axis-related genes. This is epigenetics in action.
- This study even showed that ECH lowers BPA-induced reproductive damage. BPA, commonly found in plastics, is a dangerous chemical, especially for hormone health. Here the Cistanche extract was shown to limit the damage it causes.
Pretty amazing stuff, right?
However, it’s important to note that the study referenced is just one piece of research, and further studies are needed to fully understand the potential benefits and risks of using Cistanche as a SARM.
However, this leads some scientific mechanism evidence to why our Cistanche Extract is so popular. It being a potent 8:1 dual extract from organically grown Cistanche certainly helps it stand apart from much else on the market. Just read some of the happy customer reviews
Despite the need for further research, the potential benefits of Cistanche as a SARM are exciting. As more people turn to natural alternatives, herbs like Cistanche could become increasingly popular.