The Weird Chinese Fruit for Stronger Genes, a Sharper Brain, and Better Sex
By: Dave Asprey
- Osthole (also osthol) is a compound found in the fruits of cnidium monnieri, in angelica root, and in other herbs that healers use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
- Historically, traditional healers have used osthole to improve sexual function in both men and women, for infections, and for skin problems, among other uses.
- Scientists today are finding out that osthole has valuable properties, namely for your brain, for tumors, and for your libido.
As I’ve been researching anti-aging compounds that improve human performance as a part of my next book, I came across a profoundly useful herb I hadn’t ever tried. It’s now a part of my daily stack because the effects are very noticeable!
Osthole (also osthol) is a compound found in the fruits of cnidium monnieri, in angelica root, and in other herbs that healers use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Historically, traditional healers have used osthole to improve sexual function in both men and women, for infections, and for skin problems, among other uses.
Ancient healers were onto something. Scientists today are finding out that osthole has valuable properties, namely for your brain, for tumors, and for your libido (traditional doctors knew that one already). Research is emerging and mostly involves animal models and cells outside the body, plus the thousand years of human use without formal clinical trials. It’s worth paying attention to just for its ability to replicate ED drugs, not to mention all the other good stuff.
Here’s what the science says.
Osthole and your brain
Scientists are investigating osthole as a potential cognitive enhancer, and what they’ve observed using animal models is compelling. Here’s what they’ve found so far.
Osthole improved cognitive impairment and brain plasticity in the hippocampus of rats with Altzheimer’s disease, which is noteworthy because the hippocampus is one of the areas of the brain most affected by Altzheimer’s. It does this by regulating glutamate, a neurotransmitter that makes brain cells over-fire when there’s too much, and you have learning and memory impairments when there’s not enough.
In another study, researchers were able to show that osthole improved cognitive impairments and increased brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the hippocampus, which helps produce new brain cells.
If you read Head Strong, you may recall that BDNF acts as “Miracle Gro” for the brain. Not only do you need it to produce new brain cells, but BDNF is also involved with mitochondrial transport to areas of your brain cells with a high energy need. One of the reasons people feel mentally sharp after a short time in the Bulletproof Lifestyle is because it creates the perfect low-inflammation, high polyphenol storm that increases BDNF and makes mitochondria thrive. Other ways to increase BDNF are taking a patented coffee fruit extract, which raises BDNF by 140%, and exercise, which does not raise BDNF as much as supplements. Get more ways to raise your BDNF here. Kids and young brains have more BDNF than old brains, so it’s your job to crank it up.
Osthole and histone acetylation
A third mechanism in play involves gene expression. Histone acetyltransferase essentially starts the cascade of steps that turn on a gene. Histone deacetylase does the opposite (more on that, coming up). One variation of histone deacetylase shows a lot of activity in the brain. Scientists used an osthole derivative to inhibit deacetylase, which increased rats’ performance on a variety of learning and memory tasks.
Osthole and sexual function
Scientists found that osthole acts on the same mechanism as prescription Viagra to enhance erectile function in rabbits. Like Viagra, osthole stimulates the release of nitric oxide which relaxed the blood vessels and caused penile tissue to engorge.
Researchers observed similar effects in women using Zestra, a botanical oil that contains osthol and other compounds formulated for female arousal.
Osthole acts on more than just blood flow. Scientists demonstrated its ability to raise testosterone in healthy mice as well as in reproductively altered mice.
I have not measured my testosterone levels since I started taking the herb, but the next morning effects of this stuff have me feeling even more like a teenager. It was not subtle, and if you’ve heard the podcasts about the stem cells a doctor injected in my reproductive organs, you know things are already working fine, thank you very much! 🙂
Testosterone levels have a key role in sex drive, arousal, and sexual function. Osthole raised testosterone levels in the bloodstream of rodents, even rodents that had been castrated before the study. That delivers a dual-angle approach to sexual function.
These weren’t human studies, but traditional healers have been getting the same effect with cnidium monnieri fruit and angelica root, both high in osthole, for centuries. That’s what I’m using.
Research on osthole as a cancer treatment
How genes turn on and off
For your body to use a gene, your body needs to successfully read and copy your DNA. Tumors form when something goes wrong with these processes, or when mitochondria turn bad.
When DNA is tightly packed around proteins, transcription chemicals cannot bust through the proteins to access DNA in order to make a copy. When those proteins are loosely packed, transcription chemicals can get to DNA to get things rolling.
One of the most important proteins in the nucleus that DNA tangles up with is called a histone. When your body is good at a process called acetylation, you can acetylate those histone proteins, which makes it easy to copy your DNA. Without enough histone acetylation, your DNA is locked up and you won’t make good copies.
Histone has an “on” switch and an “off” switch — think of it as creating outlets for the plugs that will power genes.
Histone deacetylase is the “off” switch. It’s an enzyme that dissolves the bond between lysine and the acetyl group. In effect, histone deacetylase rips the outlet out of the wall, pulling the plug on gene expression.
Histone acetyltransferase and deacetylase have to work in balance — you don’t want your genes to express with abandon, and you don’t want your genes to be silenced into oblivion. A lot of disease processes, cancer being a big one, trigger when histone deacetylase goes into overdrive and starts turning off too many genes. When that happens, your cells’ defenses shut down.
This is a problem that osthole fixes — it keeps genes going that would have otherwise been unplugged.
Deacetylase inhibitors as a cancer treatment
One of your body’s defenses against cancerous tumors is the ability to kill off damaged cells before they can divide and proliferate. Gene transcription has to be in good working order to do that. Researchers have been experimenting with deacetylase inhibitors to prevent the silencing of genes that we want to express. Bonus superpower of ketosis: one of the ketones your body makes when you’re in ketosis, beta-hydroxybutyrate, acts as a histone deacetylase inhibitor.
Osthole has shown promise as compound that targets gene regulation. Researchers prepared several different compounds of osthole, three of which acted as deacetylase inhibitor. One variation in particular had an effect similar to a deacetylase inhibitor that is already used in clinical practice as a treatment for T-cell lymphoma. Researchers have also shown that it can be modified to target specific cell lines.
Cnidium is an example of an herb that humans have used for centuries because you can detect that it works. Now we have enough science to start to understand why and how it works, even though no one has heard of it!
Given how potent it is, I’ve become a big fan. I take 1000 mg of Barlow’s Herbal Elixirs 1-2 times per day (I’m 200lbs+). Too much can cause nausea, so start small. This could change your life if you have ED.
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