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The anabolic effect of Cissus quadrangularis

Some supplements companies claim that extracts of the Indian plant Cissus quadrangularis have an anabolic effect. And this effect, they say, exceeds that of good ol' methandrostenolone – the active ingredient in Dianabol. Of course, these kinds of claims should be taken with a pinch of salt. Nevertheless it's true that a 1965 animal study showed that Cissus quadrangularis has an anabolic effect.

The study we're referring to was published in Life Sciences and was carried out by researchers at the Banaras Hindu University in India. The authors performed animal experiments to study the effects of anabolic steroid hormones, growth hormone [Indian J Med Res. 1964 Mar 52; 279:91.] [Indian J Med Sci. 1964 Jul; 18: 389-97.], vitamin C and calcium [J Exp Med Sci. 1964 Mar 8; 116:24.] on the healing of bone fractures. Finally they also conducted an experiment in which they tried out extracts of Cissus quadrangularis [see photo of the plant below]. How and why they decided to investigate the properties of this particular plant is not revealed in the article.

The researchers used a petroleum extract, which contained plant steroid hormones with a carbonyl group and unsaturated bonds, they write. They didn't elucidate the exact composition, but according to their analyses the basic structure resembles that of the well-known anabolic steroid hormones.

The researchers dissolved the Cissus quadrangularis petroleum extract – a white crystalline powder – in fluid and injected 100 micrograms of this into the rats' muscles every other day. They also tried injections containing the complete extract of the plant, but that didn't work so well: some of the rats died. The extract caused a greater weight gain than methandrostenolone, as the figure below shows. The researchers do not reveal how much dianabol the animals were given and what percentage of the weight gain consisted of muscle mass.

The researchers then repeated their experiments with rats whose front paw had been broken. Half of the animals were given nothing; the other half were given an injection of the anabolic phyto-hormones in Cissus quadrangularis, every other day. The figure below shows that the extract helped the rats' bones to strengthen more quickly.

Cissus quadrangularis enhanced the bones' absorption of strontium, an indicator of anabolic processes in bone tissue. In addition, the extract caused a slight increase in collagen synthesis in the bones.

The researchers were enthusiastic about the potential of ‘their' plant. "It is our feeling that the drug produces this beneficial effect by effecting a quicker positive nitrogen and calcium balance as it is seen in the cases of other anabolic hormones", they wrote. "We are confident that in the near future this steroid will find its place in the treatment of fracture cases."

Life Sci. 1965 Feb;4:317-27.

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