My "herbal testosterone stimulator" tincture
Some points to start:
I am not a doctor.
What follows is based purely on my personal investigation / study, and experiences.
I welcome correction (factual or grammatical) on any points proven to be in error.
Your Mileage May Vary. This works for me.
Some find my style of writing annoying (lots of " - " and "(insert comment here)" ). Sorry. Really.
At the end of all this you are very like to say "Wow, what a PITA!" and you'd be right...
I'm writing this stuff off the top of my head - I will attempt to put things into logical order, but there are a number of points I want to cover.... so it may seem somewhat slapdash in nature and is very likely to be long-winded (but I do love to type).
What is this all about:
I've made mention of my use of a "home brewed" tincture of herbs to boost my test production on a couple other boards (for both fitness and "male health" oriented). There are always at least a few folks that are curious about what it is that I use, what I do to make my "magic elixir", and what the results have been for me. Same thing happened here (in my intro) so I figured I may as well just make a document for myself and cut-n-paste it into a post, covering as much data as I can to help anyone interested start their own investigation.
I'm a firm believer in the ability plant-based / herbal / homeopathic medicines can have on human physiology, or in this case particularly male physiology.
There are obviously a number of fundamental differences between traditional Western medicine and homeopathic remedies - in general the former tends to address the symptoms of a condition or illness, whereas the latter typically tries to use the bodies' natural abilities to heal or alter itself to attack said condition or illness. I guess a broad analogy would be one tries to treat through external intervention and one does so via internal mechanisms.
Another fundamental difference between prescription drugs and plant remedies is that the former typically has a vastly more accurate concentration/strength and dosage. However, I will address some of this as I go on as herbals can have those characteristics as well under certain circumstance....
By far, plant based remedies have lower incidence of side effects, and if there are issues they are typically less dramatic than prescribed medicines. AT THE SAME TIME there are those plant-based products that can have a DRAMATIC effect on you (case in point: cigarettes; marijuana) and effects are not to be taken lightly. And much like any medication, herbals can interact with each other and with prescribed medications - either "antagonistically" (each cancels the others affect) or (to take some literary license) "protagonistically" (their affect can be additive, or in some rare instances, multiplicative). As an example, St. John's Wort is used extensively as a mood elevator, but it should NEVER be mixed with most birth control, heart, or blood pressure medicines (for reasons I've never investigated, but I've seen warnings on as many as 50 prescribed medicines!). A more appropriate example might be to point out that Echinacea (commonly used with colds/flu) should not be mixed with anabolic steroids as there's marked increase in hepatotoxicity. These are major points of consideration, and are, in part, what makes much of herbal medication something of a "mystic art", or at least a practice typically left to those very studied in the protocol - and quite possibly the reason why some get no results from herbals. But moreover, what one should understand is that LOTS of investigation on your part is likely a good idea before starting to take handfuls of herbals, or a supplement manufacturer at their word.
There are, of course, typical plant remedies for things like analgesics and diuretics, but the point of my dissertation here is to talk about coaxing more testosterone from your body, and to utilize that testosterone, with the use of herbs.
This is not a "new" or "pseudo" science - many cultures have been using plants for centuries, some cultures still use them as a primary (or sole) source of medical treatment. For me, the most telling fact I've found that convinces me of the continuing validity of herbal medicine (we already have many prescription medications based on plants) is the fact that virtually every major drug manufacturer spends MILLIONS of dollars a year on research in the rainforest and tropical parts of the world. Sadly there is a too-recent history of exploitation as well, but for the most part these companies now realize & appreciate the impact their interaction can have on the local ecosystems (when a "localized population" suddenly learns they can make $10/pound on a certain tree root they will, naturally, dig up every piece they can as fast as they can do it with little foresight into the future) and actually work with the population on intelligent farming and working towards a sustainable revenue stream.
I also find it hilarious that some supplement companies will go to unbelievable extents to hide common herbal ingredients to make it sounds like they've got "mad lab skilz" - making up names, misspelling an ingredient, or identifying it by some mile-long carbon molecule chain (I could refer to Horny Goat weed as "Icariin C[sub]33-H[sub]40-O[sub]15" if I so desired). One such product that pops into mind is ISA-TEST, and their """patented""" ingredient TESTOFEN(tm) - which they go on to define as Trigonella Foenum Graecum Extract Standardized For 50% Fenuside(tm) Saponins. It's fenugreek for God's sake. But hey, it's a standardized concentration so it's gotta be good - right? (I'll touch on that later as well). Here's my bullshit meter and one I suggest to others: if you Google on a product ingredient and all Google returns is hits for that product alone it's almost assuredly total quackery (or at best, you're going to have to shovel away some horseshit to get to the actual ingredient in use).
So where do I get my information:
Google (sensible searches on the common plant name, scientific name, or a portion of its chemical composition; keep an eye out for purposeful misspellings)
Wikipedia (with caution, there are LOTS of less-than-reputable companies tainting pages - be sure to look at the list of contributors)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ and it's search engine http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez/
http://www.shamanshop.net/ - it's a shopping site, hope I don't get spanked for that link
There are lots of other sources as well, frequently you'll find labs that export specific products will have lots of useful information (like this one http://www.phyto-nutraceutical.com/) however - be sure to cross-reference fanciful claims. Just because someone can spend a few bucks to make a glitzy website doesn't mean the contents are factual.
Terms you might find useful:
Adaptogen - used to describe an herb that works to stimulate the endocrine / hormone / immune system. Good examples are ginseng, yohimbe, tribulus, and tongkat ali. The important point about adaptogens is that the body tends to "grow accustom" to their influence and will adjust accordingly - and in so doing lessen the effect of that herb over time. It is therefore suggested that most adaptogens be taken with on & off cycles. The idea is nothing new to "enhanced" bodybuilders....
About extracting herbal essences...
Infusion - a water based extraction. Tea.
Decoction - a thick, boiled extraction
Tincture - an alcohol (or spirit solvent) based extraction (and the main point of this piece)
The "active components" of an herb can be extracted and / or concentrated by soaking and / or boiling the herb in a liquid. This will extract the desired chemical components or volatile oils (or its "virtues").
An infusion is simple - coffee and tea are infusions. The plant is steeped in a (typically hot) liquid to extract the desired components, typically for several minutes.
A decoction is similar to an infusion, except that the plants are actually boiled in the liquid for a specified period of time.
A tincture is also an infusion of sorts, but is typically done with some form of spirits and the infusion is left for several days to weeks.
Different methods can be used on the same plant to get different results. Different parts of the same plant can also yield components intended to treat rather different issues. (e.g. Evening Primrose is used internally to lower cholesterol, and externally to treat eczema)
It's important to distinguish between an infusion and a decoction. Some plants must not be boiled or the desired constituents will be lost (essential oils can be volatile). Conversely, there are those plants that require a long boil to extract the good stuff. Some plants require a series of boils & cools to maximize the results. While not a hard rule, leaf parts typically respond as infusions, where stem, bark, and root components require decoctions. The advice here is to look for this information as it relates to any herb you wish to benefit from.
Tinctures are generally based in alcohol, or some "spirit based" solvent. Herbs are soaked for a period of time, the mixture being agitated with some regularity.
Note that some herbs (like Muira Puama root I'll mention below) are only effective as alcohol decoctions. These are quite possibly the most difficult / dangerous extractions to make. If it's not obvious - boiling alcohol is not something you should consider doing in your kitchen, particularly if you have a gas range.
Other ways that herbs are utilized is by simply making pills or capsules and swallowing them, or, on some cases, smoking them. Again, just be aware of what method of ingestion works with what herb!!
Equally important data - strength / concentration:
Currently the muck I make is generated with "straight powders" that are not concentrated in any form. When the product I have runs out I will "graduate" from straight powders to extracts and concentrates.
There's a whole subject of "standardized extracts" versus "concentrations" to consider.
Extractions are based on a STANDARDIZED constituent that has been found to be the "vital" part of the active components of said herb (look at standardized extracts of ginkgo, ginseng, etc). So the amount of raw material used to generate the finished product is irrelevant - what matters is that the final product has a given percentage rating of a specific desired component
Eleuthero Root 0.8% Total Eleutheroside Powdered Extract (Eleutherococcus senticosus; Siberian Ginseng; Ci Wu Jia)
Concentrations are generally listed as a ratio - like 50:1 or possibly a "times" concentration like "4X" or "10X", etc. - and are typically NOT based on any one component; rather, they are an overall concentration of the plant. Generally a concentration is achieved by removing cellulose (plant fiber). I'll mention my use of Tongkat Ali 50:1 extract later. In the case of Tongkat that number means that 50g of raw root are used to produce 1g of the extract product - but it has NOT been standardized against any specific constituent.
Eleuthero Root 35:1 Powdered Extract (Eleutherococcus senticosus; Siberian Ginseng; Ci Wu Jia)
Generally speaking, standardized extracts are desired over concentrations, but concentrations are (generally) better than "straight" powders....
HOWEVER - there is a LOT of quackery in some standardization out there, so a bit of investigation may be required. I will again refer to Tongkat, as it's the one product I've found LOTS of info on... There is one retailer who offers a 100:1 "standardized" extract, and it's pure bullsh!t as there's no known component (that makes Tongkat do what it does) to standardize an extraction on.... Tongkat has (over) 65 active constituents, and while a ton of research has been done on it (see NCBA) scientist remain somewhat in a fog WRT how it does what it does. It's worth mentioning that this so-called 100:1 product was sent to the FDA for testing and found to not even be an extraction, it was merely straight root powder - I have read that since that test the company has actually started using an extract, but I could care less as the track record has been laid....
Final note - do not believe that a 100:1 is twice as strong as a 50:1 in a concentration, because it is not. It is rather dependent on the product and again simply refers to the amount of raw material used to make 1g of the finished product. Is it stronger? Well, of course, but the point is that it's not a linear progression of strength in the active ingredients - for that you need a standardized extract., In the case of Tongkat ali (offered from the wholesaler in 50:1 and 200:1) the only difference between the 2 is the additional removal of cellulose, and unless you're looking to take HEROIC amounts (like 10g / day) there is no point enduring the added large cost of the higher concentration in the 200:1. (note: this is based on information DIRECTLY from the manufacturer - I myself am still a bit fuzzy on the whole "200:1 is not 4X as potent as 50:1" issue, but I got that story directly from the plantation exporter, and sadly English was not his primary language)
OK, so what do you use:
Most of my research has been looking at those herbs that have a proven track record to directly affect testosterone production, or, by association, tend to stimulate the male libido (important as there are those that work on the ladies too!). Some of the same herbs are also known to provide added energy or improve blood flow.
I make a tincture that currently includes equal parts of the following:
Horny Goat Weed
Muira Puama (requires alcohol extraction)
Huanarpo Macho (requires alcohol extraction)
Rather than explain each of these herbs on their own here I'd suggest using the links I provide above as they will allow you to gather any data you might require. This will include best methods of preparation (but note that alcohol based tinctures are rather universally acceptable) as well as suggested dosage.
Note that in the past I was also using:
I stopped using the Damiana because it presented just too much bulk - it's like a tea leaf; and as a leaf really didn't require a tincture. Further, while its use as an aphrodisiac is pretty well documented I could find no real strong evidence that this was due to stimulation or increased utilization of testosterone. Note, however, that I still drink it as a decoction on its own. And it tastes exceptionally nasty as a decoction, but is far stronger that way than as a simple infusion.
I was using the Saw Palmetto because of its benefits to the prostate, but have since stopped using it because it can reduce testosterone levels (and is known to have "estrogen additive" properties).
I was including the Ginkgo because of its circulatory benefit (note that its use as a "memory restorative / enhancer" has clinically been proven false but it has been proven to improve blood flow) but have now left it out in an attempt to better gauge the effects of the "testosterone only" blend.
My current favorite herbal test booster is Tongkat (see NewLifeAlternatives.com) (aka Longjack and about 4000 other names). It's available as 50:1 extract or 200:1 extract. 50:1 is a good balance of price and effectiveness. Again, there is a distributorship selling a 100:1 product under about a bajillion different labels, and FDA testing has proven that the ingredients are not (or at least were not), in fact, 100:1 extract so caveat emptor.
Because this is already in extract form I don't mix it with my "straight powders" tincture, I just take it in capsule form.
How do I make my tincture:
Technically, I make a combination tincture and decoction.
Mix powder with booze (Everclear), let it soak for a month, strain off the alcohol, add water and boil, strain off the water, boil the alcohol/water down by about a factor of 3.
As stated, for lack of any better suggestion, I currently use equal parts of each of the aforementioned herbs. Looking at the typical doses of each of the individual herbs this seems to work out OK.
I mix the powder with alcohol 4 parts to 1 (4 parts booze, 1 part powder). I have tried using cheap 80-proof vodka and it works OK, but I can tell you the Everclear is much easier to boil off when done, and in general makes a much "darker" tea than those that have a higher water content.
I let this "stew" in a bottle (dark glass or out of sunlight) for a month, shaking it a couple times a day. After a month I strain it through cheesecloth and SLOWLY boil it down in the microwave in small batches. I say small batches because I'll use a 4 cup measuring cup that's about half full, and when it boils the bubbles will nearly top the container. Keep this in mind if you try it on your own!
Because some of the components (in the powders) are water soluble I will take the "muck" from the alcohol process and further boil it in about 2 cups of water for about a half hour. This also gets strained into the Everclear extract before running through the 'nuke. I will reduce a FIFTH of liquid to roughly 1 cup (I don't consume alcohol at all - so I boil off the Everclear completely). Note that because there are components that are NOT water soluble the resulting juice WILL have solids that settle out of it and/or oils that may cling to plastics.
It will be thick. It will not taste good. But I'll tell ya you will feel this stuff work into your system 5 minutes after taking it.....
If you decide to do this you have to be cognizant that you are BOILING alcohol - which I believe has a boiling point of 140 degrees (which is why its so easy to get rid of it in a water/booze mix). If you are not aware of the incredible fire potential here do not f*ck with this!! If you plan to do this on a gas stove, have 911 on speed dial, excellent home fire insurance, and a skin-graft donor already lined up..... In other words - don't do this with an open flame! This is doubly true for Everclear - if this catches fire and you spill it you are 100% thoroughly f*cked! If you need a reminder, watch the first 5 minutes of "Revenge of the Nerds"....
But note that if it does catch on fire just stay calm and put a lid on it - it will go out quick enough.
I would be remiss if I didn't warn of one other danger - the microwaves ability to create a "superheated liquid" (Google it). In essence, you can actually heat a liquid to beyond its normal boiling point. Once the liquid is "disturbed" it will ERUPT VIOLENTLY in a "flash boil". Try this with a glass of already hot water - heat it for a few minutes then CAREFULLY dump in a few grains of salt - it will become a scalding hot fountain of water and steam. When boiling this stuff you can induce the same effect if you stick in a spoon to give it a stir...
Oh, and I do all this in GLASS containers only. As stated, some of the "good stuff" is in the form of essential oils and they will wash off of glass a bit easier than plastic, and metals may taint the extract.
What about dosing:
My tincture is pretty concentrated - I take what is roughly "a shot a day". I think typical tinctures (made with what I assume is roughly equivalent to 80-proof vodka) call for maybe 3 to 5ml three times a day. As some of the components extracted in the alcohol are not water soluble you will have some solids in the final concentrated "juice" - this is to be expected. With the number of herbs I use I figure a shot is just about right.
I also take Tongkat Ali extract (50:1) in capsule form, 2 caps (maybe 900mg each) daily (I buy powder and cap it myself).
Don't take this stuff too late in the day as it may make you restless.
How do I know it's doing anything:
Keep in mind that I am 44 years old.
Well, it would be nice if I could back up all this info with some actual blood work with compelling trends, but it's simply too expensive for me. I have seen blood test from those taking Tribulus and Tongkat Ali (separately) and the results were clearly positive.
My scientific gauge? Acne; a generally noticeable increase in strength, and I'm horny as all hell.
As I said, expect acne and the sex drive of an alley cat in heat. I have also noted some issues with my mood, most notable being an increased propensity for aggressive tendencies in situations where I'd expect myself to be much more mellow (like road rage - I found myself stepping from my car to "emphasize my point" with a tailgater on the road on which I live)
I have not really noticed an increase in endurance or stamina while working out (I work about as long and about as intense as I ever have)
I have noticed much quicker recovery (less soreness for shorter time)
In the year I've been getting my fitness regime back in order (eating well, lifting, taking herbs) I have lost 30+ pounds (34 waist, 48 chest, and maybe 17" arms).
Interestingly enough when I am "on cycle" I have a rather chronic knee ache that goes away pretty much completely.....
Also of note, while I've lost a lot of weight in the last few months, recently my scale seems to have "stalled" - I seem to be stuck around 202#. HOWEVER, what I have not been doing regularly is checking my body fat - and that has dropped from 29% when I started to 21% (as of 12-25-07). The last time I checked was maybe 3 months ago, and it was 26% then...
Other points to consider:
Lutenizing Hormone "protagonist" agents like Tribulus and Huanpro macho (and Tongkat I'm guessing) are reputed to stack well with ZMA and DHEA, both being rather cheap. I know opinions vary on DHEA being quackery, but just throwing that out there. ZMA is typically crazy-overpriced - look for it at WalMart or on eBay for something more realistic (it is, after all, just zinc and magnesium). Don't go nuts with the ZMA; too much zinc can have some odd sides.....
Given the adaptogenic nature of some of the constituents I tend to cycle this extract 7-10 days on and 3 to 5 off. I have seen some products with Tribulus that say you must use it as long as 15 consecutive days to be effective, but to date I have not tried a cycle that long. I may try if I hit a plateau... well, when I hit one as I know I will sooner or later.
On a similar note (me treating me with herbs) - my dog has had some exposure to herbal remedies as well:
The Internet is loaded with scams (especially when it comes to things for giving guys a boner), and sometimes products are just crap.... but even more insidious is when they're "oversold" or misrepresent...
There's one other product that the Internet is currently going gaga over - Maca Root. It's a tuber of Peruvian origin, and it's been reputed to increase libido - Peruvians swear by it! I've seen it in capsules of like 500mg, suggested dose of 2 caps daily.
Here's the catch - it's a friggin Peruvian POTATO! They eat it mashed like we do, or dry it, grind it, and use it as FLOUR - its use is that common. Peruvians sometimes eat POUNDS of it a day!
I initially bought a kilo of it to add to my "concoction" - but once I learned that it's relatively worthless there was no point adding useless bulk to my mix. In cases like this research is best before the money is spent! (fortunately for me this stuff was dirt cheap)
Here's an interesting list of potential herb / drug interaction:
Some Q&A based on posting info like this in the past:
How do you know it's OK to extract all these herbs at once?
Sadly, I don't. I have asked numerous places offering many of these herbs if it's OK to make a single "mass tincture" or if I need to extract them as individuals for best results. No one has ever answered my query. HOWEVER, IMO it would be such a monumental PITA that it's certainly something I'm never going to bother with...
Isn't it just as good to take this stuff in pill form?
It all depends on the herb. Many of them can be taken as a pill, however, some of them will be less effective, or possibly not work at all, if ingested. That is yet another reason to research what you intend to mess around with. Again, case in point - the Muira Puama root and Huanarpo Macho will do nothing if ingested.
Also, some herbs in their extracted form are probably best taken as caps, whereas those in concentrated form will likely make for a good tincture (again, provided that is true of the raw powder).
As I stated earlier, once my "straight powders" run out I am going to graduate to more concentrated forms where possible, and try a few different components - namely:
Velvet Bean 20% L-DOPA Powdered Extract (Kapi Kacchu; Mucuna pruriens)
Tribulus Fruit 40% Saponins Powdered Extract (Tribulus terrestris; Bai Ji Li)
- I have seen Tribulus in 80% but it is $$$$$!
Muira Puama Root 4:1 Powdered Extract (Ptychopetalum olacoides)
- I am still looking for a source of boiled alcohol extract (to simply mix with my own)
Horny Goat Weed Herb 10% Icarin Powdered Extract (Epimedium grandiflorum; Yin Yang Huo)
Eleuthero Root 50:1 Powdered Extract (Eleutherococcus senticosus; Siberian Ginseng; Ci Wu Jia)
Damiana Leaf 4:1 Powdered Extract (Turnera diffusa)
Cordyceps sinensis 7% Cordyceptic Acid Powdered Extract (Caterpillar Fungus; Dong Chong Xia Cao)
Curculigo Rhizome 4:1 Powdered Extract (Curculigo orchioides; Golden-Eye Grass; Xian Mao)
Catuaba Bark 4:1 Powdered Extract
Yohimbe Bark 2% Alkaloids Powdered Extract (Corynanthe yohimbe)
- there are FAR stronger extracts of Yohimbe available...
Why not just buy "commercial product XXX"?
Mainly cost -vs- doing it myself, but mostly because I have not really found any single product I like (one that uses standardized extracts or higher concentrations of powders). I found one such combo (Google on "LeVegra"), via one of the many "Asian Import" foreign trade websites, but I'm in no position to buy 55 kilos to see if it's any good.
While I haven't looked much, the best I've seen so far is ISA-TEST, but there are plenty of places selling the individual components of these blends...
While on the subject, be wary of these overseas "herbal" products that tout "instant reaction" - the market is flooded with such products and they typically contain generic Cialis or Viagra. Although even ISA-TEST appears to claim overnight results - based on the ingredients that is simply not possible.
What about other tinctures?
Absynth (Absinthe) is an extremely popular herbal tincture (see greendevil.com) - wormwood and other herbals are steeped for a couple weeks in - yep - Everclear. It's worth noting that most of the hallucinatory effects of "old school absinthe" were likely due to the toxic additives used to give it its characteristic pearlescent iridescence... How effective the new stuff is who can say - likely everyone that believes they got really f*cked up from it won't even think it's because they're drinking green-tinted grain alcohol....
I also make a wicked diaphoretic (sweat inducer) that I take prior to using the sauna:
Passion Flower Herb (caution: lowers BP, can be hallucinogenic in concentration)
I read over on XYZ Forums that Joey Bagadonuts tried "Herb XXX" and it did nothing...
As I said, this is what works for me. There are a TON of factors in this:
- does said product have a concentrated form of the herb or the raw constituent in sufficient quantity to actually work
- I have seen some reports stating that those under 30 may not respond to some things like tribulus, which makes sense as you are typically in your "testosterone prime"
- is Joey seriously working on his physique (via diet, exercise, sleep, and "clean living") or is he another drunken frat-boy looking for an instant boner
I've tried to stay away from making "factual statements" because this is my experience, but I have seen FAR too many posts on Tribulus in particular where someone (typically17 to 25) says without refute that it doesn't work - and on close inspection they took straight root powder in 1/10 the dose they needed for a week..... and didn't like the results.
As always - Your Mileage May Vary