A natural, compliant Laxogenin Supplement
Smilax Extract (Smilax sieboldii L.) (rhizome & root) – 500 mg
Smilax extract is usually standardized for laxogenin, a brassinosteroid that occurs naturally in a few types of plants from the Smilax genus, including the Smilax sieboldii.
Brassinosteroids are plant-derived steroid hormones similar in structure and function to phytoecdysteroids, a class of molecules that regular readers of this blog are already familiar with. Much like steroid hormones in mammals, plant steroids coordinate the growth and development of the plants that synthesize them.
The name “brassinosteroid” comes from the fact that these molecules were first isolated from the Brassica genus, which includes familiar vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and kale – the so-called cruciferous vegetables.
Fortunately, although brassinosteroids have significant anabolic activity, they are currently not banned by law or from athletic competition, and do not cause the side effects that anabolic steroids do.
Constituents of Smilax sieboldii – multiple forms of laxogenin
A study titled “Steroidal saponins from the rhizomes of Smilax sieboldii” isolated and identified six separate components, a few of which were laxogenin or laxogenin-bound compounds. One, for instance, is laxogenin 3-O-alpha-L-arabinopyranosyl-(1→6)-beta-D-glucopyranoside, which has a role of a metabolite.
A more recent study titled “Steroidal Saponins from the Genus Smilax and Their Biological Activities” identified even more steroidal constituents in various Smilax plants, including furostane, cholestane, spirostane, isospirostane, and pregnane. Laxogenin falls under the classification of isospirostane-type saponins.
Using broader spectrum plant extracts, as opposed to single-ingredient sources, serves two purposes:
- Full plant extracts can provide additional anabolic molecules that are natural co-factors for the main ingredient (laxogenin, in this case)
- Full plant extracts are more legally compliant
The second point is important, because the FDA has recently come down on 5-alpha-hydroxy-laxogenin specifically, which they argue does not qualify as a dietary ingredient. Smilax, however, is a natural botanical plant extract that does pass the DSHEA 1994 guidelines. Many readers can consider this to be a more compliant way to use laxogenin.
Now, assuming the majority of Project Density’s Smilax extract is laxogenin, we can take a look at the compound specifically.
There are some good studies in animals showing that laxogenin has significant anabolic activity with minimal side effects.[4,9] In one, laxogenin not only increased muscle protein synthesis, but also prevented muscle tissue from being catabolized.[4,9]
It also has been shown to speed up recovery, reduce cortisol levels, and decrease inflammation.
What about 5α-hydroxy-laxogenin?
There’s one intriguing human study that demonstrated that 5α-hydroxy-laxogenin has androgenic effects on human prostate cells in vitro. However, if you see this ingredient on a dietary supplement label, you can almost guarantee that it’s synthetic — it has never been isolated from Smilax or any other plant. This is why the FDA has targeted it, and it’s actively been removed from the market.
Needless to say, research like this implies that naturally-sourced laxogenin would still have anabolic effects in humans as well, especially when coupled with the animal research on non-synthetic laxogenin above.
Anecdotally, we’ve seen that laxogenin supplements tend to support moderate strength gains. Aside from an obvious use case for strength athletes, it’s often used in athletes who are off-cycle attempting to keep any gains they can.
The long story short is that Smilax extracts are natural, compliant sources of laxogenin, and products like Project Density are a better way to keep laxogenin available and on the shelves worldwide.
BioPerine Black Pepper Fruit Extract (95% Piperine)(Piper nigrum)
Here to ensure you get the most bang for your Smilax buck is industry mainstay, BioPerine, a black pepper extract that’s designed to increase the bioavailability[12,13] of whatever you take it with.
BioPerine works by inhibiting key stomach enzymes that would otherwise degrade nutrients before they can be absorbed into the bloodstream. The reason this matters is because most supplements won’t have their intended effect until the ingredients they contain are circulating in your blood.
Piperine’s independent benefits
Piperine doesn’t just enhance the effectiveness of other ingredients, though. It also has some additional benefits. For example, piperine increases the expression of glucose transporter 4 (GLUT4), a protein that occurs in cellular membranes. It’s responsible for moving glucose out of the bloodstream and into muscle tissue where it can be burned as energy for the purpose of improving performance and synthesizing muscle protein.
In other words, piperine increases insulin sensitivity. It also helps de-fat the liver, an organ where fat doesn’t belong and can cause a potentially devastating syndrome called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease if it builds up too much.
BioPerine is also a potent antioxidant.