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Bulbine Natalensis is a herbal plant native to South Africa and elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, where it is seen as having aphrodisiac and other medical properties. In the Afrikaans language it is called rooiwertel [“red root”], and is also known locally as ibhucu or ingcelwane. As one of the bulbine family of plants, it is succulent (i.e. a ‘fleshy’ plant capable of retaining water in mostly dry climates) and characterized by shoots of yellow flowers that lend it to use in decorative gardens. Though it was listed on a register of “South African poisonous plants” dating from the midpoint of the previous century,i there appears to be little concern nowadays about any potentially harmful effects arising from its use, and an increasing amount of enthusiasm for the properties mentioned above.
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A 2010 paper published in Pharmaceutical Biology details the results of an experiment with bulbine natalensis conducted at the Department of Botany at the South African University of Fort Hare. Using 60 male rats divided into groups of 15, the researchers orally dosed one group with distilled water and administered 0.5ml of bulbine natalensis extract to the remaining 3 groups, who were given doses of 25, 50 and 100mg per kg of body weight. Regardless of the dosage, the rats in the bulbine groups showed increases in the ratio of testicular weight to body weight, with the concentration of serum testosterone increasing in all groups except the 100mg/kg group (although results were shown with this group as well, after receiving seven daily doses.) The median (50mg/kg) group fared the best here, with the researchers concluding that there was some truth behind the folkloric use of this herb for androgenic and anabolic development (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20645801).
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The Pharmaceutical Biology paper is not the only study that shows promise in the area of androgenic development, as a 2009 ‘prequel’ to this study (also conducted at the University of Fort Hare, by the same research team that conducted the 2010 study) determined that estrogen levels dropped as much as 79.7% in male rats treated with bulbine. In this case, it was the 25mg/kg group that showed the greatest success. Lastly, the concentration of prolactin – another valuable protein in the endocrine system of living animals – was not adversely affected by bulbine natalensis treatment.
Bulbine natalensis seems to be positively received by professionals and journalists in the bodybuilding world, with Anthony Roberts, a writer for a South African bodybuilding journal, even going so far as to say “If I’ve been highly negative about [other] testosterone boosters lately, it’s because I’ve used Bulbine Natalensis.” This same writer has claimed that the current shortage of bulbine natalensis supplements in the marketplace is not a matter of its being proven inferior to other supplements, but rather a matter of being difficult to obtain. By way of evidence, the author notes that, for him to obtain a trial supply of 377 grams, over 8 kilograms of raw material are needed to be harvested, dried and powdered.
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Nonetheless, the supplement market can rapidly change once knowledge of successful studies becomes more widespread (Roberts’ lament was written shortly after the publication of the Pharmaceutical Biology report, so this may not have been the case yet at the time of his writing.) There do exist some products available for purchase from major online vendors like Amazon, where you can find bulbine natalensis capsules from Serious Sports Nutrition in 60-count bottles, and which promise 350mg worth of extract per capsule. Generation X also offers a 90-capsule supply of ‘testosterone accelerator’ called TestAbol, retailing from around $35 – $70 depending on each vendor’s markup. This supplement includes a 10:1 extract of bulbine natalensis capsules, which are meant to work synergistically with yohimbe bark extract, milk thistle and zinc. A trademarked compound called ProLensis, from IronMagLabs, rounds out the list of available products, and is available in their ‘UltraMaleRX’ supplement, which retails at around $43 for a 60-capsule supply (this also features a 10:1 extract, working in tandem with fenugreek, maca and urtica dioica [stinging nettle] extracts.)
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It has been noted that taking bulbine natalensis can have an effect upon the number of leukocytes [white blood cells] in the user’s system, along with an increased risk of atherosclerosis or thickening of arterial walls. Owing to this and other potential side effects (the size of the kidneys and liver can also be altered when doses large enough to increase testosterone are used), it is recommended to periodically “cycle off” of bulbine natalensis treatment in the same way as one would with a treatment of actual growth hormones.