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Bulbine natalensis

Bulbine Natalensis is a traditionally used aphrodisiac and Testosterone Booster in South and South-Eastern Africa; in rat studies, it appears to both be quite potent in increasing testosterone but also appears to damage organ function in a similar manner to a steroid cycle.

Our evidence-based analysis on bulbine natalensis features 9 unique references to scientific papers.

Research analysis led by Kamal Patel .
Reviewed by
Examine.com Team
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Summary of Bulbine natalensis

Primary Information, Benefits, Effects, and Important Facts

Bulbine Natalensis is an herb from Southern and South Eastern Africa that has traditionally been used as an aphrodisiac as well as some other beneficial properties. Due to its influences on cognition and sexuality, it is currently being investigated for its effects on testosterone.

Three separate rat studies looking at serum testosterone levels note significant increases in circulating testosterone, and one study noted a decrease in estrogen levels as well. That being said, adverse effects have been reported on both the liver and kidneys with the exact same dosages seen to increase testosterone.

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Things To Know & Note

Other Functions:

Primary Function:

Also Known As

ibhucu, rooiwortel, ingcelwane

How to Take Bulbine natalensis

Recommended dosage, active amounts, other details

Rat studies investigating how bulbine natalensis interacts with testosterone note that 50mg/kg (of a 10:1 extraction) appear to be the optimal dosage, and based on Body Surface Area Conversions,[1] this correlates into an estimated human dose of 8mg/kg or:

  • 550mg for a 150lb person

  • 730mg for a 200lb person

  • 900mg for a 250lb person

These doses are currently only estimates, but they are within the range seen in the only industry funded trial on bulbine natalensis at this moment in time (which used 650mg).[2] Doses would be 10-fold higher if the raw plant is used without any particular extraction.

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Human Effect Matrix

The Human Effect Matrix looks at human studies (it excludes animal and in vitro studies) to tell you what effects bulbine natalensis has on your body, and how strong these effects are.
Grade Level of Evidence
Robust research conducted with repeated double-blind clinical trials
Multiple studies where at least two are double-blind and placebo controlled
Single double-blind study or multiple cohort studies
Uncontrolled or observational studies only
Level of Evidence
? The amount of high quality evidence. The more evidence, the more we can trust the results.
Outcome Magnitude of effect
? The direction and size of the supplement's impact on each outcome. Some supplements can have an increasing effect, others have a decreasing effect, and others have no effect.
Consistency of research results
? Scientific research does not always agree. HIGH or VERY HIGH means that most of the scientific research agrees.
grade-d - - See study
grade-d - - See study

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Research Breakdown on Bulbine natalensis

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Bulbine natalensis Baker is a plant from the family of Asphodelaceae that has been reported to possess aphrodisiac properties. The leaf sap is also used for topical purposes such as cracked lips and burns while the aqueous extract of the leaves is used for intestinal issues (diarhhea, vomiting, convulsions) and has been reported to be used for anti-diabetic and anti-rheumatoid purposes. It has been used by various cultures around where it grows (Northern and Eastern sections of Africa) and is called ingcelwane in Xhosa, rooiwortel in Afrikaans, and ibhucu in Zulu.[3][4]

As a herbal compound, Bulbine Natalensis contains a variety of isolated compounds or classes of compounds. These include:

  • Saponins at 1.97% of dry weight[5]

  • Anthraquinones at 0.152% dry weight[5]

  • Tannins at 0.481% dry weight[5]

  • Cardiac Glycosides at 0.887% dry weight[5]

  • Alkaloids at 0.2% dry weight[5]

Therapeutic doses of Bulbine Natalensis (25-100mg/kg bodyweight in rats) appear to be able to raise circulating cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and cause slight changes in lipoproteins (HDL, LDL) to induce a more pro-atherogenic state. Cholesterol levels can increase 51.9%, 38.9%, and 55.6% after 14 days of consuming 25, 50, and 100mg/kg bodyweight in rats respectively while triglycerides increase by 115.8%, 82.5%, and 45.6% respectively.[6] Changes in triglycerides were seen after one day of administration, and were hypothesized to be due to increased lipolysis.[6]

While LDL was unaffected, HDL cholesterol decreased from 1.73+/-0.07mmol/L down to 0.90, 1.04, and 1.02mmol/L in the 25, 50, and 100mg/kg dosage groups; respectively.[6]

Preliminary evidence suggests that, like a proper steroid cycle, the longer you use Bulbine Natalensis the more problematic your lipid profile becomes

One study has been conducted with male Wistar rats fed Bulbine Natalensis (aqueous extract of the stem), which found increases in circulating testosterone with doses of 25, 50, and 100mg/kg bodyweight.[3] The parameters of interest were not dose-dependent, and followed a bell curve; with 50mg/kg bodyweight being the most effective, followed by 25mg/kg and then 100mg/kg bodyweight.[3]

With the control group just below 1ng/mL circulating testosterone, the most effective dose (50mg/kg) increased testosterone to approximately 3.3ng/mL (day 1), 4.2ng/mL (day 7), and 4.4ng/mL (day 14).[3] Testicular levels of testosterone followed a similar pattern, and in both blood and testes the best dosage was 50mg/kg followed by 25mg/kg and then 100mg/kg.[3]

Other studies looking at testosterone levels note increases of up to 346% of control level in male rats at 50mg/kg bodyweight,[7] although 100mg/kg has been associated with a non-significant decline in testosterone levels below control.[7][5]

Testosterone is reliably enhanced in rats, and fairly potently as well. However, the higher dosages of 100mg/kg appear to be either as potent at 25mg/kg or worse than nothing at all, decreasing testosterone. Dose is very important here, and a toxicological bell curve exists

Mechanistically, supplementation of the active dose (25-50mg/kg bodyweight Bulbine Natalensis) is associated with an increase in the activities of alkaline and acid phosphatases.[3] The activity of the phosphatase enzymes correlates somewhat with increases in testicular and serum testosterone.[3]

Increased testicular size (2-2.9 fold higher than control) as well as increased content of glycogen, protein, and sialic acid has been noted in rat testes alongside increased testicular testosterone levels, after about 7-14 days of supplementation.[3]

LH has been shown to be increased with Bulbine Natalensis in male rats, and appears to be more drastic over time rather than an acute effect. The one study that noted increases in LH noted that the best dose (50mg/kg bodyweight) increased LH to 2ng/mL (with control around 0.6ng/mL) at day 1, but to 7ng/mL on day 14.[3]

Luteinizing hormone does not appear to be influenced in female rats.[7]

Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) is also increased in male rats following consumption of Bulbine Natalensis, and similar to Luteinizing Hormone seems to be more effective over a longer period of time but with less variance over time.[3] Increases from 7+/-0.2ng/mL to 11.2+/-0.08ng/mL have been noted with 50mg/kg bodyweight.[7]

FSH does not appear to be changed in female rats.[7]

Increases in progesterone have been noted with 25mg/kg (+31%) and 50mg/kg (+70%). A decrease of 41% is seen with 100mg/kg bodyweight Bulbine Natalensis.[7]

Progresterone does not appear to be influenced in female rats.[7]

Doses of 25, 50, and 100mg/kg bodyweight in rats does not appear to significantly influence prolactin concentrations in serum of either rat gender.[7]

Estrogen appears to be decreased in male rats after supplementation of Bulbine Natalensis decreasing to 79.7% of control at 25mg/kg, 65.1% of control at 50mg/kg bodyweight, and 76.7% of control at 100mg/kg bodyweight.[7] Circulating estradiol levels are not affected in female rats.[7]

One toxicology study in rats found that oral ingestion of 25, 50, and 100mg/kg bodyweight was able to alter liver enzymes and induce histological changes that are known to be adverse.[8] The adverse effects on liver enzymes increased dose-dependently and over time.

After ingestion of 25, 50, and 100mg/kg bodyweight Bulbine Natalensis in otherwise healthy rats, histological examination of the kidney's tubules (both proximal and convoluted) noted distortions in the architecture which may be indicative of some toxic effects.[8]

After supplementation of 25-100mg/kg of Bulbine Natalensis daily for 14 days rats have increased testicular size, increasing the testicle:body weight ratio from 0.35 to 1 over 14 days at 50mg/kg.[3] Another study noting increases in testicular size with the same doses found that the epididymis, seminal vesicle, and prostate did not increase in size.[5]

It is also able to increase testicular glycogen content (over time rather than acutely) as well as sialic acid content, protein content, and cholesterol content (all with significant increases on day 1, thus acute).[3]

At oral doses of 25-50mg/kg bodyweight, Bulbine Natalensis appears to exert aphrodisiac effects which may be secondary to testosterone.[7] These aphrodisiac effects, when dosed at 25-50mg/kg bodyweight, are more effective than Viagra at 50mg/kg bodyweight.[5]

Surprisingly, sperm parameters such as motility, viscosity, count and morhpology are unaffected at all tested doses of Bulbina Natalensis.[7] Other functions related to sexuality and testosterone, such as increases in penile tumescence and a reduction in refractory period between ejactulations, are also noted with supplementation of Bulbine Natalensis.[5]

Bulbine Natalensis does not appear to alter the profile of red blood cells (a standard toxicology test) in otherwise healthy rats, although it can alter the white blood cell population.[6] Dosages of 25, 50, and 100mg/kg bodyweight over 14 days can increase white blood cell (WBC) count by 41.9%, 26.1%, and 38.5% respectively.[6] Levels of neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils, and lymphocytes decreased while monocytes and platelets increased.

As mentioned in the sections on organs, Bulbine Natalensis appears to adversely affect the structure of the liver and kidneys at dosages used to increase testosterone. The prostate and related 'male' organs do not seem to be as adversely affected though.[8][7]

A preliminary investigation into humans (poster presentation found here,[9] financially supported by Sports Nutrition Research LTD which produced the tested supplement) ingesting 325mg of bulbine natalensis twice daily (650mg total, separated by 6 hours) for 28 days in otherwise healthy men noted a slight increase in ALP (2% while placebo decreased 2.4%) which were deemed to not be clinically relevant.

There appear to be repeated nonlethal toxic effects demonstrated in rodents from one research group based in South Africa, while the lone human study on bulbine (which is financially supported by a producer of bulbine) noted an increase in the liver enzyme ALP which was not to a clinically large degree.
Currently, the histopathological changes that have been noted in rats have not been sufficiently addressed in humans. While 650mg bulbine does not appear highly damaging according to preliminary evidence, a toxic effect cannot be ruled out