TCM supplements may speed up running times: Human data

By Stephen Daniells contact

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / OcusFocus
© Getty Images / OcusFocus
The traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) combination of Astragalus membranaceus and Angelica sinensis called Danggui Buxue Tang may shorten running times and boost iron levels during recovery, suggests a new study.

Data from 36 recreationally active males indicated that Danggui Buxue Tang (DBT) supplementation prior to a 13 km run shortened the finish times by an impressive 12 minutes – or 14% - compared to placebo.

Scientists from Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan also reported that DBT was associated with repressed exercise-induced hepcidin levels. Hepcidin is the main hormone responsible for controlling iron levels in the body. Exercise can elevate hepcidin levels, which decreases iron transport and lowers iron levels.

“This study is the first trial demonstrated the beneficial effects of DBT on iron regulation. Short-term DBT supplementation shortened the 13-km running time and repressed exercise-induced hepcidin levels, thereby boosting iron levels and accelerating iron homeostasis during the recovery phase,”​ they wrote in Nutrients​.

“Our results suggest that DBT could be a promising ergogenic aid for athletic performance.”

Danggui Buxue Tang

The 5:1 combination of roots of Astragalus membranaceus​ (Fisch.) Bge. var. mongholicus (Bge.) Hsiao and the roots of Angelica sinensis​ (Oliv) Diels has been used in TCM for over 3,000 years.

“According to traditional Chinese medicine, [​Astragalus membranaceus] can increase a person’s “qi” (vital energy), whereas [​Angelica sinensis] can nourish a person’s “blood” (body circulation),” ​explained the Taiwan-based scientists in their new paper. “Because of the safety of these ingredients, the components of DBT are commonly used in Chinese cuisine or as a dietary supplement.”

Despite long term use of DBT, there is limited clinical evidence around the use of the supplement on iron regulation and exercise performance.

Study details

The new matched-pair, cluster-randomized study included 36 recreationally active males randomly assigned to receive either DBT (5 grams of plant extracts) or a placebo for 11 days. On day eight of supplementation, the men ran 13 km with maximal effort.

Data showed that DBT supplementation shortened the finish times by 14.0%, compared to placebo. Corresponding increases in iron levels of 63% immediately post-exercise and 31% after 72 hours of recovery were recorded in the DBT group.

The DBT group also had significantly lower levels of malondialdehyde (MDA, a marker of oxidative stress) 72 hours after exercise than the placebo group. On the other hand, no significant differences between the groups were observed for anti-inflammatory or haemolysis-preventative effects, said the researchers.

Source: Nutrients
2018, 10​(9), 1318; doi:10.3390/nu10091318
“Repressed Exercise-Induced Hepcidin Levels after Danggui Buxue Tang Supplementation in Male Recreational Runners”
Authors: C-W. Chang et al.

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