Eucommia Facilitates Optimal Hormonal Activity and Bone Maintenance
Eucommia – a Honored Jing Tonic
Eucommia bark is traditionally used to tonify the Kidney, Liver and Heart functions, as described in Chinese health theory. It has a warm energy and is considered to be very strengthening, but it is not a “stimulant.” In fact, Eucommia calms the nerves while strengthening the core of the body.
Eucommia is the primary plant-sourced herb in Chinese herbalism used to tonify the Kidney Yang functions. Kidney Yang functions include such issues as our inner power, sexual vitality, structural integrity, mental creativity and resistance to disease. Eucommia is a superb Yang Jing tonic because it is simultaneously powerful and gentle. Its safety has been well established over many centuries. There has been no challenge to its safety in either historical or modern literature. It may be used continuously without causing over-excitation or imbalance of any sort. According to Chinese health theory, the Jing stored in the Kidneys is a determining factor in our potential longevity. Diminished Jing will result in premature aging and early death. Eucommia helps restore spent Jing and helps maintain healthy levels of Jing once Jing levels are normal.
Eucommia is traditionally considered to be particularly beneficial to the lower back, legs, and to the skeletal structure. And although Eucommia is primarily known as a powerful Yang Jing tonic, it is also a strong Yin Jing nourishing herb. Because it provides both Yang and Yin, it is a superb herb for men and women alike and can be used by almost anybody to promote the functions of the endocrine system, to strengthen the physical structure, to promote sexual functions, to enhance normal growth, to promote healing, to promote the healthy functions of the cardiovascular system, and to enhance resistance to infection. Eucommia is thus the quintessential example of a safe, mild and potent Kidney tonic that builds Jing, Qi and Shen, with an emphasis on its quintessential Jing building capability.
Eucommia’s first fame is in its Kidney tonifying effects. It is in fact the primary herb in Chinese tonic herbalism for building a strong, sturdy, skeletal structure and strong, flexible joints. It is used to strengthen the bones, ligaments and tendons, and has been used for centuries to help mend damage to these tissues, whether the damage is due to stress, age or trauma. Eucommia is also the primary tonic herb of choice to strengthen the lower back and knees. Traditionally, it has been used to help with problems in the joints, including pain, stiffness, dislocation, swelling and weakness*. However, it is not a mere “remedy.” It is a tonic herb that strengthens structural tissue and improves structural competency at a fundamental level. Therefore, it is preferably used as a tonic herb to maintain the structural integrity of the body so that breakdowns in this system are much less likely, even as we age or are exposed to stress.
Eucommia is one of the few herbs in Chinese tonic herbalism that is sufficiently powerful, balanced and broad spectrum that it may be used alone as a tonic. On the other hand, it may be combined with any number of other tonic herbs in a formulation or tonic herbal program designed to build the Yin and Yang of the Kidney, strengthen sexual functions, benefit cardiovascular functions and as a key component of an anti-aging program.
As a Kidney tonic, Eucommia is considered an important herb for improving potency in men and libido in women. It will be found in almost every Chinese herbal formula designed for such purposes. Of great value regarding male sexual function, Eucommia is traditionally used to slow down ejaculation and help build sexual stamina. Eucommia is also used by women to enhance fertility. Furthermore, Eucommia has been used for thousands of years as a tonic herb for women during pregnancy. It is routinely and widely used in Asia to “protect the fetus” and to prevent miscarriage. This speaks to the safety of the herb, as demonstrated over time and by its use by many millions of women.
Hormone Potentiating Function
Eucommia bark is used in Chinese herbalism to strengthen the back, to increase stamina, tonify the sexual organs and functions, to make bones and muscles strong, and to hasten recovery from fatigue. These are male hormone-related pharmacological effects.
In Asia, Eucommia is considered to be a health promoting tonic herb of the highest order, suitable for both men and women. Specifically, it is held in the highest regard as a Jing tonic that strengthens sexual functions and related characteristics. Research conducted in Singapore, and just published in 2007, has for the first time revealed the biochemical process by which Eucommia bark exerts its mighty influence on the body.
Despite Eucommia’s elite standing in Chinese health practice, it has remained obscure in the West because it had heretofore been impossible to understand why, scientifically, Eucommia had the effects that were claimed for it.
Eucommia operates at the very core of our being – in and around the nucleus of our cells, and with our DNA, directly facilitating DNA’s transcription process regarding very primary systems, including reproduction, skeletal function and adaptation of the organism.
A Unisex Sex Tonic
Eucommia is a fabulous “men’s herb.” But Eucommia is not known as just a “man’s herb.” It is a fabulous herb for women as well. It has been widely used by both men and women in Asia since the dawn of Chinese civilization. This is because it yang and yin functions that are in balance with one another. Eucommia acts as a sex hormone regulator in both men and women. Men and women both produce testosterone and estrogen. Men, of course produce more testosterone, and women produce more estrogen. For men Eucommia is a gonadal (testes and ovaries) tonic and estrogen modulator. For women, it is primarily an estrogen modulator, and therefore has the capacity to regulate female hormonal functions, while regulating the testosterone activity.
The discovery of novel fatty acids which augment both androgen and estrogen effects on receptors. These lipidic compounds have NO hormonal effects of their own, but boost the effects of the sex hormones in the human body, hence the term “supra-hormonal” to describe their phenomenal effect.
Unique “Supra-Hormonal” Biomolecules in Eucommia Facilitate Hormonal Activity
When Eucommia’s special biomolecules are present in the cells, the functions related to testosterone and estrogen are facilitated and modulated. The Singapore scientists have discovered novel fatty acids which augment both androgen and estrogen effects on receptors. These lipidic compounds have no hormonal effects of their own, but boost the effects of the sex hormones in the human body, and thus they may be termed “supra-hormonal,” to describe their phenomenal effect. It also showed that if exogenous (external, from outside the organism) sex hormones are present, their action is optimized.
Jing Tonic Effects of Eucommia Validated
There is now a clear biological basis for the categorization of Eucommia as a Jing tonic herb that benefits both the Kidney Yin and Kidney Yang functions as defined in traditional Chinese health theory. As a Jing tonic (both Yin and Yang), this herb is used to support the root power of the body. According to Three Treasures Theory, Jing is the fundamental energy of our body. Jing is active at the genetic level. Eucommia works by facilitating the action of our sex hormones in their interaction with our DNA and then by facilitating the expression of our genes to produce the chemicals we need as youthful, vibrant, sexual beings.
There is also a biological basis for Eucommia’s categorization as a “mild” herb that has a regulating capability. Eucommia bark has a yang (androgenic) action and a counterbalancing yin (estrogenic) action. But neither action is overwhelming or shocking to the system. This makes Eucommia a very suitable long term tonic herb. Eucommia has been used for thousands of years by hundreds of millions of people and the conclusion drawn by everybody throughout history is that it is a safe herb for humans to consume on a long term basis. It appears to be unique in its amazing ability to upregulate the entire Jing producing function of the body without throwing the body out of balance – and in fact helping to balance the functions of the Kidney. Eucommia works at the fundamental level of life – at the level of DNA transcription, and specifically with the chemistry of our fundamental life force. Eucommia is indeed the quintessential vegetarian Jing tonic.
The research further confirms the idea of consuming Eucommia with testosterone-producing “herbs” like deer antler. Deer antler is an animal-sourced androgenic “herb.” Consuming deer antler increases testosterone. The research showed that the Eucommia greatly enhanced the utilization and functionality of testosterone.
For women, consuming Eucommia with herbs and foods that also have healthy phytoestrogenic activity would potentiate those phytoestrogens.
Experimental results indicate that Eucommia has anti-inflammatory actions. Eucommia exerts this anti-inflammatory action by several mechanisms. One of the anti-inflammatory mechanisms of Eucommia involves enhancement of the adrenocortical function. This supports the traditional theory that Eucommia tonifies the Kidney function, which is now associated with adrenocortical function.
Eucommia Helps Maintain Strong Bones
Bone Is Remarkably Active Metabolically
Bone is a quintessentially important living tissue in the human body. Bone matrix functions as a reservoir of essential ions such as calcium, phosphate, magnesium and sodium. About 70% of the bone matrix is made of inorganic salts, principally salts of calcium and phosphate. 99% of the calcium in the body is stored in the bones. The enormous compressional strength of bone is derived from crystals formed from these salts.
Despite its apparent inanimate nature, bone is remarkably active metabolically. Old or damaged bone is constantly resorbed (dissolved) and replaced with newly generated bone. This continuous breaking down and rebuilding is called the bone remodelling cycle. In an adult, 3 to 5% of the total skeleton is being actively remodelled at any one time to adjust to the changing environment and physiological demands. More than 5% of a normal healthy adult’s bone mass is naturally replaced every year. The equivalent of your entire skeletal mass may be replaced every 10 to 20 years – 12 years being the estimated average.
Nearly 50% of American women in their 30s and 40s are at risk for osteoporosis, a condition that occurs when bone becomes too weak. Bone matrix: •70% inorganic — salts of calcium and phosphate — Compressional strength and 30% organic — mostly collagen fibers –Tensile strength (the strength to handle stretch without breaking)
Bone formation remains normal in postmenopausal women, but the accelerated bone resorption weakens the bones by decreasing their mass. Generally, bone resorption in postmenopausal women significantly exceeds formation. The activity of the osteoblasts (A blood cell that produces bone tissue) cannot keep up with the activity of the osteoclasts (A special type of white blood cell that nibbles at and breaks down bone and is responsible for bone resorption). As a result, women begin to lose bone more rapidly. If the bone loss is severe, they are at increased risk for developing osteoporosis and for suffering fractures caused by even relatively mild trauma, such as tripping. Men do not lose bone nearly as rapidly as women because men continue to secrete testosterone as they age, though in diminished amounts. If men consume certain herbs, such as Tongkat Ali, Deer Antler and Tribulus, and boost the activity of these herbs by taking them with the alcohol extract of Eucommia (Eucommia Drops) they may improve their testosterone producing ability and testosterone profile even as they age.
Yin and Yang of Bone Maintenance
In normal bone, bone formation and bone resorption – opposing functions typical of the yin and yang activity that defines all life functions – are closely coupled processes involved in the normal remodelling of bone. Normally, these processes are regulated in such a way that normal growth can take place and bone structure can be properly maintained in adults. If this balance goes awry, an “illness” will develop. In osteoporosis, for example, the net rate of bone resorption exceeds the rate of bone formation, resulting in a decrease in bone mass without a defect in bone mineralization. In women, osteoclast activity is increased because of decreased estrogen after menopause. Men with prematurely decreased testosterone may also have increased osteoclast activity. These changes result in a net loss of bone. The amount of bone available for mechanical support of the skeleton eventually falls below the fracture threshold and one may suffer fractures.
Osteoblasts and osteoclasts work in harmony to maintain a healthy bone structure, and osteocytes are the sensors that maintain that harmony. In the bone-building process, the functions of osteoblasts and osteoclasts are intimately intertwined, with each cell releasing chemicals that influence the other. Osteoblasts resorb bone in front of the osteoclasts. As the bone is resorbed, the osteoclasts release signaling molecules called cytokines that attract osteoblasts and encourage them to start laying down new bone. The osteoblasts then incorporate small proteins into the bone matrix that they create. This harmonious functioning results in smooth bone formation.
Why does the body spend so much energy on bone remodelling? The primary reason is so that the bone can adapt to different stresses that are placed on it, especially thickening it in areas that are under great load. The second reason for remodelling is so that the bone is able to resist fatigue stress. Repetitive stress on any structure will cause it to fail. Through perpetual remodelling, the bone is able to repair small microscopic fractures before they develop into major fractures. A third reason is that the process allows for the ready transfer of calcium into the blood stream when needed for other functions. A fourth reason is that young bone protects the deep inner functions of bone best, that is, the functions associated with bone marrow production and its networking with the bloodstream.
Eucommia’s Effect on Bone
Eucommia has been used well over two thousand years ago, to strengthen bones and to heal fractures. Scientists now are gaining understanding of the action of Eucommia in this regard.
Alcohol (methanol) and aqueous (water) extracts of Eucommia bark were tested for their therapeutic efficacy on osteoporosis. The results showed that Eucommia bark has powerful activity with regard to regulating bone remodelling. The components of Eucommia bark are thought to participate in each step of a mechanism for activating osteoblasts (A blood cell that produces bone tissue) to facilitate osteogenesis (bone building), and suppress osteoclast (A special type of white blood cell that nibbles at and breaks down bone and is responsible for bone resorption) activity sufficiently to inhibit osteolysis (the excessively active resorption or dissolution of bone).
The hormone tonic effects of Eucommia may play a significant role in its bone strengthening functions. Human Growth Hormone is known to play a role in bone growth. Insulin plays a role, in concert with HGH in building bone, and Eucommia has been shown to mitigate type 2 diabetes in rats, indicating that it may have an ability to affect insulin. And Eucommia has androgenic actions that influences bone structure through multiple pathways. Testosterone spurs bone growth and calcium deposition, thickening and strengthening the bones.
Traditionally, Eucommia bark is used as a tonic to the skeleton. The apparent ability of Eucommia bark to stimulate bone growth and to mitigate excessive bone loss apparently supports this usage of Eucommia as a bone tonic.
Effects on the Cardiovascular System
Eucommia bark is considered a major cardiotonic in Chinese tonic herbalism. And Eucommia bark extract is a common active ingredient in traditional antihypertensive herbal formulations in China.
In 1974 researchers at the University of Wisconsin found Eucommia bark to have a reliable ability to lower blood pressure. They found that Eucommia bark contains hypotensive compounds – that is, constituents that lower blood pressure. The hypotensive action of Eucommia has been demonstrated in numerous animal models and in humans. One main hypotensive compound has been determined to be pinoresinol diglucoside, though other components or combinations of components are involved. This research concluded that Eucommia promotes general, systemic arterial relaxation as a result of peripheral vasodilation by its direct action on the vascular smooth muscle. The vasorelaxant (blood vessel relaxing) effects of Eucommia bark are now fairly well understood. Eucommia reduces blood pressure by relaxing both deep arteries and peripheral vessels.
The vasorelaxant effect of Eucommia bark extract on the large elastic arteries has been found to be nitric oxide-mediated
Nitric oxide (NO) is a gas produced in the body that controls a wide range of bodily functions. Nitric oxide plays an important role in both vascular health and disease. NO promotes relaxation of blood vessels and is a primary regulator of blood pressure. NO relaxes the smooth muscle in the walls of the arterioles. NO promotes the regeneration of the inner lining of arteries known as endothelium (NO is produced by the endothelium as well). NO serves many important functions in the cardiovascular system, including vasodilation and inhibition of vasoconstrictor influences. NO inhibits platelet and white blood cell (leukocyte) adhesion to the vascular endothelium. The endothelial cells that line the blood vessels continuously release puffs of NO. This NO diffuses into the underlying smooth muscle cells causing them to relax, resulting in a surge of blood and allowing the blood to pass through easily. NO also inhibits platelet clumping, and thus thins the blood. Though NO is itself a free radical, it is also an important anti-inflammatory.
Jing-related cardiovascular functions
Nitric oxide also transmits messages between nerve cells and is associated with the processes of learning, memory and sleeping – all functions associated with Jing. Also, release of NO around the glomeruli (the functional units of the renal kidney) of the kidneys increases blood flow through them, thus increasing the rate of filtration and urine formation. Eucommia is well known for its ability to help relieve lower and middle back pain. In Chinese medicine, lower and middle back pain is associated with the kidneys, and part of Eucommia’s action may be to improve circulation in the kidneys, helping to relieve blood stagnation in this area and thus helping relieve direct and referred back pain.
Efficacy and Safety as a Cardiovascular Tonic
Experiments conducted at Louisiana State University established the safety and efficacy of Eucommia bark extract in the treatment of hypertension. Experiments using rats demonstrated that Eucommia extract is safe to the saturation limits of the compound. Rats given huge doses of Eucommia extract daily for 28 days demonstrated no evidence of acute toxicity. Hypertensive rats were administered Eucommia extract daily for 22 days and Eucommia extract was found to be non-toxic and effective in reducing systolic BP.
Eucommia appears to be a gentle, effective cardiotonic that may be used on an ongoing basis to promote and support healthy cardiovascular function in a way that has been described by researchers as “analogous to aerobic exercise.”**
Other Cardiovascular Benefits
Eucommia bark extract has been shown to markedly reduce cholesterol absorption in laboratory animals. It has also been shown to have mild sedative and anti-inflammatory action in pharmacological experiments.
Effects on the Immune System
Eucommia extract has been shown to have powerful effects on the immune systems of various laboratory animals. In particular, it appears that Eucommia bark extract significantly enhances phagocytic action. Phagocytosis involves the clearing away of foreign material from the blood stream by the white blood cells known as phagocytes. In this particular action, Eucommia proved to be as powerful as Astragalus root and Codonopsis root, two herbs that have been proven to have powerful immunological activity in animals and humans and are widely used throughout the world for their immune enhancing characteristics. Many studies have proven that Eucommia potentiates the immunologic functions of the body.
Protection against Photo-Aging of the Skin
An active constituent of Eucommia bark is aucubin. Studies indicate that aucubin may play a role in protecting the skin from Ultraviolet-B (UVB) irradiation. UVB irradiation has been demonstrated to produce reactive pro-oxidants (free radicals) in the cells and skin, which induce the synthesis of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), resulting in skin photoaging (the damaging effect of prolonged exposure to sunlight on the skin, especially wrinkling, discoloration and susceptibility to cancer).2
Researchers have found that pretreatment with aucubin significantly inhibited the production of MMP-1 by 57% when compared to the UVB-irradiated cells. Aucubin seems to play an important role in the cellular defense mechanism against UV radiation-induced photoaging. These results suggest that aucubin is aphotoprotective phytochemical, and could be used as a potential agent in preventing photoaging. It is present in significant quantities in Eucommia.
Eucommia Bark Increases SOD Activity
Animal studies conducted on diabetic rats shows that the activity of superoxide dismutase (SOD) can be increased by Eucommia bark. SOD is the human body’s primary endogenous (native to the human body) antioxidant (free radical scavenger).
Eucommia extract was further investigated for its antioxidant effects in type 2 diabetic animals. Eucommia extract was added to the experimental diets for 6 weeks. The Eucommia extract supplement significantly lowered blood glucose concentrations compared with the control group. The activities of erythrocyte (red blood cell) superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT, a major endogenous antioxidant), and glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px, another major endogenous antioxidant) were significantly higher in the Eucommia group compared with the control group. The activities of SOD, GSH-Px, and GR in liver and kidney were not affected by Eucommia extract supplementation, whereas the CAT activity was significantly higher in the Eucommia group than in the control group. Eucommia extract supplementation resulted in lower levels of hydrogen peroxide and lipid peroxide in erythrocytes, liver, and kidney. The author of the report concluded that these results suggest that “the antioxidant activity of Eucommia extract is potentially beneficial for the prevention and management of complications of type 2 diabetes.”
Of course, we do not claim that Eucommia can be used to treat type 2 diabetes, but it is clear that Eucommia has potent antioxidant and sugar regulating activities that contribute to its general health benefits.
Eucommia is very mild and has no known adverse side effects or negative interactions with drugs. Eucommia is safe for both men and women, and has been traditionally given to both
Experiments conducted around the world continually demonstrate a very high tolerance for Eucommia by animals and humans. Animal studies repeatedly find no toxicity or side effects from the use of Eucommia at even high levels of consumption. No acute or chronic toxicity has been reported regarding the reasonable use of Eucommia ulmoides bark or its concentrated extracts in humans. Nevertheless, all herbs should be consumed in moderation, based on standard usage as established over time.
If you are pregnant or lactating, or under a physician’s care for any medical problem, consult your physician prior to using any herbal product.
Summary Eucommia Extract
Pharmaceutical name: Cortex Eucommia (Eucommia ulmoides)
Treasures: primarily Yang Jing, but also Yin Jing to a lesser degree.
Atmospheric Energy: Warm
Taste: Sweet, slightly spicy.
Organ Associations: Kidneys and Liver
Eucommia Extract is an important single herb formulation in the range of tonic herbal products. The bark of a temperate zone rubber tree native to East Asia called Eucommia is widely used as a tonic herb in Asia and more recently around the world. Eucommia bark is collected only from 15 to 20 year old trees (only a small section at a time). The bark is carefully peeled off in small pieces, and the bark grows back.
Eucommia is one of the tonic herbs that has been traditionally consumed as a single herb. As a tonic dose for general health, take 1 teaspoon per day. When experiencing stress, one may consume up to 2 teaspoons per day divided into 2 doses.
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