A combination of Astragalus, Ginseng and creatine works better than creatine on its own. Sports scientists at Wichita State University discovered this when they gave a patented supplement containing creatine, Astragalus membranaceus, and Korean and American Ginseng to a group of over 55s and got them to do weight training.
The supplement that the researchers studied is a creation of David Tuttle. In 1997 Tuttle published a book on creatine together with supplement expert Ray Sahelian: Creatine, Nature’s Muscle Builder. [amazon.com] In the same year Tuttle filed a patent application for a creatine supplement that also contained Astragalus and Ginseng, claiming that it would lead to better results than creatine on its own. [US Patent 6,193,973]
A year later Tuttle filed a patent application for the same supplement, but this time claiming that the combination he had devised would also strengthen the immune system. [US Patent 6,465,018]
In 2006 American researchers published the results of a study that Tuttle had sponsored, in which they had tested his supplement on 44 men and women aged between 55 and 84. The subjects were healthy and prepared to do strength training three times a week for three months. The subjects did a full-body workout each training session, which consisted of bench-press, lat-pull, biceps-curl, leg-press, leg-extension and leg-curl exercises. For each exercise they did 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
The researchers divided their subjects into three groups. One group was given a placebo, another took 3 g creatine daily and the third group took Tuttle’s combo supplement. The latter group consumed 3 g creatine, 750 mg Astragalus membranaceus, 450 mg Panax ginseng and 300 mg Panax quinquefolius daily. The subjects took their capsules with breakfast, lunch and their evening meal.
During the 12 weeks that the experiment lasted all subjects gained strength. The creatine group gained more strength than the placebo group, and the creatine plus Astragalus-Ginseng group gained more strength than the creatine group.
The figure above shows the increase in maximal strength [1RM] in each of the three groups.
The group that took the Astragalus-Ginseng-creatine combo also lost a statistically significant larger amount of fat than the creatine group.
The reduction in fat mass was also borne out by what the researchers saw when they analysed their subjects’ blood. In the Astragalus-Ginseng-creatine combo group the levels of VLDL and triglycerides dropped considerably. This is good for cardiovascular health.
Our previous posting on Astragalus membranaceus described how a supplement containing this extract improved the endurance capacity of mice, probably because Astragalus boosts the activity of the glucose-transporter GLUT4 in the muscle cells, and possibly because it also leads to an increase in fat burning.
“The data suggest that older adults participating in a strength training program can gain additional health and psychological benefits, including lowering cholesterol levels […], when consuming creatine combined with a botanical extract consisting of Panax ginseng, Panax quinquefolius and Astragalus membranaceus”, the researchers conclude. “Further research on the use of creatine as an ergogenic and anabolic aid, and the ability of Ginseng and Astragalus to act as hypolipidemic agents in older adults is needed.”
Effects of creatine, ginseng, and astragalus supplementation on strength, body composition, mood, and blood lipids during strength-training in older adults.
The effects of supplemental dietary creatine and a botanical extract consisting of ginseng and astragalus were evaluated in 44 adults aged 55-84 years participating in a 12-week strength-training program. Participants consumed creatine only (Cr), creatine plus botanical extract (CrBE), or placebo (PL), and performed bench press, lat pull down, biceps curl, leg press, knee extension, and knee flexion for 3 sets of 8-12 reps on 3 days per week for 12 weeks. The 1-repetition maximum for each exercise, body composition (full-body DEXA), blood lipids, and mood states were evaluated before and after the intervention. Training improved (p < 0.05) strength and lean mass for all groups, however greater gains were observed with Cr and CrBE compared with placebo (but no difference was found between Cr and CrBE). Only CrBE improved blood lipids and self-reported vigor, and the CrBE group lost significantly more body fat and gained more bench press strength than Cr. These results indicate that strength and lean mass gains achieved by older adults participating in a strength training program can be enhanced with creatine supplementation, and that ginseng and astragalus may provide additional health and psychological benefits. However, these herbs do not appear to have an additive effect on strength and lean mass gains during training. Key PointsStrength and lean mass can be enhanced with creatine supplementation in older adults participating in a strength training programGinseng and astragalus do not appear to provide any additive effect on strength or massGinseng and astragalus may provide additional health and psychological benefits such as lowering cholesterol levels and improving self-reported levels of vigor.
PMID: 24198682 [PubMed] PMCID: PMC3818675