Unique “Supra-Hormonal” Biomolecules in Supertonic Eucommia Facilitate Optimal Hormonal Activity and Bone Maintenance

October 19, 2011 Comments Off

By Ron Teeguarden ©2011.

Eucommia bark was the second herb ever described in a written text on herbs in China, playing second fiddle only to Ginseng, “the King of Herbs.” Shennong, the great founder of Chinese herbalism, described Eucommia bark as “a superior herb that can prolong life.” Some versions of the ancient classic position Eucommia, Du Chung, as the first herb described in the text, in the “superior herb” section. A “superior herb,” by definition, is an herb that may be consumed daily for the purpose of promoting health and well being without side effects. Eucommia has remained a virtual icon of tonic herbalism in Asia for thousands of years. It has been consumed by billions of people, and is consumed by millions of people today as a superior, life-enhancing tonic. Though not yet as famous in the West as Ginseng and the Goji berry, it is certainly in the same league.

A Time-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.

Definitions

Jing - The first “treasure” is known as Jing. Jing is generally translated as Regenerative Essence, or simply as Essence. Jing energy is fundamental to life. It is the deepest source of energy in the body and is associated with our genetics. Jing is also our long term energy and may be thought of as our reserves of life force. In Asia, Jing is associated with regeneration, longevity, youthfulness, deep long-term vitality, mental energy, the source of power for the reproductive system and for optimal functioning of the immune system. Jing energy also supports our skeletal system, renal functions and our ability to hear. Jing is believed to govern our courage and is the power behind our will. 

Jing “energy” is depleted by living itself, but most especially by stress, excessive behavior, and overwork. Jing energy can be re-acquired and replenished through the consumption of certain rare herbs which contain this treasure. 

Jing herbs are divided into two categories: Yin and Yang tonics. Sophisticated formulations have been developed over the centuries that build Yin and Yang energy and these are created by blending Yin herbs and Yang herbs in one’s diet. The secret of rejuvenation and in maintaining our health lies in rebuilding the right balance of Yin and Yang.

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.

Definitions

Yin herbs are deeply nourishing. They replenish spent Jing and build reserves that are stored in the body for future use. They are famed for their long term regenerative qualities. They are generally moistening and are believed to be youth preserving.  Yin herbs should be consumed by people who have depleted their yin reserves. Life itself depletes yin, and yin is constantly consumed as we grow older, until by middle age many people experience yin depletion. Besides aging, yin is also specifically depleted by stress, overwork, exhaustion, childbearing, excessive or chronic drug or medicine use, disease, excessive emotionalism and sexual excess. Those who are deficient in yin Jing tend to be chronically exhausted, and they tend to have dark rings under their eyes, backaches, weak kidney and reproductive functions, low resistance to infection, weak digestion and show signs of rapid aging, including dryness and wrinkling of the skin. Yin Jing herbs are capable of replenishing the treasure and building reserves for the future. Thus Yin Jing herbs are considered in Asia to be the cornerstone of rejuvenation and the foundation of longevity. 

Yang herbsHerbs that provide Yang energy are deeply empowering. The rekindle the fire of life where it has been spent and enhance vigor at the deepest levels. They are famed for their rejuvenating, deeply invigorating qualities. Yang herbs are used to build sexual energy, creative power, will power and athletic power. The result of consuming Yang Jing herbs is a renewed youthfulness.

Sex 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.

Through the combined use of varied cutting edge technologies – recombinant DNA constructs, reporter gene assays, separation chemistry and animal studies, extracts of Eucommia bark were shown for the first time, to specifically activate the tranactivational capacity of the sex steroid receptors in both in-vitro and in-vivo settings. A series of bioassay-guided fractionation showed that the phytoandrogenic and hormone potentiating effects Eucommia were mediated by distinct groups of phytocompounds; triterpenoids and short-chain lipids respectively.

The extracts of E. ulmoides were tested using in-vitro reporter gene bioassays and in-vivo animal studies. Key compounds responsible for the steroidogenic effects were isolated and identified using solid phase extraction (SPE), high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), thin layer chromatography (TLC), gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy (GC-MS), electron spray ionization-mass spectroscopy (ESI-MS) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR).

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 Contains Both Phytoandrogens and Phytoestrogens

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 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.

Eucommia has both phytoandrogenic and phytoestrogenic activity.

Phytoestrogens – Endogenous (innate human) estrogens play critical roles in human health, and particularly in female health. Estroadiol, estriol and estrone are forms of estrogen. Estrogen receptors in our cells have fundamental impact on our sex hormone-related physiology.

Phytoestrogens are a diverse group of plant-derived compounds that structurally or functionally mimic mammalian estrogens.  Phytoestrogens modulate the transcriptional activities of the estrogen receptors. They protect the body from its own potential excesses.

Very strong evidence suggests that phytoestrogens play a key proactive role in maintaining optimum health. They play an important role in the prevention of cancers, heart disease, menopausal symptoms and osteoporosis. For that reason certain phytoestrogens commonly find their way into the human diet. Phytoestrogens are plentiful in nature and are widely consumed by the general population. Examples of phytoestrogens include isoflavones (soy, peanuts, various oilseeds, sunflower seeds and walnuts), and lignans (flaxseed, many cereals, pumpkin seeds, brewed green and black tea, and the tonic herbs Schizandra and Muscadine grape). Isoflavones and lignins have been found to be broadly safe.

Eucommia is now known to have phytoestrogenic activity as well. The unique phytoestrogenic activity of Eucommia had not previously been known to biologists.

Phytoandrogens – Though phytoestrogens are common in the plant world (and in our diet), until very recently, no phytoandrogens were known to science. That has changed with the recent discovery of phytoandrogens in Eucommia bark. The discovery of phytoandrogens in Eucommia explains its sex-related tonifying action and eloquently supports the traditional uses of this herb as a Jing tonic and youth preserving herb.

Androgen activity plays a pivotal role in both male and female physiology. Androgens have a profound affect on bone density, skeletal muscle development, fertility and sex drive, among other functions. Androgens do this by binding to androgen receptors in the cytoplasm of our cells, which in turn hook up with our DNA, resulting in new proteins being produced that affect our sex-related characteristics. In other words, testosterone, works directly with our DNA.

The alcohol extracts of Eucommia bark were tested using in-vitro reporter gene bioassays and in-vivo animal studies. Key compounds responsible for the steroidogenic effects were isolated and identified using solid phase extraction (SPE), high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), thin layer chromatography (TLC), gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy (GC-MS), electron spray ionisation-mass spectroscopy (ESI-MS) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR).

The alcohol extract of Eucommia were shown to specifically promote binding of testosterone to their androgen (sex steroid) receptors, and to promote the gene expression capacity of our DNA. 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.

Sufficient availability and efficient binding of sex steroids to their sex steroid receptors are required for the proportionate (balanced) expression of the specific genes that produce amino acids and proteins that in turn produce muscles, bones and sex hormones. When Eucommia bark extract is present in the cells, both availability and binding capacity are up-regulated (enhanced in a balanced manner).

Yang and Yin

In the animal studies conducted in Singapore, the alcohol extract of Eucommia bark was shown to have both androgenic and estrogenic activity. It activates both androgen and estrogen gene expression, promoting the transcription function of DNA – and it does it without over-stimulating or causing any imbalance.

The combination of Eucommia bark extract with testosterone (which would be more plentiful in a male) led to increases.

Amazingly, a similar synergistic effect was observed when Eucommia bark extract was tested in combination with estradiol, a form of estrogen, and in the presence of estrogen receptors. Eucommia bark activates the binding process between the estrogen and its receptor, and then facilitates the transit of this unit to the nucleus of the cell where it interacts with the DNA.

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.

Dr. Tan, the lead researcher on the Singapore project, points out that Eucommia is involved in a special “tripartite (three party) synergism,” a pharmacological synergy between our (1) body’s sex hormones, (2) sex hormone receptors and (3) herb-derived lipids and unique triterpenoids (components of Eucommia extract). It also showed that if exogenous 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. The great “imperial formulas” consumed by emperors and empresses of China almost always included this combination: deer antler and Eucommia bark. Several other herbs are known to increase testosterone levels in the blood after taking them, including Epimedium (horny goat weed), Tongkat Ali (TomKat) and Tribulus terrestris. These herbs would match up very well in a man’s herbal program – especially if youthfulness and sexual strength were part of the goal.

For women, consuming Eucommia with herbs and foods that also have healthy phytoestrogenic activity would potentiate those phytoestrogens.

Adrenocortical Tonic

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.

Growth Hormone Activity

Recent animal studies indicate that the alcohol extract of Eucommia Bark may be a potent Growth Hormone (GH) secretagogue.[1] This may be of some great interest to the many advocates of GH secretagogues.* A “secretagogue” is a substance that promotes the secretion of a hormone from a gland. Secretagogues do not promote production of the hormone.

Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is the most abundant hormone secreted by the human pituitary gland. Released through quick pulses into the blood stream, HGH is carried to the liver, where it is converted to a powerful growth promoting metabolite called Insulin-like Growth Factor Type I (IGF-I). IGF-I elicits most of the effects associated with HGH.

As with many other hormones, circulating HGH levels significantly decline with age. Interestingly, however, production of HGH does not decrease, as is the case with other endocrine hormones. In fact, HGH continues to be consistently manufactured by cells in the pituitary gland, but various factors restrict its distribution to the body. A study in 1990[2] showed significant results from the administration of Growth Hormone in elderly men, and since that time there has been much speculation as to the benefits of HGH in adults. It has been theorized that the decline in circulating HGH as one gets older may be related to many symptoms of aging such as decreased energy and sexual function, increased body fat, increased risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis, wrinkles in the skin and gray hair. However, these theories are far from proven and HGH secretagogues, in and of themselves, should not be considered magic bullets to prevent aging.*

There are many controversies around the claims related to the use of growth hormone as an anti-aging therapy. Benefits of secretegogues have not been established to the satisfaction of the FDA.*

From the tonic herbal perspective, focusing directly on the actions or benefits of one specific hormone would be considered risky at best and dangerous at worst. Hormones are very powerful compounds that can have serious side effects when they are out of balance in the body. Human intervention on the micro-hormonal level is an impossible task as there are too many factors to be taken into consideration and to be monitored at all times, such as pairing of hormones, biological rhythms, release timing, released amount, location, interrelationship with other hormones, etc. An oversight on any of these factors could cause imbalance and serious consequences. The administration of hormones requires careful monitoring and even at that may not be the best way, ultimately, to solve hormonal issues.

Certain tonic herbs and herbal formulations help regulate hormonal balance. They have been used for many centuries by tens of millions of people with proven safety records and benefits.** Eucommia’s effect as a GH secretagogue supports its traditional function as a Kidney Yang tonic. Eucommia is considered to be both a Kidney Yin and Kidney Yang tonic. Its balanced, regulatory effect is a major factor in Eucommia’s highly touted safety. Taking HGH alone may result in Kidney Yin deficiency or excessive Kidney Yang which means Yin and Yang are out of balance. Dragon Herbs does not recommend this approach.

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.

12 Year Cycle

The equivalent of your entire skeletal structure may be replaced every 12 years. Coincidentally, the Chinese zodiac has a 12 year cycle. The year of your own zodiac sign is called your Ben Ming Nian, or “year of original life”. This year marks a milestone in your life’s journey. It is suggested that you exercise caution this year as you will experience some major changes, good or bad, in your life. However, it is an auspicious year in which you can grow by quantum leaps, so you may have an opportunity to play your best hand in this year.

Could it be that 12 is a magic number? Bone’s metabolic cycle is 12 years. Bone is considered to be the least active part of our body, and yet, every 12 years, we get a whole new set of bones. Life is a living cycle that requires constant changes and maintenance. Make sure you are doing something positive about your bone heath every day. Personal growth does not get more skeletal than this.

Yet despite these changes in bone form and size, the ionic concentrations in cells and in blood remain constant. The regulation of these ionic balances is largely dependent upon hormones. Maintaining a precise level of calcium within your blood is essential to survival. Too little or too much calcium will make the heart unable to beat. The release and uptake of calcium is controlled by regulatory hormones. The bones act as a reservoir for this essential mineral.

As much as one fourth of bone phosphate may be replaced by new phosphate within two months! This turnover rate is even more rapid, of course, in actively growing children.

Inorganic crystals give bone its compressional strength, but the organic matrix, which makes up the remaining 30% of bone matrix, provides its tensile strength. Collagen is the major structural protein in human bone. 90% of the organic matrix is formed by collagen fibers. The collagen fibers are surrounded by a substance containing chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acids, various proteins and mucopolysaccharides (see Deer Placenta, page……).

The combined tensile strength of the organic matrix and the compressional strength provided by the inorganic hydroxyapatite crystals give bone a strength that is comparable to that of reinforced concrete.

Women are more prone to bone loss as they get older than men. Bone resorption may begin to outpace bone formation after approximately age 30 in women. Nearly 50% of American women in their 30s and 40s are at risk for osteoporosis, a condition that occurs when bone becomes too weak. At menopause, when the ovaries stop functioning, the withdrawal of estrogen causes a loss of calcium from the bone matrix with a consequent loss of bone strength. The remodelling of bone, even in old age, continues as a balance between bone formation and bone resorption. For most women, bone health must be supported by conscious eating and supplementation.

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
  • 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 cannot keep up with the activity of the osteoclasts. 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.

Definitions

There are three types of cells that maintain the skeleton: osteoblasts, osteoclasts and osteocytes.

Osteoblasts: A blood cell that produces bone tissue. It does so by moving along the surface of bone, producing a matrix that then forms bone. Osteoblasts are always present in the body and are constantly active in repairing and rebuilding bone. Osteoblasts are involved in the regulation of calcium and phosphorus exchange and deposition. Osteoblasts have many fine filaments that enter bone through numerous microscopic canals and extend through the bone matrix. In this way the osteoblasts transport calcium to the bone matrix from the blood.

Osteoclasts: A special type of white blood cell that nibbles at and breaks down bone and is responsible for bone resorption. Osteoclasts are very large multinucleate cells similar to macrophages (phagocytes). They specialize in consuming bone tissue. They are filled with lysosomes, which are microscopic vacuoles that contain the enzymes that digest the organic matrix of bone. Acids (such as lactic acid) secreted by the osteoclasts are responsible for the dissolution of the bone crystals. Like osteoblasts, osteoclasts have fine filaments that penetrate the bone surface and tunnel into the bone matrix, where they destroy old collagen and the bone’s mineral salts.

Osteocytes: During the process of building bone, some of the osteoblasts are trapped or “imprisoned” by the newly formed bone matrix that they are building. Osteocytes live for a long time within the bone, and remain quite functional, but in a different way. They communicate with the blood stream by means of fine filaments. The exact function of osteocytes is still being studied, but they appear to be acting as sensors, communicating information on the state of the bone to the other cells. They are believed to play a profound role in regulating the building and resorption of bone.

The 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 since before the time of Shennong, 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[3].

Alcohol (methanol) and aqueous (water) extracts of Eucommia bark were tested for their therapeutic efficacy on osteoporosis.[4] 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 to facilitate osteogenesis (bone building), and suppress osteoclast 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.

Tips for Good Bone Health

The proper diet plays a major role. We should eat foods and consume tonic herbs rich in calcium, magnesium, zinc and other minerals, and take a mineral supplement if necessary. Limiting or restricting the consumption of carbonated soft drinks, caffeine, sugar and table salt reduces calcium excretion and therefore lead to stronger bones. Weight bearing exercise also strengthens healthy bone, though this must be carefully monitored in the cases where bone has already weakened significantly.

There is growing evidence that exposure to microwaves increases demineralization of our bone. The significance of this is not yet fully defined, but health care professionals are growing increasingly concerned about the amount of microwave exposure most of us experience in the modern world. It is best to limit exposure to microwaves.

Pearl provides calcium, magnesium and manganese that are very important in the formation of bones. Pearl has been widely used in Asia as a natural calcium supplement and a beauty tonic. The only “side effect” of Pearl is that it adds a beautiful lust to the skin.

Indeed, our daily activities impact our bone health everyday. Bone health is something that can be under our control and is closely connected to our biological aging. Early bone degeneration is a sign of premature aging. Hence tonic maintenance can be extremely important in not just our bone health, but in our total body health.

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.

Canadian researchers recently investigated the mechanisms by which Eucommia exerts its influence in the cardiovascular system. They had this to say in their introduction:

“A cardiotonic herb, the bark of Eucommia ulmoides has been widely used in the Orient, but is less well known to the West for the treatment of hypertension. It is used either as a single herb or in combination with one or two herbs in the traditional herbal prescription. According to the ancient writing of Chinese medicinal herbs, Eucommia ulmoides is commonly used as a tonic for the liver and kidney, thus improving detoxification (by liver) and circulation (via kidney), respectively. The antioxidant effect of some of the chemical constituents of Eucommia leaf and bark may also contribute to its anti-inflammatory action. Many studies have focused on the blood pressure-lowering effect of Eucommia leaf and bark.”

Eucommia appears to lower vascular resistance by directly dilating the blood vessels. All types of arterial blood vessels studied experience a relaxation response to the Eucommia bark extract.8

The authors of the study concluded that “the results of our study offer a plausible mechanistic basis for the vasorelaxing action of Eucommia ulmoides, which may account for its well-documented antihypertensive action.”

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.

One in every three Americans is reported to be suffering from high blood pressure

According to a research conducted at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, there are about 65 million hypertensive adults in the US, most of them aged between 18 and above.

The statistics are based on survey of data from 1999 to 2000, which when compared to a similar exercise carried out between 1988 and 1994, showed that in an intervening six-year period there was a 15-million jump in the number of hypertensives.

This trend has been pinned to the increase in obesity levels.

Hypertension can pose a risk of heart disease, stroke, heart failure, and can even lead to kidney damage.

Reference:  the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

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.1

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 a photoprotective 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.6  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, Dragon Herbs does 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.

Safety

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.

Eucommia Drops

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

Treasure Rating

Yin Jing                           3

Yang Jing                       5

Qi                                      4

          Vitality                       3

          Protection                4

          Adaptability            3

          Blood                        2         

Shen                                   3

Eucommia Drops is an important single herb formulation in the Dragon Drops 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 ~ 3 droppers per day. When experiencing stress, one may consume up to 9 droppers per day divided into 3 doses.

Other Dragon Herbs products featuring Eucommia

Frame Builder  

Frame Builder can strengthen the structural framework of the body. The formula may be used by those who wish to strengthen bones, tendons and ligaments. It is suitable for those who suffer chronic joint pain, lower back pain, knee pain, etc. It is especially suited to those who are recovering from traumatic injury to bone, ligament and/or tendon. It can strengthen the lower back and knees and is an ideal tonic for those who experience low back or knee pain due to exhaustion.

Who can use this formula – Anyone experiencing skeletal or joint discomfort

Ingredients – Eucommia, Dipsacus, Drynaria, etc.

Code – 254                         Price – $27

Strong Bones

Strengthens the skeletal structure, including bones, ligaments and tendons. The herbs in this formula have been used successfully for centuries by martial arts practitioners to speed up the healing of broken bones and damaged soft tissues of the skeletal structure. It is remarkably effective. It is an ideal formula for athletes in contact sports and for those recovering from bone fractures.

Traditional functions – Tonifies Yang, fortifies the Kidneys

Who can use this formula – Those who wish to strengthen the skeletal structure

Ingredients – Eucommia Seed, Eucommia Bark, Dipsacus, Drynaria, Bupleurum, Morinda, Dragon Bone, Oyster Shell, White Peony Root, Licorice Root.

Code – 137                  Price – $27

Imperial Garden

Imperial Garden is a superb Jing tonic. It is mildly yang in nature. It is used to strengthen the entire body, but it is also used as a Brain tonic. It is also highly regarded as a long term sexual tonic for both men and women. Imperial Garden is said to strengthen the legs and the back. It is considered to be a “rejuvenation formula” by the Chinese. Imperial Garden is one of the few powerful vegetarian Yang Jing tonics in the supertonic class of Chinese herbalism. This superb Essence tonic is suited to men and women of all ages.

Traditional functions – Tonifies Yin and Yang

Who can use this formula – Those in generally good health who wish to maximize their life force.

Ingredients – Eucommia Bark, Zizyphus Seed, Ginseng, Epimedium, Cinnamon Twig, Morinda, Schizandra, Achyranthes, Cornus, Broussonetia, Polygala, Dioscorea, Lycium, Prepared Rehmannia, Poria, Jujube Date, Fennel, Cistanche.

Code – 142                   Price – $27

Strength Builder

Strength Builder is designed to build and preserve Kidney Yin and Yang. It is a potent formulation designed to provide herbal nutrients for athletes and other highly active individuals. This formula may be used by those wishing to increase athletic and/or sexual power, and by those interested in becoming generally more vital. It is suitable for those who have experienced chronic or acute stress, overwork or sexual excess and for those who wish to maintain an active lifestyle. Strength Builder can be used to strengthen the skeletal and muscular systems and is particularly useful as tonic for those who use both their brains and their brawn to succeed.

Traditional functions – Tonifies Kidney Yin and Yang and builds Qi and blood

Who can use this formula – Those who require Yin and Yang tonification and those who wish to build primal strength

Ingredients – Morinda, Eucommia Bark, He Shou Wu, Astragalus, Lycium, Dang Gui, Achyranthes, Dioscorea, Ligustrum, Donkey Skin Glue, Dipsacus, White Peony Root, Cornus and Licorice

Code – 145                  Price – $23

Bark facts 

Dragon Herbs Eucommia Bark is peeled from trees that are 10 years old or older. A small patch of the bark is peeled off the tree each year so as not to harm the tree, which can grow to be over one hundred years old.

  • Eucommia is the only temperate zone rubber tree. Inside the bark is a pure white latex. This hard gum called Gutta-percha, (6-10%). The gum dissolves easily in alcohol, but not in water. This latex is noticeably elastic, it will stretch when you gently break the bark and stretch it slightly. This rubber is believed to confer strength to connective tissue and is considered to be part of Eucommia’s active ingredients.
  • The older the bark, the thicker and stronger the latex, the better its quality.
  • Roasted Eucommia has a stronger blood pressure lowering effect than the raw herb. Its hypotension effect is fast acting and long lasting. 1-2 gram of herb can produce obvious reduction in dogs, which lasted for 2-3 hours.

Some References

[1] Ha H, Ho J, Shin S, Kim H, Koo S, Kim IH, Kim C., “Effects of Eucommiae Cortex on osteoblast-like cell proliferation, osteoclast inhibition and GH Release,” Drug Research and Development Team, Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine, 129-11 Chungdam-dong, Kangnam-ku, Seoul 135-100, Korea, Arch Pharm Res. 2003 Nov;26(11):929-36. “The MeOH (1 mg/mL) fraction of Eucommia ulmoides bark had potent induction of GH release.”

[2] Rudman D, Feller AG, Nagraj HS, et al. “Effect of human growth hormone in men over 60 years old,” New England Journal of Medicine 323:1–6

[3] Ha H, Ho J, Shin S, Kim H, Koo S, Kim IH, Kim C.. “Effects of Eucommiae Cortex on osteoblast-like cell proliferation, osteoclast inhibition and GH Release.” Drug Research and Development Team, Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine, 129-11 Chungdam-dong, Kangnam-ku, Seoul 135-100, Korea, Arch Pharm Res. 2003 Nov;26(11):929-36.

[4] Effects of Eucommiae Cortex on osteoblast-like cell proliferation, osteoclast inhibition and GH Release
Arch Pharm Res. 2003 Nov;26(11):929-36.
Ha H, Ho J, Shin S, Kim H, Koo S, Kim IH, Kim C.
Drug Research and Development Team, Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine, 129-11 Chungdam-dong, Kangnam-ku, Seoul 135-100, Korea.

The effect of Eucommiae Cortex on the induction of growth hormone (GH) release was studied by using rat pituitary cells. The MeOH (1 mg/mLhad potent induction of GH release.

[4] Effects of Eucommiae Cortex on osteoblast-like cell proliferation, osteoclast inhibition and GH Release
Arch Pharm Res. 2003 Nov;26(11):929-36.

Ha H, Ho J, Shin S, Kim H, Koo S, Kim IH, Kim C.
Drug Research and Development Team, Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine, 129-11 Chungdam-dong, Kangnam-ku, Seoul 135-100, Korea.

The effect of Eucommiae Cortex on the induction of growth hormone (GH) release was studied by using rat pituitary cells. The MeOH (1 mg/mL had potent induction of GH release.

[4]Xiang Y, Huang RH, Liu XZ, Zhang Y, Wang DC. “Crystal structure of a novel antifungal protein distinct with five disulfide bridges from Eucommia ulmoides Oliver at an atomic resolution.” Center for Structural and Molecular Biology, Institute of Biophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, People’s Republic of China. J Struct Biol. 2004 Oct;148(1):86-97.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. The herbs and products described in this article are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, mitigate or prevent any diseases. Women who are pregnant or nursing should consult their physician before using any herbal product.

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