The herb, Curculigo orchioides has a long history in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine to support and improve a number of health conditions including modulating hormone imbalances. New research suggests an root extract of Curculigo orchioides called RhizomK may have anabolic effects and raise testosterone levels. As such, it may be used as an ingredient in male performance supplements targeting testosterone deficiency. In this review let's take a look at what Curculigo orchioides is, the research on RhizomK as it pertains to raising male hormone levels, side effects, and safety suggestions if you decide to try this Indian/Asian herbal tonic for yourself.
What is Curculigo Orchioides?
The name Curculigo orchioides (CO), roughly pronounced “Ker-coo-lihgo Or-chee-o-deez” refers to a plant that grows natively in China, Nepal, Japan, and southern Asia. Other, familiar and common names for this flower include xian mao, black musli Kali musli, Kali Musali, Talamuli golden eye-grass weevil-wort.
The whole plant including the rhizome (underground parts) contains a diverse array of bioactive substances including, antioxidants, flavones, phenolic glucosides, curculigine, curculigoside, chlorophenolic glucoside, and orcinol glycosides.
With respect to medicinal uses, in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, Curculigo orchioides has been used to benefit many medical ailments such as arm and leg weakness, tinnitus, arthritis of the low back and knees, watery diarrhea, and heart disease as well as to modulate hormone imbalances, low sperm count and low libido.
In China, preparations of Curculigo orchioides rhizomes – such as “Xian Miao Wan” are prescribed to help menstrual cramps, menopause, and premenstrual syndrome and in Ayurvedic medicine, a preparation called “Maharishi Amrit Kalash” (MAK) has been used by people to help anorexia, weight loss, and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.
5 Alpha Reductase, Hair Growth & Prostate Problems
The enzyme, 5-alpha reductase is thought to be a key player in converting testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Elevated levels of DHT have been linked to both hair loss and in men, benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). Indeed, the prescription drug, Finasteride, which is used for both regrowing hair and enlarged prostate problems works by inhibiting 5 alpha-reductase.
Natural inhibitors of 5-alpha reductase like saw palmetto are popular with men and to this list, we might also add Curculigo orchioides. A compound called, curculigine P isolated from Curculigo orchioides, has been demonstrated to produce a 30% reduction in 5 alpha-reductase. While curculigine P has yet to be evaluated for regrowing hair or reducing prostate problems, it remains an intriguing possibility.
Libido Boosting Effects of Curculigo Orchioides
In Ayurvedic medicine, CO has been classified as vajikarana rasayana, an herb capable of improving sexual function and sperm count. Since diabetes and hyperglycemia can both reduce libido, researchers conducted an animal study of male rats with high blood sugar, who were treated with CO for 28 days.
Following the study, the rats had lower blood sugar levels and showed improvements in testosterone, erections, and sexual behavior. The dosages used in this clinical trial ranged from 100 mg and 200 mg per kilogram of body weight. Converting this to human dosages, a 170-pound man who had diabetes-related erectile dysfunction (ED) and wanted to try CO, would need between 1236 mg and 2464 mg.
Oral medications for ED, like Viagra, are effective because they inhibit an enzyme called phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE 50). It is not known if CO is a natural PDE5 inhibitor in humans.
Curculigo Orchioides & Testosterone Boosting Research
RhizomK is the name given to a proprietary extract of Curculigo orchioides, derived from the rhizomes (underground portions) of the plant. The company that produces this root extract dietary ingredient (Chemical Resources, AKA Cheresco), based in India, maintains RhizomeK is appropriate for “bettering immunity of the entire body” as well as improving blood flow, stamina vigor, and reducing tiredness. They further purport that Rhizome K:
- Promotes healthy sexual function
- Maintains overall energy and vitality
- Promotes optimal athletic performance
- Supports healthy muscle development
The RhizomK extract is standardized to contain 30% curculigosides, phenol phytonutrients thought by some to be key optimizers of male anabolic hormone levels.
RhizomK Testosterone Research
Preliminary evidence suggests the RhizomK root extract supplement may possess anabolic enhancing effects. In a white paper prepared by the Cheresco company, they summarize research where rats were given different amounts of Rhizome K (0, 10, 25, and 50 mg/kg) for 28 days. It was reported that a dosage of 50 mg per kilogram of body weight significantly raised free testosterone levels, but not total testosterone.
Free testosterone was said to increase from 439.19 Pg/L to 715.14 Pg/L. The lower dosages of RhizomK had no effects on testosterone. The Cheresco company also makes a fenugreek extract called Furosap which is a popular ingredient in men's over 40 health supplements.
Human Dosages of RhizomK Root Extract To Raise Testosterone Levels
Converting the amount used in this animal clinical study to human dosages puts the amount at 8 mg per kilogram of body weight. So if you were looking to use RhizomK to boost your free testosterone, the more you weigh, the more RhizomK you would need. For example, if you weighed 180 pounds (90 kg) you would be looking at 720 mg.
Here is a breakdown of RhizomK human dosages based on body weights:
- 160 pounds (72 kg): 584 mg
- 170 pounds (77 kg) 616 mg
- 180 pounds (82 kg) 656 mg
- 190 pounds (86 kg) 688 mg
- 200 pounds (91 kg) 728 kg
- 220 pounds (100 kg) 800 mg
If you are taking a dietary supplement containing CO/RhizomK, it should contain these amounts, based on the above clinical study results.
RhizomK Clinical Study Pros, Cons & Downsides
- Pro: significantly raised free testosterone levels
- Pro: the herb can be readily found online and at local health food stores.
- Con: it was a rat study. Rats are not people.
- Con: the study may not be peer-reviewed
- Con: it doesn't appear the researchers tested for 5-alpha reductase, PDE5, or DHT levels.
RhizomK (Curculigo Orchioides) Side Effects, Contraindications & Safety Instructions
In the clinical study summarized above, the rhizome herbal extract did not have any adverse negative toxic effects. That's good. The researchers reported no significant changes to creatinine, blood urea nitrogen (BUN) or the liver enzymes ALT (SGPT) or AST (SGOT). Other animal research studies have likewise reported no negative side effects. Keep in mind randomized human clinical trials need to be conducted. Based on this, here are some consumption instructions and general suggestions:
- start with less than recommended for at least the first week
- avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding
- speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you take any medications or have health problems
- how CO interacts with other dietary supplements needs further study
- consult your doctor if you are getting radiation therapy or chemotherapy
Does Curculigo Orchioides (RhizomK) Raise Testosterone Levels?
Preliminary evidence suggests a proprietary root extract of Curculigo orchioides, called RhizomK, made by the Cheresco company significantly raises free testosterone levels in animals without causing negative side effects. While this is encouraging, for those who deal with testosterone deficiency, human clinical investigations need to substantiate this claim. Future studies should investigate if this ayurvedic herb improves libido, sports performance, muscle strength, or muscle growth.