I first read about “turkesterone” on Reddit and initially thought it was a fictitious substance that: someone made up to be funny and/or was part of an inside joke.
Like bro have you tried turkesterone? Gains are legit better than steroids.
However, I later observed several influencers with large followings namedrop “turkesterone” and realized it was a legitimate supplement (i.e. chemical entity) that people were using to attain alleged anabolic effects.
Andrew Huberman/Joe Rogan conversation:
Huberman: There’s this thing that’s now kind of going wild on the internet. I’ve never tried it but it’s called turkesterone.
Rogan: Turk-es-ter-one. This plant compound is equivalent to DECA?
Rogan: Wow! Where do you get this stuff?
Huberman: People buy it on the internet.
The YouTube channels/personalities: “More Plates More Dates” (Derek) & Greg Doucette: (1) routinely discuss turkesterone and (2) market/sell turkesterone supplements.
The hype is real… interest/demand for turkesterone is skyrocketing and many gym-goers, bodybuilders, bros, etc. want to give it a test cycle and determine subjectively whether it works for them to build muscle and improve lifting performance.
What is turkesterone?
Turkesterone is an ecdysteroid derivative and phytoecdysteroid found in various plant species as a such as: Ajuga turkestanica and specific Vitex species (Triticum aestivum and Rhaponticum acaule) – with a chemical structure that’s similar to testosterone.
For reference: “ecdysteroids” are arthropod steroid hormones (i.e. androgens for insects) that are synthesized from dietary cholesterol upon metabolism – and are involved in molting, development, and [to a lesser extent] reproduction.
Phytoecdysteroids are plant-derived ecdysteroids – a class of chemicals that plants synthesize for defense against phytophagous (plant eating) insects.
When insects eat phytoecdysteroids in plants, they may: prematurely molt, lose weight, or suffer metabolic damage and die – thus serving as a useful defense mechanism for plants.
Note: Turkesterone is just one of 250+ ecdysteroid analogs/derivatives that have been discovered in plants.
Turkesterone for building muscle & exercise performance (Mechanism of Action)
Ecdysteroids like turkesterone differ markedly from vertebrate steroid hormones in their polarity, bulk, and shape – thus one would expect there to be little interaction with steroid-hormone receptors or steroid-metabolizing enzymes in mammals – but this hasn’t been systematically verified. (R)
Ecdysterone supplementation in animals promotes anabolic activity in skeletal muscle, increases cell proliferation and growth, which can result in increased muscle mass. (R)
Since turkesterone hasn’t been formally evaluated in humans – it’s specific mechanisms of action (i.e. pharmacodynamics) and physiological effects remain unclear.
It is hypothesized that turkesterone stimulates protein synthesis via mechanisms involving: (A) the rise of polyribosome functional activity and (B) rate increase of protein macromolecule formation. (R)
The anabolic effect of phytoecdysteroids like turkesterone in mammals are not associated with RNA synthesis – but instead with the acceleration of translocational processes.
Turkesterone may also increase cellular leucine uptake at a dose of 5 mg/kg bodyweight – which could be a mechanism by which it improves exercise performance. (R)
Insenmann et al. reported that ecdysterone activates the estrogen receptor beta to enhance performance – which is independent from androgen receptor activation. (R)
Gorelick-Feldman et al. note that ecdysteroid-containing plant extracts may increase growth and physical performance in mammals via a PI3K-mediated mechanism. (R)
It is unclear as to whether turkesterone functions similarly – as turkesterone is a distinct ecdysteroid from ecdysterone.
That said, some research suggests that “turkesterone” could be the most potent of all ecdysteroids analyzed (R).
Turkesterone (Scientific Literature)
Included below are findings from scientific studies in which the physiologic effects of turkesterone were assessed.
Understand that at this time, there are ZERO human trials that have specifically evaluated turkesterone as a supplement in any capacity.
1978: Effect of Turkesterone & Nerobol on activity of protein synthesizing in mouse liver (R)
Syrov et al.
- Protein biosynthesis was stimulated in liver tissue in vivo and in vitro after administration of either phytoecdizone of turkesterone (0.5 mg/100 g) or of anabolic steroid compound nerobole (1 mg/100 g) – to mice.
- Actinomycin D, which inhibited the stimulation of protein biosynthesis in liver tissue of mice treated with nerobole did not affect the phenomenon in mice treated with turkesterone.
1984: Mechanism of the anabolic action of phytoectisteroids in mammals (R)
- Turkesterone at a dose of 5 mg per 1 kg body mass stimulates protein synthesis in white mice.
- This effect was associated with increases in polyribosome activation and protein macromolecule formation.
1986: Effect of phytoecdysteroids & steranobols on liver mitochondria enzymes in experimental hepatitis (R)
Tashmukhamedova et al.
- Turkesterone & ecdysterone (phytoecdysteroids) at a dose of 10 mg/kg were administered to rats with experimental hepatitis caused by CCl4 poisoning.
- Both turkesterone and ecdysterone generated positive effects in: activity of polyenzymatic systems in mitochondrial membranes and resistance to the effect of exogenously-induced mitochondrial degradation.
1996: Insect hormones in vertebrates: anabolic effects of 20-hydroxyecdysone in Japanese quail (R)
Slama et al.
- 20-hydroxyecdysone (20E) was extracted from the seeds of Leuzea and purified.
- With 6 grams of 96% 20E, researchers made a large-scale feeding assay with Japanese quail to evaluate its anabolic potential.
- It was found that 96% 20E increased the mass of developing quails in a dose-dependent manner – with the rate of increase proportional to the ecdysteroid content in the seeds.
- Researchers concluded that ecdysteroids have growth-promoting, vitamin-like effects in vertebrates.
1997: Experimental study of phytoecdysteroids as erythropoiesis stimulators (R)
Syrov et al.
- Phytoecdysteroids, including turkesterone, were evaluated as erythropoiesis stimulators in rats.
- Repeated administration increases the content of erythrocytes and hemoglobin in the blood of intact rats.
- Turkesterone was the most active of all erythropoiesis stimulators tested – and had marked effect on red blood regeneration in hemotoxic anemia.
- Researchers stated: “In its capacity for stimulating erythropoiesis, turkesterone resembles the well-known steroidal anabolic drug nerobol.”
What can we conclude re: turkesterone’s anabolic effects in humans?
Nothing. There are zero human trials that have specifically evaluated the effect of turkesterone in humans. Therefore, it’s impossible to know the specific effects of turkesterone in humans.
Just because turkesterone elicits a specific set of effects in animals does NOT mean that it elicits these same effects in humans.
Furthermore, many of the animal studies did not examine the effect of turkesterone specifically on “muscle-protein synthesis.”
Studies found that turkesterone: increased liver protein biosynthesis (mice); increased protein synthesis (mice), protected mitochondria in experimental hepatitis (rats); increased mass (quails), and stimulated erythropoiesis (rats).
The second study examining protein synthesis alluded to examining liver protein synthesis (rather than muscle protein synthesis) in mice – which is problematic if attempting to determine whether turkesterone stimulates muscle protein synthesis.
Although turkesterone increased mass in developing quails – the quails were developing such that there may be an interaction with development and perhaps many other substances would’ve had the same effect.
Turkesterone increased erythropoiesis similar to nerobol in rats, but this can’t tell us anything about its effect on muscle protein synthesis.
Obviously one could hypothesize the physiological effects of turkesterone in humans based off of animal studies – but many substances that exert certain effects in non-humans have different/distinct effects when administered to humans (and this is often revealed during clinical trials).
What about the research of ecdysteroids in humans?
Included below are studies involving the use of ecdysteroids in humans.
Keep in mind that none of these studies specifically used “turkesterone” so the results might be different than had turkesterone been utilized.
Nevertheless, these studies are currently the best guess we’ve got as to whether turkesterone has any anabolic effects in humans.
Ecdysteroids as non-conventional anabolic agents (2019) (R)
Insenmann et al.: “This project demonstrates the performance-enhancing effect of ecdysterone in humans. Thus our results strongly suggest including ecdysterone in class S1 ‘Anabolic Agents.’ As is reported in the literature, the mechanism of action of ecdysterone appears as independent from the androgen receptor activation, but it is rather exhibited by the activation of the estrogen receptor beta.”
- Aim: Investigate the effects of ecdysterone-containing supplements in experienced male lifters over a 10-week period with 3 resistance training sessions per week and a two split training plan.
- 46 healthy young men were divided into 4 groups: (1) placebo (N = 12); (2) ecdysterone1 (N = 12); (3) ecdysterone2 (N = 10); (4) control group (N = 12).
- Ecdysterone1 (Ec1) = 2 capsules of Peak Ecdysone + training.
- Ecdysterone2 (Ec2) = 8 capsules of Peak Ecdysone + training.
- Placebo (PL) = 2 placebo capsules + training.
- Control (CO) = 2 capsule of Peak Ecdysone + zero training.
- It was noted that all subjects were non-smokers, didn’t take any medication or other dietary supplements, and were injury-free for at least half a year.
- Measures: Anthropometric parameters; power/strength performance; blood/urine samples.
- Specific product: Peak Ecdysone (labeled to contain 100 mg ecdysterone from spinach extract plus 100 mg leucine) – but the product actually contained just 6 mg ecdysterone per capsule (as revealed with a quantification analysis).
What were the results?
- Body weight at pre-tests and post-tests did not show significant differences within all groups.
- Ec1 and Ec2 groups increased their body weight significantly over 10 weeks.
- Ec1 = +2.58 kg
- Ec2 = +3.11 kg
- There was a significant increase in body weight for the Ec2 group relative to the control group.
- There was a significant increase in muscle mass for the Ec2 group (+2.03 kg) relative to the placebo group.
- The Ec1 group also increased their muscle mass average (+1.58 kg) relative to the placebo group – but the difference was not statistically significant.
- There were no significant differences in fat mass and total body water pre-test and post-test within groups – and no interaction between time & group effect was observed.
Power & strength performance
Counter-movement jump (CMJ): After 10 weeks of nonspecific “bounce” training, all 3 training groups increased their jump height. No significant difference in group-by-time interaction effect was found.
1-Rep Max Squat: After 10 weeks, all 3 groups increased their 1-RM back squat. (PL = +15.5%; Ec1 = +17.75%; Ec2 = 19.4%). No significant difference in group-by-time interaction effect was found.
1-Rep Max Bench: After 10 weeks, all 3 groups increased their 1-RM bench press significantly. (PL = +3.59%; Ec1 = +11.5%; Ec2 = +9.5%).
Serum sample analysis
Concentrations of ecdysterone increased over time – and dose-dependent values were detected (i.e. higher ecdysterone concentrations observed in Ec2 group).
Despite significant differences in various endocrine parameters at different times, no change could be attributed specifically to ecdysterone supplementation. (E2, Testosterone, LH, IGF1, T4 were analyzed).
Serum concentrations of the biomarkers of liver/kidney toxicity did not change significantly over a 10-week period for all groups.
No hint on significant alteration of the steroid profile after administration of ecdysterone was detected and no other performance enhancing drugs or alterations in urinary steroid profiles were detected.
In vitro investigation
C2C12 cells, a myoblast cell line derived from murine satellite cells, have been used as an in vitro model to study muscle hypertrophy through ecdysterone.
After 48 hours of treatment, the diameters of myotubes were evaluated. Results showed an anabolic activity of the supplement extract in vitro – evidenced by increased diameters of the myotubes with ecdysterone relative to a control.
What can we learn from this study?
Ecdysterone appears safe and well-tolerated over a 10-week period of use in young healthy men – and might have anabolic effects in humans.
However, we should not assume that ecdysterone is definitively anabolic – as there are some major limitations associated with this study.
- Unexpectedly low dosing: Supplement capsules were thought to contain 100 mg ecdysterone – but analysis revealed that they only contained 6 mg ecdysterone. Such low doses may have had physiologically negligible effects such that “significant” changes in strength/muscle mass might not have been biologically plausible in this study.
- Uneven group strength at baseline: Average 1-RM on squat/bench appeared greater at baseline for the placebo group than both Ec1 and Ec2 groups (diminishing gains to be had).
- Potential intra-group differences: There may have been significant intra-group differences in training styles, training intensity, diet, and/or genetics that led to greater gains for the Ec1/Ec2 groups. There may have also been intra-group differences in desire to achieve a significant strength boost to appease researchers by the end of 10 weeks.
- Bioelectrical impedance analysis: Bioelectrical impedance analysis (with Akern BIA 101) was used to detect changes in body composition during the study. This is a significant problem in that bioelectrical impedance analysis is notoriously imprecise for measuring body composition.
- Small sample size: This study had a small sample and 4 groups – with small numbers in each group. (Increases likelihood of Type 1 errors – such that the conclusion does not reflect reality).
- Capsule intake differences: The Ec2 group received 8 capsules per day. It probably would’ve been better to give the Ec1 group 8 capsules (4 ecdysterone/4 placebo) and the placebo group 8 placebo capsules to keep things even – as the higher capsule count may have induced a more frequent/robust placebo response.
- Placebo effect: Ec2 turkesterone recipients may have been more susceptible to a placebo effect – particularly in the group receiving 8 capsules per day (as a larger # of administrations may increase likelihood and/or significance of a placebo response).
- In vitro evaluation: Researchers found that turkesterone had anabolic effects in vitro but this doesn’t necessarily translate to in vivo.
- Placebo group lost muscle: Makes zero sense – especially since they were fairly experienced in strength training (lifting for over 1 year).
- No turkesterone: Many turkesterone advocates are referencing this study as evidence turkesterone “works” – but this study didn’t even use turkesterone.
ISSN exercise & sports nutrition review update: research & recommendations (2018) (R)
Kerksick et al. reviewed the sports nutrition literature and one of the specific things they analyzed was dietary/nutritional supplements – which included a section on ecdysterones.
Researchers stated that preliminary evidence from studies in Russia and Czechoslovakia indicated potential physiological benefit from ecdysterones in insects and animals.
According to researchers: “Unfortunately, the initial work was available in obscure journals with sub-standard study designs and presentation results.”
They conclude with: “Ecdysterones are NOT recommended for supplementation to increase training adaptations or performance.”
Effects of methoxyisoflavone, ecdysterone, and sulfo-polysaccharide supplementation on training adaptations in resistance-trained males (2006) (R)
Wilborn et al.: “Results indicate that M, E, and CSP3 supplementation do NOT affect body composition or training adaptations nor do they influence the anabolic/catabolic hormone status or general markers of catabolism in resistance-trained males.”
- Background: Methoxyisolfavone (M), 20-hydroxy-ecdysterone (E), and sulfo-polysaccharide (CSP3) have been marketed to athletes as dietary supplements that can increase strength and muscle mass during resistance-training.
- Aim: Determine whether these supplements (M, E, CSP3) affect training adaptations or markers of muscle anabolism/catabolism in resistance-trained athletes.
- 45 resistance-trained males (age: ~20.5 years; body fat: ~17.3%) were matched based on FFM and participated in a randomized, double-blinded trial in which they received: placebo (800 mg/day); M (800 mg/day); E (200 mg/day); or CSP3 (1000 mg/day) – for 8 weeks.
- Measures: Training adaptations; body composition; peak strength; sprint power; hormones.
What were the results?
No significant differences were observed in training adaptations among groups in free-fat mass (FFM); body fat %; peak strength (1-RM bench/leg press); peak power (sprinting).
Anabolic/catabolic analysis found zero significant differences in among groups in active testosterone (AT), free testosterone (FT), cortisol, AT/cortisol ratio, urea nitrogen, creatinine, blood urea nitrogen/creatinine ratio, etc.
No significant differences were observed from pre-to-post supplementation and/or training in active testosterone (AT), free testosterone (FT), or cortisol.
Authors note that these results contradict older findings in which ecdysone was found beneficial for improving body composition/exercise performance, however, older findings were: “reported in obscure journals with limited details available to evaluate the experimental design and quality of the research.”
A comparative study of the anabolic action of ecdysten, leveton, and Prime Plus preparations of plant origin (1995) (R)
Gadzhieva et al.: “Ekdisten and Prime Plus (combination of ekdisten and pure protein) elevated muscle mass.”
- Aim: Evaluate the anabolic activities of ecdysten, leveton, and Prime Plus preparations over a 3-week period in humans while training.
- It was found that ecdysten, leveton, and Prime Plus (combination of ecdysten & pure protein) supplementation during training increased skinfold-determined muscle mass; decreased fat mass; and increased total work during training.
- Ecdysten and Prime Plus appeared to promote the more significant gains during training.
- The takeaway from this study was that ecdysterone might increase exercise capacity, reduce fat mass, and increase lean muscle mass.
Note: I was unable to access the full-text for this study, so I’m merely describing what I’ve read via second-hand summaries/discussions.
The Combined Use of Ecdisten and the Product ‘Bodrost’ during Training in Cyclical Types of Sport (1988)
Simakin et al.
- Aim: Evaluate the effect of ecdysterone on muscle tissue mass and fat mass – as well as hormonal changes in subjects.
- 78 resistance-trained male and female athletes participated in this study.
- Participants were divided into 3 groups: (1) protein; (2) protein + ecdysterone; (3) placebo.
What were the results?
- Athletes consuming just protein exhibited slight increases in muscle mass over a 10-day period while athletes consuming the placebo exhibited slight reductions in muscle mass over this same duration.
- Athletes receiving ecdysterone plus protein intake exhibited a 6-7% increase in lean muscle tissue and a ~10% reduction in body fat.
Note: I was unable to access the full-text of this study, so I’m merely describing this paper based off of second-hand summaries/discussions.
What can we conclude re: ecdysteroid effects in humans?
There is ZERO strong evidence to suggest that ecdysteroids or ecdysteroid-based supplements improve any aspect of human health, body composition, or exercise performance.
Ecdysteroids appear safe and well-tolerated in human trials – specifically “ecdysterone.”
Insenmann et al. claimed that ecdysterone (dose: 48 mg/day) was a non-conventional “anabolic agent” – such that it improved exercise performance/body composition over a 10-week period.
- This study was riddled with limitations (as were discussed) – so results should be interpreted with caution.
Wilborn et al. found that ecdysterone (dose: 200 mg/day) had no effect on body composition, exercise performance, or hormone profiles – over an 8-week period.
- This was probably the best conducted study of ecdysteroids in humans and found no significant effect associated with supplementation.
2 prior studies reported improvements in body composition and exercise performance with ecdysteroid-based supplementation in humans.
- Prior studies to these were published in obscure journals with limited details regarding experimental design and quality of the research.
Turkesterone Health Benefits? (Hypotheticals & Extrapolations)
Included below is a list of potential health benefits that may be associated with ecdysteroids – and thus possibly also turkesterone.
Keep in mind that all of these “benefits” are mere hypotheticals and none have been substantiated in human subjects.
Lafont & Dinan discussed a myriad of potential health benefits derived from ecdysteroids in mammals – including humans. (R)
Physical performance & muscle building
Anabolic effects associated with ecdysteroids occur without training in animals. (R)
- Beta-ecdysterone increases the size and strength of muscles similar to dianabol (a potent anabolic steroid) and ecdysterone has a greater anabolic action on the contractile proteins of skeletal muscles relative to dianabol.
- Ecdysterone supplementation in animals promotes anabolic activity in skeletal muscle, increases cell proliferation and growth, which can result in increased muscle mass.
Oral administration of herbal ecdysterone “Leuza” in male albino mice significantly increased running and swimming capacity. (R)
Exercise appears to significantly decrease IgG and IgA concentrations in athletes, but ecisten-containing tinctures of Leuzea and Leveton prevent IgG and IgA reductions – thus increasing athletic working capacity by 10-15%. (R)
Turkesterone at a dose of 5 mg per 1 kg body mass stimulates protein synthesis in mice – and this is connected with increases in polyribosome activation and protein macromolecule formation. (R)
Longevity & life extension
Transfection of Drosophilia (i.e. common fruit fly) with an ecdysone receptor increases lifespan and resistance to various stresses in this species. (R)
Some have suggested that because: (A) ecdysterone increases lifespan in insects and (B) transfection of drosophilia with ecdysone receptors increases lifespan – then turkesterone (a phytoecdysteroid) might also increase lifespan in humans.
Whether ecdysterone or turkesterone increases lifespan in animal models or humans remains completely unknown.
It is a massive extrapolation to conclude that because ecdysterone increases lifespans of insects – that turkesterone (not the same chemical as ecdysterone) increases lifespan in humans (not the same as insects).
Pretreatment with ecdysteroids (injections of 0.5 mg/kg bodyweight) may reduce hyperglycemia induced by administration of glucagon or destruction of pancreatic islet beta-cells in mice and rats. (Yoshida et al. 1971)
Antidiabetic effects are also known for ecdysteroid-containing plants used in traditional medicine and ecdysteroid preparations have been thought to help treat diabetes (Takashi & Nishimoto 1992; Yang et al. 2001).
In vitro studies with human hepatocytes have established ecdysteroids may increase glucose consumption in an insulin-dependent manner. (Chen et al. 2006)
Heart & lung function
20E appears helpful in the prevention of myocardial ischemia and arrhythmia and is thought to enhance VEGF expression. (Wu, 2001)
An extract of Leuzea carthamoides with high levels of 20E showed an anti-arrhythmic effect in animals. (R)
Rabbits fed a high cholesterol diet to induce atherosclerosis exhibited significant increases in Na+/K+ ATPase in the myocardium after 20E (10 mg/kg per day) for 28 days.
20E administered via intravenous injection seems to provide a therapeutic effect following experimental lung contusions in rats. (Wu et al., 1997)
Brain (neuroprotective & neuromodulation)
Ecdysteroids are thought to modulate neurotransmission (to some extent) and may facilitate neuroprotective effects.
Glutamic decarboxylase: Ecdysteroids appear to induce enzymes related to neurotransmitter synthesis (glutamic decarboxylase) in the rat brain. (R)
Acetylcholinesterase: Ecdysterone significantly increases acetylcholinesterase (an enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine) in rat brains. (R)
GABA-A receptor modulator: 20E (20-hydroxyecdysone) may also function as a positive allosteric modulator (PAM) of the GABA-A receptor. (R)
Accelerated healing (wounds & fractures)
Ecdysteroids have been shown to accelerate wound healing in animals. (Syrov & Khushbatkova, 1996).
20E applied at 0.1% in liposomes shortens the duration of skin repair following superficial wounding and stimulates keratinocyte differentiation in vitro.
20E administered to rats (5 mg/kg) speeds up the healing process after an experimental bone fracture. (Syrov et al., 1986).
Ecdysteroids may accelerate healing via upregulation of erythropoiesis.
Other possible health benefits of turkesterone…
- Antioxidant activity: 20E exhibits antioxidant properties wherein it reduces free radicals in a manner that is comparable to known inhibitors of peroxide oxidation of lipids. (R) This effect is observed at a very low dose (0.1 mg/kg bodyweight).
- Antibacterial & antifungal effects: At high concentrations, 20E exhibits antifungal and antibacterial activity in animals. Antibacterial action in acetates has been observed, and toxic effects on protozoa were reported.
- Cholesterol reduction: Ecdysteroids have hypocholesterolemic effects (Mironova et al 1982; Syrov et al. 1983). These are most likely from increased conversion of cholesterol into bile acids – similar to the effect of oxysterols (Schroepfer 2000). In rats, low doses (10-50 mcg/kg) of injected 20-hydroxyecdysone (20E) do not impact hypercholesterolemia but reduce hepatic cholesterol concentrations (Lupien et al. 1969).
- Immune system: Ecdysteroids may exert immunomodulatory effects wherein they modify the activation of the immune system. Injections of turkesterone increase the antibody-forming cells in the spleens of mice immunized with sheep red blood cells. Low levels of 20E increase activation of human lymphocytes.
- Kidney protection: Ecdysterone at a dose of 5 mg/kg can restore normal glomerular filtration rate of the kidneys and suppress albuminuria in rats following administration of a nephrotoxic compound. (R)
- Liver protection & regeneration: Ecdysteroids stimulate bile secretion in rats and they enhance liver regeneration following chemically-induced hepatitis/damage. (R) Ecdystene appears to exhibit hepatoprotective properties (i.e. protects the liver) following acute heliotrine intoxication. (Badal’yants et al. 1996)
- Skin: Ecdysteroid-containing liposomes improve skin repair and quality by accelerating the healing of small wounds or burns and have been marketed in various commercial cosmetics. A dose of 5 mg/kg ecdysterone promotes differentiation of human keratinocytes in vitro and this could explain its ability to inhibit psoriasis.
What do researchers think about the health claims regarding ecdysteroids?
Dinan & Lafont (2006): (R)
Most internet claims for spectacular effects of ecdysteroids on humans and other mammals are unsubstantiated or apocryphal.
However, most reports in the scientific literature have demonstrated that the pharmacological effects of ecdysteroids in mammals are positive, and it is clear that ecdysteroids may influence/improve many physiological functions.
Unfortunately, no extensive, systematic trials on any mammalian species have been published.
Dietary intake of ecdysteroids is possible but limited for most humans, since the crop species which contain phytoecdysteroids are not extensively eaten.
Thus, there may be a future for ecdysteroids as dietary supplements to contribute to human-wellbeing (as “adaptogenic” substances).
However, more study is required to elucidate the metabolism of exogenous ecdysteroids in mammals and the biochemical modes of action of the parent ecdysteroids and their metabolites.
Why ecdysteroids might be ineffective in humans…
Ecdysteroids may be ineffective in humans due to bioavailability, half-life, and rapid elimination.
A study by Simon & Koolman (1989) assessed the pharmacokinetics of ecdysterone (E) and 20E administered orally at a dose of 0.2 mg/kg bodyweight to a male volunteer.
- Ecdysterone half-life: ~4 hours
- 20E half-life: ~9 hours
In lambs, half-life of 20E was contingent upon mode of administration: ~0.4 hours (oral); ~0.2 hours (IV); ~2 hours (IM). The half-life of ecdysterone seems to be shorter in smaller mammals.
Due to the rapid catabolism and subsequent elimination of ecdysteroids, it is unlikely that circulating ecdysteroid concentrations remain above the necessary threshold to activate gene switches to attain various physiological effects (e.g. increased muscle mass).
It is thought that slow-delivery systems (e.g. subcutaneous implants) could be a method for maintaining/sustaining ecdysteroid concentrations above a specific threshold for longer durations of time and thus activating necessary gene switches to derive certain physiologic effects.
Turkesterone Side Effects & Adverse Reactions
Understand that because no formal studies have been conducted with turkesterone in humans, side effect data specific to turkesterone are lacking.
If side effects are occurring from turkesterone, it is likely that they’ll increase in severity with higher doses (relative to lower doses).
Various websites “list” side effects associated with turkesterone – but it’s likely that they’re just guessing/hypothesizing or making them up.
- Stomach aches
- Appetite changes
- Mood changes: Possibly due to changes in neurochemistry from turkesterone.
- Dizziness & lightheadedness
- Bloating & water retention
- Allergic reactions: Itchiness, hives, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, etc.
Note: Some of these side effects may be due to “fillers” in supplement products and/or exercise itself rather than turkesterone. Other side effects may be due to a nocebo response.
Note: Side effects may be reduced by taking turkesterone with food or right after eating – rather than on an empty stomach (as is the case with many supplements).
Could turkesterone cause cancer?
Many things could cause cancer.
There was one study that found 20E stimulated the growth of mammary gland carcinomas in mice and rats.
These results cannot be extrapolated to humans using turkesterone because mice and rats are not humans, 20E is not turkesterone, and growth stimulation of carcinomas isn’t the same as causing the carcinomas to form.
Additionally, there are other studies that found anti-tumor/cancer effects associated with 20E and ecdysteroids.
Because turkesterone hasn’t been extensively evaluated in humans, it’s unknown as to whether it might cause cancer or prevent cancer.
It’s possible that turkesterone has zero impact on cancer risk because it may not exert an appreciable physiologic effect in humans due to lack of bioavailability and rapid elimination.
It’s also possible that turkesterone increases the risk of certain cancers while decreasing the risk of others and/or has individual-specific effects (contingent upon diet, lifestyle, genetics, etc.).
If you are concerned about a possible increased risk of cancer from turkesterone – I recommend not using it… pretty simple.
Is turkesterone safe for humans?
Unknown. There are numerous anecdotes from users claiming that it’s safe, but anecdotes are not a reliable way to gather data.
Turkesterone must be safe since it comes from plants though, right? Not necessarily.
There are many compounds derived from plants that are unsafe including: ricin, solanine, azadarin, andromedotoxin, glycosides, hyoscine, atropine, locoine, etc. (R)
Furthermore, with nearly every substance, the dosage makes the poison – higher doses are more likely to cause adverse events (assuming they occur).
However, Dinan & Lafont (2006) report that the acute toxicity of ecdysteroids in mammals is very low: the LD50 (dose at which 50% of animals die) for ecdysone is above 6 grams per kilogram of bodyweight.
Alleged anabolic benefits derived from ecdysteroids are thought to occur at around 10 mg/kg body weight – which is far lower than the established toxicity of ecdysteroids in rodents at a dose of 6400 mg/kg when injected and over 9000 mg/kg bodyweight when administered orally. (R1, R2)
Therefore, it is likely that turkesterone is safe for humans when administered at a standard recommended dosage.
I would guess that turkesterone is relatively safe considering the fact that turkesterone use as a supplement has skyrocketed in recent years there are zero medical case reports of adverse reactions stemming from turkesterone.
Does turkesterone affect hormones?
Unknown. As of current, there are only a couple studies that analyzed the effect of ecdysteroids on human hormones (i.e. endocrine parameters) and none involved turkesterone.
Insenmann et al. (2019) reported no significant alteration of the steroid profile after administration of ecdysterone (24 mg/day & 48 mg/day) in resistance-trained males over a 10-week period. (R)
Wilborn et al. (2006) reported no significant change in hormone status following 20-hydroxy-ecdysone (20E) supplementation in resistance-trained males – over an 8-week period. (R)
Assuming turkesterone acts similarly to other ecdysones evaluated in humans, it’s unlikely that turkesterone will significantly/appreciably alter hormone profiles – particularly at conventional/standard doses.
Does turkesterone help build muscle or enhance exercise performance?
Unknown. There are zero high-quality randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that have evaluated the anabolic potential and exercise enhancing potential of turkesterone in humans.
Therefore, it’s impossible to know whether turkesterone: (1) legitimately helps (build muscle/boost performance); (2) has no significant effect (muscle/performance); or (3) has a negative effect (e.g. catabolism and/or poorer performance).
Is turkesterone as effective as anabolic steroids?
Unlikely. At this time there’s no strong evidence to support the idea that turkesterone is an effective anabolic (i.e. muscle building) agent in humans.
In other words, we don’t even know whether turkesterone has any appreciable physiological effects in humans (such that would induce muscle protein synthesis and growth).
Even people who are convinced turkesterone works (e.g. Greg Doucette & Derek from MPMD) emphasize that turkesterone is NOT nearly as effective as anabolic steroids for muscle growth.
Turkesterone transformation? (Consider the confounds)
Many people who think turkesterone is effective for muscle growth and exercise performance enhancement may not actually be benefitting in any way from the turkesterone supplement.
- Placebo effect: Many people may purchase turkesterone with high conviction that it will be effective. And… the thought that it will work ultimately changes one’s physiology in ways that: (A) increase energy; (B) enhance recovery; (C) boost mood/focus; and (D) maximize gym “gains” – even if the turkesterone itself is doing nothing.
- Diet & exercise changes: Some people make adjustments to their diet and exercise routine while using turkesterone because they think it’s necessary to maximize its anabolic efficacy. They end up eating more protein, eating more total calories, and/or increasing the amount of exercise and notice “gains.” However, these gains are likely attributable to diet/exercise changes rather than the turkesterone.
- Additional lifting time: Assuming you do a 1-3 month “cycle” of turkesterone, you’d have likely experienced “gains” as an effect of time (combined with effective routine programming) regardless of turkesterone administration.
Moreover, it’s possible that some individuals experience significant strength/muscle and performance gains as a combined effect of: (A) placebo response; (B) diet/exercise adjustments; and (C) additional lifting time.
Therefore, it’s impossible to definitively know whether turkesterone had any effect regarding muscle building and gym performance because we cannot control for all of the confounds.
It’s also possible that turkesterone legitimately helps build muscle and/or enhances exercise performance – but that its effect size is so negligible it would be impossible to objectively detect the “gains.”
Included below are anecdotes from those who’ve done a turkesterone “cycle” or those who routinely administer turkesterone.
- Anecdote #1: I’ve cut about 15 lbs. while on turkesterone and gained or maintained size. Hard to tell if it’s from turkesterone though. (Dose: 1500 mg/day)
- Anecdote #2: I got some benefits from turkesterone while in a calorie deficit.
- Anecdote #3: I have tried turkesterone and saw strength and size gains but was also in a calorie surplus and training well.
- Anecdote #4: When I ran Turk for 6 months I saw results. I took measurements and concluded that I saw strength gains and leaned out. Definitely increased vascularity and I looked less flat without a pump. No significant muscle size growth but PRs went up ~25 lbs.
- Anecdote #5: Took 6 pills per day for 8 weeks. Didn’t notice anything except now I gotta take all these pills.
- Anecdote #6: Taken it. Not worth it. Did I notice anything? Maybe a little strength increase but at the price and amount of capsules I got it wasn’t worth it.
- Anecdote #7: Tried turkesterone for 3 months and saw significant changes in strength.
- Anecdote #8: Tried it and noticed a mild strength boost but nothing close to anabolic territory.
- Anecdote #9: Took 600 mg turkesterone per day and got good results over a period of several weeks in both strength and appearance.
- Anecdote #10: I definitely feel a difference with turkesterone. I have a bit more energy and can push harder in the gym – plus am recovering quicker.
If you want to try turkesterone for whatever reason(s), you may want to at least do a placebo-controlled self-experiment.
Buy some turkesterone; empty capsules with filler the same color as turkesterone; and 2 bottles that are identical.
Equalize the scent if you can detect differences in the scent between bottles (a non-toxic/edible chemical would be ideal for equalization).
Try a 1-3 month cycle of turkesterone and a 1-3 month cycle of the placebo (turkesterone look-alike) and compare things like: subjective energy level; body composition (baseline vs. post-treatment);
Keep diet (macros) and exercise regimen (or lack thereof) the exact same throughout the experiment – this includes sets, reps, weight, etc.
If you increase weight on lifts – compare this to normal expected progression and determine whether it seems “too fast” to be natural (relative to current experience) or if it seems normal.
This is probably the best way to reasonably guesstimate whether turkesterone is having any legitimate physiological effect – and even with this, it’s still very easy to fool onself.
How much does turkesterone cost? (Buying online)
Because none of these turkesterone supplements test every single batch via MS-GC (mass spectrometry) to verify dosing and legitimacy of ingredients – and none have been subject to independent third-party laboratory testing, it’s unclear how the quality is and/or whether it differs significantly.
Gorilla Mind Turkesterone: $59.99 for 60 capsules (500 mg per capsule of turkesterone hydroxypropyl-beta-cyclodextrin complex)
Double Wood Turkesterone: $39.95 for 120 capsules (500 mg per capsule)
I’ve heard “Gorilla Mind” makes a quality turkesterone supplement, but just because I heard this doesn’t mean it’s true. Marketers will say whatever is necessary to sell products.
If considering “value” for the $ – I’d say Double Wood Turkesterone is the best “bang-for-your-buck” (as you get 120 capsules with 500 mg turkesterone in each capsule).
Note: The above are my affiliate links so I earn a commission if you buy turkesterone via my links… cost is identical either way.
Turkesterone dosage (Optimal?)
According to Dinan & Lafont (2006) early ecdysteroid supplements designed for sportsmen such as “Ekdisten” and “Retibol” contained just 5 mg/tablet of 20E (ecdysone).
Since the early days, the market for ecdysteroid-containing preparations has matured and is now aimed at bodybuilders – with 300+ ecdysteroid-containing products available.
Many ecdysteroid supplements now contain large amounts of 20E (ecdysone) with formulations recommending up to 1 gram per day intake (often in conjunction with other anabolic agents).
Turkesterone at a dose of 5 mg per 1 kg body mass stimulates protein synthesis in mice – and this seems to be approximately the dosing that supplement companies are producing.
Most supplement companies recommend a dose of 500-600 mg turkesterone per day – which equates to ~450 mg for a 200 lb. (90.7 kg) person.
My thoughts on turkesterone supplementation…
It’s difficult to form a strong opinion on turkesterone supplementation due to the fact that there’s zero research specifically evaluating turkesterone in humans.
There are hordes of bodybuilders and YouTubers that hype this stuff to oblivion for various reasons including: being convinced it has an anabolic effect (either because it does OR from a placebo response) and/or to sell turkesterone products (and earn juicy affiliate $ commissions).
Preliminary evidence suggests that turkesterone may have anabolic effects in animals that are attained via mechanisms independent of androgen receptor activation.
Although there’s no quality evidence to support the idea that turkesterone and ecdysteroids (e.g. ecdysterone) induce anabolic effects in humans – it does seem as though ecdysteroids are likely to be safe and tolerable in humans.
Long-term effects remain relatively unknown due to the fact that the longest trial involving ecdysteroids was ~10 weeks.
- Low cost: Turkesterone can be purchased for ~$0.25-$1.00 per pill of 500-600 mg (standard dose). The cost isn’t that ridiculous – so it could be tested for relatively cheap if interested in self-experimentation.
- Potential scam (i.e. snake oil): Turkesterone might do nothing of physiological significance in humans, such that if you routinely supplement with it – it might be akin to wasting money. Many internet marketers love selling this stuff because it rakes in big-time $.
- Likely safe: Toxicology studies involving ecdysteroids in mammals and ecdysterone in humans suggests that they’re likely to be safe at standard doses (recommended by supplement manufacturers).
- Potentially dangerous: Although turkesterone hasn’t been reported as “dangerous” – those who use the substance at above-recommended dosages and/or for a long-term (e.g. years) might experience adverse long-term effects.
- Needs more research: Turkesterone warrants more research for the sake of consumers. It’s become an extremely popular dietary supplement. Ideally we’d have a university carry out this study with verified pure turkesterone.
- Placebo effect: Many turkesterone users are likely experiencing a placebo effect – such that dietary, exercise, and lifestyle changes made while using turkesterone are contributing to improvements in body composition and/or exercise performance rather than the turkesterone.
- Potentially effective: Absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence (regarding the effect of turkesterone on body composition and exercise performance). Future research may show that turkesterone is effective for improving body composition/exercise performance, but until this is proven, one should remain skeptical.
What do you think about turkesterone?
If you’ve used turkesterone, feel free to leave a comment about your experience. Consider providing additional details in your comment such as:
- Turkesterone specifics: Dosage; duration of use; brand/manufacturer
- How effective did you find turkesterone for building muscle? (Ineffective; modestly; moderately; highly)
- Did turkesterone improve any specific aspect of your health? (If so, what?)
- Did you experience any side effects/adverse reactions? (If so, what were they?)
- Confounding factors: Dietary changes, other supplements/drugs, training regimen, etc.