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Quick Dendrobium Summary Points

  • Dendrobium refers to a a range of orchids, however in the context of supplements, it refers to the one particular species; the dendrobium nobile.
  • Extracts from this plant have a wide variety of function, one of the main ones being a stimulant and mood enhancer.
  • It is often used in pre workouts and fat burners to help you train longer and boost motivation.
  • 6-12g of dendrobium as a herbal medicine is usually taken, however, much less of the extract is required for effect.
  • Dendrobium extract should be taken 30-45 minutes prior to training or 30 minutes before a meal for best effect.

What is Dendrobium?

Generally speaking, Dendrobium refers to a large genus of orchids. However, in the context of bodybuilding and supplements, it refers specifically to one particular species, Dendrobium nobile, or “the noble Dendrobium”. This species has been used in traditional Chinese medication for centuries but has recently made a strong impact on the bodybuilding supplement industry as a result of its reported benefits.

Where Does Dendrobium Come From?

Dendrobium is native to areas of Asia such as the Himalaya, Nepal, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. Being a beautiful ornamental species, they are among the most widely cultivated orchids.

Benefits of Dendrobium

Traditionally, Dendrobium (referred to as Shi Hu) has been used to treat countless ailments such as those related to the kidneys, lungs, and stomach. It has also been used in the treatment of mild fevers, impotence and even diabetes. Recently, animal studies have provided evidence that Dendrobium does indeed have antipyretic (anti fever) and analgesic (pain relieving) properties (Hossain, 2011). This wide range of activities is thanks to the large variety of different alkaloid compounds present in Dendrobium. Examples of such include dendrobine, denframine, dendroxine, and derivatives of phenylethylamine (or PEA), which has many benefits in its own right (including elevating mood).

Benefits of Dendrobium for Bodybuilding

Despite the well-known benefits of Dendrobium to traditional Chinese medicine practitioners, it remained virtually unknown to the bodybuilding industry. However, it wasn’t too long ago when Driven Sports picked up on the potential for Dendrobium to be used in supplements, which lead to other companies following suit. This is because, on top of the many other benefits, Dendrobium extract also acts as a central nervous system stimulant (Chen & Chen, 1935). When combined with its analgesic properties, and the mood lifting effects of PEA, Dendrobium makes a very attractive ingredient for use in pre workout supplements to help you train harder, or in fat burners to ramp your metabolism and help you stay positive.

Dendrobium Negatives and Side Effects

At the moment it is very easy to find studies on the chemical constituents of Dendrobium. However, there is a general lack of information on the effects of Dendrobium on human subjects in a clinical setting. Such research would be highly valued and it would be of great interest for the bodybuilding community to have access to information regarding its ergogenic potential.

The American Herbal Products Association considers Dendrobium to be safe when consumed at an appropriate dose. However, given that it does have central nervous system stimulating properties, it can be expected for high doses to cause side effects such as dizziness, anxiety, and sleeplessness in sensitive individuals.

Dendrobium Recommended Doses and Ingredient Timing

The recommended dose as a herbal medicine is 6 to 12 grams. However, in supplements, dendrobium extract is often concentrated and standardised, which means you will be consuming a seemingly small amount. For use as a pre workout supplement, it is recommended that you consume Dendrobium around 30 to 45 minutes before training. As a fat loss aid, Dendrobium may be most beneficial if taken first thing in the morning around 30 minutes before a meal.

Dendrobium Supplements

Dendrobium can be found as a stand-alone supplement. It is not currently a common ingredient to the same extent as caffeine. However, it is starting to make its way into the ingredient lists of the more innovative concentrated pre workout supplements and fat burners.

Stacking Dendrobium

Dendrobium can be stacked with a variety of other stimulants and thermogenics such as caffeine and green tea. Such mixtures are already appearing in bodybuilding supplements. These are probably the better option instead of attempting to formulate your own home brew using pure Dendrobium.

Chen & Chen (1935), The pharmacological action of dendrobine. The alkaloid of Chin-Shih-Hu. JPET, 55: 319-325
Hossain (2011), Therapeutic orchids: traditional uses and recent advances — An overview. Fitoterapia, 82: 102-140

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