Laxogenin is a muscle-building plant-derived supplement. Many athletes and bodybuilders turn to it as a safer means to gain muscles and enhance performance, seeking to avoid the adverse effects of steroids. But is laxogenin even natural, is it a prohormone, and how does it work? Read on to find out.

What Is Laxogenin?

Steroid From Plants

Laxogenin (3beta-hydroxy-25D,5alpha-spirostan-6-one) is a compound sold in various forms as a muscle-toning supplement. It belongs to a class of plant hormones called brassinosteroids, which have a similar structure to animal steroid hormones. In plants, they work to boost growth [1, 2].

The underground stems of the Asian plant Smilax sieboldii contain approximately 0.06% laxogenin and are its main natural source. Laxogenin is also obtained from Chinese onion (Allium chinense) bulbs [3, 4, 5, 6].

Laxogenin in supplements is produced from the more common plant steroid, diosgenin. In fact, diosgenin is used as a raw material for over 50% of synthetic steroids including progesterone, cortisone, and testosterone [7, 8].

Although often advertised as “natural”, most supplements don’t contain laxogenin but its synthetic derivative: 5a-hydroxy laxogenin (laxosterone).

An analysis of 12 different supplements found that 5a-hydroxy laxogenin is always derived from synthetic laxogenin. Importantly, 5 supplements didn’t have 5a-hydroxy laxogenin at all and 8 were contaminated with untested diosgenin [9].

Laxogenin is a natural steroid found in different plants, but most supplements contain its synthetic derivative, 5a-hydroxy laxogenin, and untested contaminants.

Snapshot

PROs

  • Mostly positive reviews
  • Fewer side effects than prohormones and steroids
  • Commonly stacked with other supplements
  • Being researched for cancer, diabetes, and tissue damage

CONs

  • No clinical trials and only a few animal and cell studies
  • Synthetically produced
  • Low-quality and untested supplements

Putative Effects

5a-hydroxy laxogenin is typically advertised to [10, 11, 12]:

  • Build muscle
  • Burn fat stores
  • Enhance physical performance and recovery
  • Lower cortisol

As opposed to typical muscle-building steroids, laxogenin is not a steroid or prohormone. This means that it will not be converted to the more powerful male sex hormones (testosterone and dihydrotestosterone) in the body, nor does it run the risk of raising estrogen.

As a result, laxogenin probably won’t cause unwanted effects such as [13]:

  • Sex hormone imbalances or testosterone suppression
  • Need for post-cycle therapy (PCT) to restore testosterone production
  • Testing positive for steroids in anti-doping tests
  • Liver and kidney damage

However, the evidence behind its effectiveness is insufficient, according to sports nutrition authorities [12].

This leaves laxogenin hanging somewhere in the grey area — not entirely natural or synthetic, not dangerous but not effective either.

Laxogenin supposedly boosts muscle growth and fat burning without causing the side effects of typical steroids. However, the evidence to back up these claims is scarce.

Genetics

Laxogenin possibly increases muscle building by activating AKT1. People with mutations in this messenger protein may have an altered response to laxogenin [14].

Is Laxogenin legal?

Yes, laxogenin is currently classified as a dietary supplement.

How Laxogenin Works

Not a Prohormone

Laxogenin is often falsely labeled as a prohormone. A prohormone is a substance used as the building block for hormone production—hence the term PROhormone. The most popular ones are androgenic prohormones, which the body converts to testosterone.

However, laxogenin is a plant steroid, somewhat similar to cholesterol-derived human sex hormones. But being a unique plant-derived compound, laxogenin affects different pathways in the body.

Human steroid hormones like testosterone act by affecting the nuclear receptors. Plant steroids like laxogenin (brassinosteroids) clearly increase growth in plants, but their effects on humans and animals are much more obscure [15, 14].

Despite the common misconception, laxogenin is not a prohormone. It’s similar to sex hormones but acts in a different way.

Mechanism

Plant steroids act through a completely different pathway than human steroid hormones. They attach only to the cell surface, which sets off a signal to increase muscle building to the inside of the cell [15, 14].

More specifically, they activate a protein, known as AKT1 or protein kinase B, that enhances muscle building and prevents the breakdown of muscle proteins [15, 16, 17].

Additionally, natural laxogenin derivatives block the enzyme that breaks down cAMP (phosphodiesterase). This increases cAMP levels, enhancing fat breakdown and activating the fight-or-flight (sympathetic) response [4, 18].

Laxogenin supports muscle building and fat breakdown by activating an anabolic protein and the fight-or-flight response.

Anabolic Effects

Laxogenin is sold as a muscle toning supplement for athletes and bodybuilders. It’s claimed to increase protein production in muscles by 200%.

In an old Russian study in rats, brassinosteroid derivatives with a similar structure to laxogenin increased total weight and protein content of the liver, heart, kidneys, and leg muscles without raising the levels of sex hormones or mimicking their effects [19].

Similarly, another plant brassinosteroid increased food intake, weight gain, lean body weight, the weight of leg muscles, and physical fitness in rats. In muscle cells, both this molecule and its synthetic derivatives promoted protein production and reduced protein breakdown [14, 15].

A class of plant chemicals with a similar structure to brassinosteroids (phytoecdysteroids) increased muscle growth in animals and protein production in muscle cells [20, 21, 22, 23].

While all these substances are similar, they are not identical. It is possible that laxogenin (and its derivatives in supplements) have similar anabolic effects. But since these have not been studied yet, we are still in the dark when it comes to the muscle-building potential of laxogenin.

Laxogenin-like compounds stimulate protein production, muscle growth, and physical fitness in animals. Laxogenin may have similar anabolic effects, but studies are yet to confirm this.

Other Potential Laxogenin Benefits

1) Fighting Cancer

Laxogenin reduced lung tumor formation in mice. Natural and synthetic laxogenin derivatives killed leukemia and colon cancer cells in 2 studies [6, 24, 25].

Other natural and synthetic brassinosteroids killed prostate cancer cells and blocked tumor growth in cell studies [26, 27].

2) Lowering Blood Sugar Levels

In obese mice, a plant brassinosteroid (homobrassinolide) reduced blood sugar levels, sugar production in the liver, and insulin resistance. In cells, it prevented the activation of two enzymes that make sugar from protein and fat [28].

3) Reducing Tissue Damage

In a cell study, a natural laxogenin derivative prevented tissue damage from free radicals and poor oxygen supply. This suggests laxogenin may be able to neutralize oxidative stress, which would explain its beneficial effects on muscle recovery. However, animal and human studies are needed [29, 30].

According to animal and cell studies, laxogenin and similar compounds may combat cancer, lower blood sugar, and prevent tissue damage caused by oxidative stress.

Limitations and Caveats

Both the muscle-building effects and other potential uses of laxogenin have only been tested in animals and cells. Clinical trials are required to evaluate the effectiveness and side effects of laxogenin products.

Additionally, none of the studies used the compound usually found in available supplements: 5a-hydroxy laxogenin. Instead, they tested laxogenin, natural and synthetic laxogenin derivatives, and similar compounds.

The study most commonly cited by supplement manufacturers is old (1976) and hasn’t been translated from Russian.

Only animal and cell studies have tested laxogenin so far, and none of them used the compound found in most supplements: 5a-hydroxy laxogenin.

Laxogenin Side Effects

The most common side effects of Smilax supplements are stomach upset and kidney disorders. At large doses, they may cause diarrhea, excessive urination, headaches, and shock [31, 11].

Due to the risk of kidney damage, people with kidney disease (or taking drugs eliminated through urine) should avoid laxogenin and Smilax supplements [11].

However, it’s important to note that most of these effects refer to supplements obtained from other Smilax species, such as sarsaparilla, that may not contain any laxogenin.

Laxogenin was safe in animal studies. However, no studies have confirmed its safety in humans. Anecdotally, users reported headaches with high oral doses (~200mg).

Laxogenin was safe in animals, but no studies have confirmed its safety in humans. Users taking high oral doses report headaches.

Laxogenin Dosage and Supplements

Dosage

Since there are no dosage data from clinical trials, the manufacturers and users established unofficial dosage guidelines based on trial and error.

The recommended dose is usually 100 mg/day for 4-12 week cycles, followed by an off-cycle period of 4 weeks. Some users claim it’s not necessary to cycle it off.

Most users claim that laxogenin can be safely stacked with other substances. Some use it alongside PCT, while others take it to maintain muscle gains during their off-cycle periods.

Users and manufacturers recommended dosing laxogenin at 100 mg/day for 4-12 weeks.

Supplements & Formulations

Laxogenin is usually sold in capsules. Other forms include liquid emulsions and topical creams. Each serving (1 capsule, 0.5 mL liquid emulsion, or 2 mL cream) contains 25 – 100 mg of 5a-hydroxy laxogenin. Some of the most popular laxogenin products include:

  • Primavar (Primeval Labs)
  • Nano Genin (Assault Nano Series)
  • Anafuse (Vital Labs)
  • Secreta Bridge (LGI)
  • Ano-Genin (Blackstone Labs)
  • STR3NGTH (Olympus Labs)
  • Halo (Redcon1)

Recently, Olympus Labs launched a transdermal laxogenin called DermaSTRENGTH. The rationale was to boost laxogenin’s poor oral bioavailability.

Laxogenin is available in capsules, liquid emulsions, and skin creams. Each serving contains 25 – 100 mg of 5a-hydroxy laxogenin.

User Experiences

Overall, laxogenin seems to have milder side effects but offers weaker gains than most bodybuilding substances such as Ostarine. A handful of users proclaimed it as potent as Anavar (Oxandrolone), although most agreed that the effects of laxogenin are much milder.

Most laxogenin users were satisfied with its effects on muscle weight gain, physical strength and endurance, and recovery from fatigue and injuries. Although less effective than prohormone steroids, it was preferable due to its lack of adverse effects.

While it worked at doses as low as 50 mg for some users, others reported no effects even at 200 mg. This could be due to different supplement brands and their quality.

A lot of users stacked laxogenin with other compounds, epicatechin being the most common choice. Users who combined them were generally satisfied and reported good lean muscle gains, fat loss, and enhanced physical performance.

The high price of the supplement and headaches at higher doses (200 mg) were the most common complaints.

Some users took laxogenin during their off periods, after cycling other muscle-building compounds. They claimed that laxogenin prevented muscle loss and sustained muscle gains.

A handful of women also used laxogenin supplements. They were usually satisfied and reported good muscle toning and fat loss without the masculinizing effects of prohormones or steroids.

Users praise laxogenin for decent muscle-building effects and great safety. They stack it with other supplements and use it after cycles.

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Takeaway

Laxogenin is a natural steroid found in different plants. Most supplements contain its synthetic derivative, 5a-hydroxy laxogenin, and untested contaminants.

Supposedly, laxogenin boosts muscle growth and fat burning without steroid-like side effects. It was safe in animal studies, but no clinical trials have tested it yet.

Based on limited research, laxogenin may stimulate muscle growth, physical fitness, and muscle recovery. It might also fight cancer and reduce blood sugar.

Users praise laxogenin for decent muscle gains and good safety. Some complain about headaches at higher doses.

About the Author

Carlos Tello, PhD (Molecular Biology)

PhD (Molecular Biology)

Carlos received his PhD and MS from the Universidad de Sevilla.

Carlos spent 9 years in the laboratory investigating mineral transport in plants. He then started working as a freelancer, mainly in science writing, editing, and consulting. Carlos is passionate about learning the mechanisms behind biological processes and communicating science to both academic and non-academic audiences. He strongly believes that scientific literacy is crucial to maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid falling for scams.

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