Traditional herbalists in Korea treat children whose growth is stunted with extracts of Astragalus membranaceus, Phlomis umbrosa and Eleutherococcus senticosus. A mix containing these herbs is now marketed in Korea as HT042. Pharmacologists from Kyung Hee University will soon publish the results of an animal study in which young rats grew one and a half times as fast when given HT042 as a supplement. The Koreans published an article two years ago about the growth effects of HT042.[J Med Food. 2010 Dec;13(6):1376-84.] They gave the extract to 3-week-old female rats for four days and found that HT042 boosted the rats’ growth. The combination of astragalus, Phlomis umbrosa and Siberian ginseng boosted the activity of IGF-1 in the growth plates of the bones.
In the article that will be published soon in Phytotherapy Research the Koreans repeated their experiment, but gave rats the supplement for three weeks. Again female rats aged three weeks were given a mixture of alcohol extracts of Astragalus membranaceus, Phlomis umbrosa and Eleutherococcus senticosus in a ratio of 31.2:26.5:42.3. The researchers gave the rats the supplements orally twice a day. The animals were given 100 mg HT042 per kg bodyweight per day. The human equivalent of this dose would be about 16 mg per kg bodyweight per day.
The researchers used two control groups. One group was given nothing [Control], the other was given a daily injection of 20 mcg human growth hormone [rhGH] per kg bodyweight.
The figure below shows that the supplement increased the concentration of IGF-1 and – to a lesser extent – the ‘good binding protein’ IGF-BP3 in the growth plates in comparison with the control groups. IGF-BP3 transports IGF-1 without reducing the activity of the growth factor. The bigger the clumps, the more IGF-1 and IGF-BP3.
RZ = resting zone; PZ = proliferative zone; HZ = hypertrophic zone. The length growth of the bones actually takes place in the hypertrophic zone.
The IGF-1 concentration in the blood also rose.
The table below shows that the rats in the control group grew about 34 cm. The rats in the HT042 grew 52 cm. The experimental group animals grew one and a half times as fast as a result of taking the supplement.
The researchers also looked at whether HT042 also has oestrogenic properties. Oestrogen supplementation may increase the aging of growth plates, so that growth in length stops. However the Koreans found no effects on the rats’ reproductive organs and therefore conclude that HT042 contains no oestrogenic components.
“Together, these results suggest that HT042 promotes cell proliferation and bone growth at the epiphyseal plate without oestrogenic activity”, the researchers conclude. “HT042 might be helpful in improving the short stature of children before the pubertal growth spurt.”
Yakult co-financed the study.
Whether it’s sensible to give a supplement like HT042 to children? We have our doubts. Not enough is known yet about side effects. In Korea HT042 is only available with a doctor’s prescription.