“There’s demand for it in sports nutrition—athletes, body builders, any power lifters,” Michael Hohner, director of sports nutrition at Maypro, told NutraIngredients-USA. The company is partnering up with South Africa-based Afrigetics Botanicals, the extract’s developer, to market it in the US with the brand name AnaTest, which launched last week at the Ingredient Marketplace show in Orlando, FL.
Application-wise, Hohner said that it can be used best in creams, encapsulation, or powders. Traditionally, the Zulu boiled the succulent bulb into a tisane. “[The Zulu] would harvest it, slice it up, and boil it fresh in hot water, and drink it with milk,” said Steve Hurt, owner of Afrigetics. By the Zulu, the plant is known as ibhucu¸ and by the Xhosa as ingcelwane.
Getting in with the body builders
There haven’t been any human studies done on Bulbine natalensis. Hurt said they are talking with labs to help pinpoint which actives in the bulb that makes it do its job.
One modern study Hurt attributed to the folkloric bulb’s popularity in body building communities was conducted by researchers in Fort Hare University, published in the journal Pharmaceutical Biology in 2010.
“In the rats they gave the extract of Bulbine, it raised the testosterone levels 350%. And then I think this got out to some of the body building forums,” Hurt said about the bulb’s early reputation.
“It’s mostly been rat studies, but we’ve done in-house trials, basic bloodwork,” Hurt added. “And we saw 35% increase of testosterone over two weeks. When we saw that, we knew this is something we could work with.”
A premium ingredient
Hurt was closed-lipped when it came to the geographic characteristic of where Bulbine natalensis grows. “It’s part of our wisdom, knowing horticulturally where to find it,” he said. Afrigetics specializes in wild-harvesting its botanicals, and employing indigenous communities to do this.
“The communities we approach in the rural areas get a financial benefit, not just by selling their plants but they also get a profit share,” he said.
Because of the bulb’s rareness, as well as the measures that need to be taken to harvest it, Maypro and Afrigetics intend to market it as a premium product. “We can’t go into a mass distribution as of now, it’s definitely intended to be a commodity type product,” Hohner said.
"The ingredient has not gone through the NDI or GRAS process yet but we are working with Ingredient Identity to establish this as soon as possible," Hurt added.
To help unshroud the mystery around the bulb, as well as prove its efficacy, Hurt said that the plant has been registered to the American Botanical Council’s Adopt-an-Herb program. “The idea behind that is to start developing a good database on research and to eventually build a monograph of the plant,” Hurt said. “Hopefully it will start building a steady future for the plant.”