Increasing human growth hormone, or HGH, in a person can offer many health benefits, including muscle growth, weight loss, anti-aging, cognitive enhancement, and improved sexual function. When we discuss HGH supplements, though, there is a catch.
The most effective way to increase HGH is through HGH injections. Injections are prohibitively expensive, controversial, and illegal for all but a select few medical conditions. HGH as oral supplements might be legal, but the hormone would be broken down in the digestive tract and become largely ineffective.
The solution to this dilemma is to take oral supplements that are precursors to HGH — there are several natural supplements that enhance HGH release from the pituitary gland.
- What Is Human Growth Hormone (HGH)?
- The Body’s Natural Decline in HGH Levels
- The Legality of HGH Injections
- Anti-Aging Benefits of HGH
- Increasing HGH With Nutritional Supplements
What Is Human Growth Hormone (HGH)?
Hormones are a type of chemical messenger that travel throughout the bloodstream with the purpose of assisting organs and tissues function properly.
HGH Is One of Dozens of Hormones
There are about 50 different hormones, each serving its own purpose, and each secreted by one of several glands. Hormones help in reproduction, sexual function, metabolism, body growth and development, and other activities of the body.
When a person experiences unusual and unexplained weight loss or gain its often the functioning of the thyroid gland that a physician will be interested in. That’s because the thyroid two hormones — triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) — that contribute to controlling the metabolism of the body. These hormones play a role in regulating weight and energy level.
Insulin is a hormone just about everyone has heard of. Insulin is released by the pancreas and works to keep a person’s blood sugar level stable.
Estrogen and progesterone are female sex hormones released by the ovaries, and play important roles in menopause, menstruation, pregnancy, and reproduction. For males, the sex hormone is testosterone — it plays a role in regulating libido (sex drive), muscle mass and strength, bone mass, and the production of sperm.
Those are just a few of the hormones most people have heard of. Another hormone most everyone is familiar with is the subject of this article — human growth hormone.
How HGH Carries Out Its Functions
Human growth hormone (HGH) — also known in simply growth hormone (GH), or somatotropin — is a peptide hormone. A peptide is a molecule consisting of short chains of between two and fifty amino acids. The bonds that hold together these amino acids are known as peptide bonds.
HGH Is Produced by the Pituitary Gland
HGH is a product of the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain, and is said to be the master gland of the body. The pituitary gland, with its release of human growth hormone, promotes linear (height) growth in children and adolescents — thus the human growth part of the hormone name human growth hormone.
While best known of its effects on growth, HGH also plays other roles — it stimulates cell reproduction and regeneration, thereby helping to repair, build, and maintain healthy tissue in the brain and other organs, and it helps burn fat, boost metabolism, and increase muscle mass. Which all hints at its popularity in the field of anti-aging.
HGH performs its tasks by binding directly to specific receptors on muscles, bone, ligaments, tendons, fat, and all the major organs.
HGH and Growth Factor IGF-1 Work Together
HGH also works in a second way — it works indirectly by stimulating the liver to generate and secrete insulin-like growth factor-1, or IGF-1. IGF-1 are polypeptide (chains of more than 50 amino acids) molecules, and there are receptors throughout the body that respond to IGF-1 to enable IGF-1 to do its work (in a manner similar to how there are HGH receptors throughout the body that respond to HGH).
IGF-1 is a primary mediator of the effects of HGH. That is, IGF-1 induces, or carries out, the activity HGH intends to happen. In short, the pituitary releases HGH, HGH stimulates the production of IGF-1 by the liver, and IGF-1 is responsible for carrying out growth-promoting actions. So, it turns out that it’s IGF-1 that is carrying out much of the work that gets attributed to HGH. It might seem a little unfair to the lesser-known IGF-1 that HGH gets all the credit, but without increasing the levels of HGH, there would be no way to bring about major increases in IGF-1 levels.
Together, HGH and IGF-1 play very key roles in almost every human system — metabolism regulation, tissue repair and growth, bone and muscle health, and even brain function and cardiac health.
The Body’s Natural Decline in HGH Levels
When a person is young, an abundance of HGH is always available to handle the body’s demands of energy, lean muscle and minimal fat, growth in height, and a healthy metabolism. It doesn’t take long, though, until the body’s HGH levels start their inevitable, and continual, drop. HGH levels begin their drop at around age 25, and decrease by roughly 50% every seven years after that. And because HGH levels drop, so to do IGF-1 levels.
The decrease in the production of HGH (and IGF-1) is reflected in a host of negative aspects — fat accumulation (especially around the middle of the body), loss of bone density, decreases in muscle mass and strength, disrupted sleep, sagging skin, and a decrease in cognition. Collectively we think of all these things as signs of aging. Since all of these issues arise from a lessening of HGH, it make sense that so many people view boosting HGH to optimum levels is a big part of their anti-aging regimen.
The Legality of HGH Injections
In the United States human growth hormone (HGH) is the active ingredient in several injectable prescription drugs that have the approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But these FDA approved drugs can be legally prescribed only for a very limited number of specific conditions:
- Long-term treatment of short stature caused by Turner syndrome
- Short stature in children specifically caused by hormonal deficiency
- Long-term treatment of growth failure due to lack of natural HGH production
- Adult deficiency resulting from rare pituitary gland tumors
- Muscle-wasting associated with HIV/AIDS
- Adult short bowel syndrome
Note that HGH injections are not FDA approved for building muscle or as an anti-aging treatment — using HGH for a condition that isn’t approved is illegal.
HGH injections aren’t legal for ‘casual’ applications and are very expensive (sometimes costing more than $1000 for a single dose). Taking HGH orally isn’t helpful because it would be broken down in the digestive tract, making it useless for the goal of increasing HGH levels in the body. That’s why people take HGH precursors — supplements that don’t contain HGH themselves, but rather ingredients that promote the body to produce and release HGH. These HGH precursors are legal, nowhere near as expensive as injectable HGH, they don’t become ineffective during digestion, and they encourage the pituitary glad to release more HGH.
Anti-Aging Benefits of HGH
As people age, they’re bodies make less and less HGH. Human growth hormone affects many systems of the human body, so it makes sense that the decrease in HGH levels over time contribute to the negative aspects of aging. And it also then makes sense that increasing HGH as a person ages may counteract some or all of those negative issues, and thus be a tool in the fight against aging.
While HGH can’t literally turn back time, it may play a role in slowing down or even reversing many of the negative effects of aging. In regards to anti-aging the benefits of increased HGH levels may include:
- Increased muscle mass
- Greater strength
- Decreased body fat
- Increased endurance
- Faster metabolism
- Increased bone density
- Faster healing from injury
- Improved skin texture and complexion
- Thicker hair
- Improved cognitive function including mental sharpness, alertness, memory, and concentration
- Reduced age-related height shrinkage
- Better sleep quality
- Enhanced mood
- Better sense of well-being
- Increased sexual libido and performance
- Reduced risk of heart disease
Benefits of HGH on the Immune System
The thymus is the primary organ responsible for a properly functioning immune system. T-cells — a type of white blood cells essential to the immune system — mature in the thymus. Thymic involution — the natural, gradual shrinking of the thymus with age — begins in a person as young as 10 years old. Thymic involution is a big contributing factor in the decline of the immune system that occurs as a person ages, and leads to a decrease in tissue mass and the depletion of important immune cells. This in turn leads to increases in autoimmune diseases, cancers and infectious diseases.
HGH supplementation has been shown to help rejuvenate the thymus and therefore boost our immune systems. Recently a two year human clinical trial (called TRIIM, for Thymus Regeneration, Immunorestoration, Insulin Mitigation) was conducted in attempt to reverse certain aspects of human aging. The trial used HGH on a group of 51 to 65 year old healthy men, and monitored changes to the men’s thymus and blood immune cell counts. The trial yielded impressive results, with regeneration of the thymus, lowered fat tissue, and reduced biological age in the participants.
Benefits of HGH on Cognition
If it seems odd that a growth hormone plays an important role in cognition, you should keep in mind that almost all organs have receptors specifically tuned to “latch on” to HGH to make use of this hormone. Consider the brain:
- Hypothalamus: The HGH receptors in this small part of the brain help regulate hormone secretions
- Hippocampus: This area in the brain is associated with emotions, learning and the formation of new memories — HGH receptors stimulate memory, cognitive functions, motivation, and alertness
- Choroid Plexus: The HGH receptors in this mass of cells in the brain help in the transport of HGH across the blood-brain barrier
HGH receptors in the brain also help to stimulate emotional well-being and mood. HGH helps to repair damaged brain tissue, and is part of the process of producing proteins associated with memory storage. Clinical trials have shown that treatment with HGH releasing hormone yields positive cognitive effects in adults with mild cognitive impairment as well as in healthy older adults, according to a randomized clinical trial.
Benefits of HGH on Bones and Muscles
Knowing that one of the few FDA approved uses for HGH injections is as a treatment for hormonal deficiency that causes short stature in children, it should come as no surprise that HGH has a positive effect on bone growth. HGH contributes to bone healing as well.
As HGH levels naturally drop with aging, the rate of bone regeneration becomes an issue — that’s one of the reasons for the major concern for elderly people who break a major bone, such as a hip. By taking HGH supplements a person’s body can regenerate new bone cells faster and more efficiently, leading to stronger bones even in old age.
The role in HGH for muscle tissue growth is well known. Go to any website that sells bodybuilding supplements and you’ll find several HGH-related products. Study after study has shown that people who supplement their HGH and worked out had dramatically more muscle tissue than people that worked out but did not boost their HGH.
Benefits of HGH on Skin
When we speak of anti-aging we’re often referring to living longer, or living healthier as we age. But for many people anti-aging is all about looking younger. That means better skin, and here again HGH can play a role.
Skin covers and helps protect what lies beneath — blood vessels and muscles — from damage. Skin includes a large amount of elastin and collagen — these substances keep skin thick, plump, and supple. With aging comes a decrease in both elastin and collagen, and that drop leads to skin that is thinner and drier — which means wrinkles, sagging, cellulite, and age spots. HGH stimulates production of both elastin and collagen, leading to thicker, tighter, firmer skin.
Benefits of HGH on Libido and Sexual Performance
Sexual satisfaction often lowers with age — for both men and women. For men, this can be manifested in more difficulty achieving an erection, premature ejaculation, or difficulty reaching arousal. For women, this might stem from a lack of vaginal lubrication which leads to dryness and painful intercourse. For both men and women it can mean a diminished interest in sex.
We’ve mentioned above that when it comes to cognition, HGH has profound effects on the brain. Libido, or sex drive, begins in the brain. HGH brain receptors stimulate focus, memory, learning, emotions, and — sexual desire.
HGH can increase testosterone production, which is directly associated to the level of libido in men. And while the use of HGH supplements for treating erectile dysfunction (ED) has not been sufficiently studied, their is increasing evidence that patients with ED have lower levels of HGH as opposed to men without similar problems.
When it comes to satisfying sexual encounters, vaginal dryness can often be a major factor for women — it makes intercourse less than pleasant, and often quite painful. One of the HGH benefits for sexual function in females is better vaginal lubrication, resulting in more pleasing intercourse.
Increasing HGH With Nutritional Supplements
As we age, HGH levels naturally drop. By mid-life the HGH level in a person are but a fraction of the level during youth. While HGH injections generally supply their desired results, they are legal only for limited applications, are hugely expensive, and not without some controversy. Fortunately specific nutritional supplements are an alternate strategy to boost HGH production.
Unlike an HGH injection that immediately increases a person’s HGH level by actually supplying the body with additional HGH, supplements don’t contain human growth hormone. Instead, they work by signaling the pituitary to generate, or release more HGH. That’s why HGH supplements are often referred to as HGH precursors, HGH enhancers, HGH releasers, or HGH secretagogues — the terms all mean the same thing.
The website hgh.com sells a variety of — you guessed it — HGH supplements. Their HGF MAX product includes 10 ingredients, all known for their HGH releasing potential.
If you are looking for a quality HGH product, you are going to pay quality HGH prices. Due to the ingredients and technology that go into HGH supplements, a very inexpensive HGH supplement is most likely a scam. Any natural HGH product is only as good as its ingredients and the research and manufacturing methods that have gone into making it. The bottom line is that inferior ingredients will yield inferior results.
Astragalus (Astragalus Membranaceous)
Astragalus membranaceous, also called milkvetch, goat’s-thorn, or simply Astragalus, is a plant that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for centuries to treat a variety of disorders. Extracts of the plant’s root include a number of polyphenols — chemicals that are excellent antioxidants that protect cells from the damage of free radicals.
Astragalus has been successfuly used to bring about height growth in children with a mild degree of short stature. In such cases astragalus is believed to have both stimulated bone growth and HGH secretion.
Phosphatidylcholine (PC, CDP-Choline, Citicoline)
Most HGH enhancers achieve their results by directly encouraging the pituitary gland to produce more HGH. There are a few other HGH enhancers that instead work by lessening somatostatin (also known as growth hormone-inhibiting hormone, or GHIH). Somatostatin is produced by the hypothalamus and inhibits the release of HGH from the pituitary gland. Somatostatin puts the brakes on HGH production, so reducing a body’s somatostatin frees the pituitary gland to release more HGH. Studies show that phosphatidylcholine (also referred to as PC, CDP-choline, or citicoline) is one such somatostatin blocker.
Phosphatidylcholine plays other important roles in addition to being a somatostatin blocker. Choline is used in the synthesis of phospholipids — structural components of cell membranes that help the membranes maintain their flexibility and strength. Phosphatidylcholine is a particular type of choline, and accounts for close to 95% of the total choline found in tissues. Additionally, PC is thought to support the release of the key neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.
A number of amino acids have been shown to contribute to HGH release. Most notably these include: L-arginine, L-lysine, L-tyrosine, L-ornithine, L-glycine and L-glutamine.
Like Phosphatidylcholine (CDP-Choline), the amino acid L-arginine encourages HGH release by inhibiting somatostatin. While extensive study on HGH release properties of many supplements is scarce, there is a large amount of scientific research on the effects of L-arginine on HGH release. So much so that the standard test for the ability of the pituitary gland to release HGH involves the administration of a large dose of L-arginine. To provoke the pituitary gland into releasing HGH an intravenous infusion of L-arginine is used.
Providing benefits to build muscles, heart health repairing wounds, and improving male fertility, L-arginine is considered one of — if not the — most versatile of all the amino acids.
L-lysine is an essential amino acid that is important for proper growth and tissue repair. L-lysine, along with the amino acid L-methionine, produce L-carnitine. L-carnitine helps in converting fatty acids into energy.
In many cases combinations of amino acids have a synergistic effect that make “the whole greater than the sum of the parts.” This is true in the case of HGH releasing and the amino acids L-arginine and L-lysine. In fact, the combination of L-lysine and L-arginine is one of the first HGH releasers proven effective by scientific research.
L-glycine is an amino acid that is an important component of collagen. It’s also well-established that L-glycine increases strength in athletes. L-glycine is an HGH releaser, but its releasing effect works best when HG is already being released. HGH is naturally released by the body during resistance training, so that’s when L-glycine is most effective as an HGH enhancer — it’s much less effective when taken on a day when no workout is planned.
L-ornithine is an amino acid that is derived from another amino acid — L-arginine. L-arginine does play a role in triggering the secretion of human growth hormone but, like L-glycine, it works best when taken close to a resistance training session. It’s thought that L-ornithine triggers the hypothalamus to secrete a variety of hormones, not just HGH.
Like L-lysine, L-ornithine works best as an HGH releaser when it is taken along with L-arginine.
L-glutamine is the amino acid most used by the body — especially during periods of stress. Insufficient levels of L-glutamine results in immune system dysfunction and loss of muscle.
A study at the Louisiana State University College of Medicine is largely responsible for the great interest in L-glutamine as a HGH releaser — it showed that a fairly small dose of this amino acid raised growth hormone levels four times over that of a placebo.
L-tyrosine is an amino acid that plays a central role in the production of the key neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. It also assists in the maintenance of the thyroid, pituitary gland and the adrenal gland, which are all responsible for regulating and producing hormones. Higher levels of dopamine are linked to higher HGH levels.
Deer Antler Velvet (DAV)
Deer antler velvet, or DAV, is a natural source of collagen and IGF-1. Recall HGH stimulates the production of IGF-1 by the liver, and IGF-1 is responsible for carrying out growth-promoting actions. Being rich in IGF-1 makes deer antler velvet a useful ingredient in any HGH supplement. This ingredient is actually exactly what its name implies — it’s made from the velvet-like material that covers deer antlers during the spring growing season. Velveting is performed by sedating a male deer and harvesting the velvet, which is frozen, sterilized, and manufactured into supplements. The deer lives on to regrow more velvet.
Deer antler velvet can be found as one of the ingredients in most quality HGH supplements that contain multiple ingredients. It’s also powerful and popular enough that many people buy it alone as a separate HGH product. People who take deer antler report experiencing numerous anti-aging effects, including improved stamina, metabolism, energy, and muscle tone, as well as improvement to nails, hair, and skin.
Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA)
Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) is one of hundreds of a non-protein amino acids — amino acids other than the 20 well-known and well-understood amino acids incorporated in protein. While an amino acid, GABA functions as a neurotransmitter — molecules used by the nervous system to transmit messages between neurons.
GABA is known to be a calming agent for both the brain and central nervous system, so it is sometimes used as a natural sleep aid. However, since as early as the 1980s GABA has been shown to be an HGH releaser. A more recent study found that GABA supplements increased HGH at rest and following exercise.