Cryptotanshinone: Natural AMPK Activator

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What is Cryptotanshinone

Cryptotanshinone is a natural chemical compound that can be extracted and isolated from Red Sage. Cryptotanshinone can actually be isolated from the roots of this ancient Chinese herb. It is one of the naturally sourced chemical compounds that is known to activate AMPK. Studies have been conducted to see if this compound can be used in various treatments, which include cancer prevention among others.

What Plant(s) Is Cryptotanshinone Extracted From?

Cryptotanshinone can only be extracted from Red Sage (Salvia miltiorrhiza). This plant is known by other names such as danshen, tan shen, and Chinese sage. This plant or herb is endemic to Japan and China.

It grows along hillsides, in forests, along stream banks, and other places where there is a lot of grass. This perennial plant is highly valued as a traditional Asian herb used for medicinal purposes.

Danshen grows up to 60 centimeters in height. It has branching stems with leaves that are widely spaced in between. Its flowers have a lot of hair like structures as well as sticky glands.

The flowers are dominantly light purplish in color with corollas that are lavender blue. The calyx has a rather dark purple color. It is a hardy plant that can survive freezing temperatures of -10 degrees Celsius.

Cryptotanshinone’s Mechanism of AMPK Activation

Since Cryptotanshinone has been used extensively in Asian medicine, it has received a good deal of attention. There have been studies on its possible use as a treatment for different maladies including diabetes and obesity, which are two of the biggest health risks among developed countries today.

AMP-activated proetein kinase has received a lot of attention as a possible point of treatment for a number of metabolic syndromes. In part, it has been shown to mediate both pharmacological and physiological factors with beneficial effects.

Cryptotanshinone is one of the many compounds being studied whether it would activate AMPK or not. Studies also try to uncover the underlying mechanisms. Note that there is still a lot of work to be done and the majority of the studies that are currently published lack human trials. Most of them have been performed on rats and AMPK activation tests have been conducted on a test tube

Different types of tanshinones have been extracted from the roots of S. miltiorrhiza and their effects on AMPK activity have been compared in several studies. Cryptotanshinone has been demonstrated to be the most effective when it comes to AMPK induction in C2C12 myotubes.

In the same study, it was also demonstrated that cryptotanshinone makes use of AMPK activation to stimulate glucose uptake. Evidence suggests that it can increase the uptake at a two fold increase. The mechanism for which is both the stimulation of Glut1 mRNA expression and Glut4 translocation to the cell’s plasma membrane.

The results of the study also suggest that AMPK activity induced by cryptotanshinone may also enhance insulin sensitivity. Studies suggest that cryptotanshinone gets transmitted to Akt through the process of AMP-activated protein kinase. This cross link between Akt and AMPK signaling is believed to be responsible (possibly) for the function of cryptotanshinone when it comes to insulin sensitization.

It has been determined in other studies that long term AMPK activation tends to regulate the genes that are involved in energy expenditure, fatty acid oxidation, fatty acid synthesis, and glucose uptake. Studies show that long term treatment using cryptotanshinone results in the suppression of the expression of ACC1 and ACC2 mRNA, genes involved in mitochondrial biogenesis and fatty acid metabolism.

The same study also suggests that cryptotanshinone has anti-obesity and anti-diabetic effects when used in the long term. Note that tests were performed both in vitro and in vivo (i.e. in living organisms and in a controlled environment using a test tube, culture dish, etc.).

Admittedly, experts say that more tests need to be done given all the said promising results. The actual underlying mechanisms that produce these results still remain unknown. However, it believed that cryptotanshinone is one of the compounds that facilitate AMPK activation. This is according to a study published by the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics in 2007, Vol. 72:62-72. To see the details of this particular study, please click here.

Note that other studies suggest the anti-cancer effects of cryptotanshinone use. Studies show that it activates the AMPK signal pathway in HepG2 hepatoma. It induces cell cycle arrest via several tumor suppressors like p53, TSC2, and LKB1. Studies suggest that cryptotanshinone may be used either as a cancer treatment or a cancer preventive. To see the details of the said study, please click here.

Effects of Taking Cryptotanshinone

Cryptotanshinone is an ROS producing agent. It is a modulator that induces the intracellular generation of reactive oxygen species thus activating AMPK. Simply put, the activation of AMPK via cryptotanshinone is ROS dependent. This process exerts effects on DNA damaging agents (e.g. cobalt, vanadate, arsenite) and it produces anti-cancer and anti-diabetic effects.

Benefits of Cryptotanshinone

Danshen, the plant from which cryptotanshinone is sourced, has been used in Asia as a treatment for cardiovascular disease for hundreds of years. Cryptotanshinone, along with other aqueous extracts from the same herb such as salvianolic acid B, dihydrotanshinone, and danshensu, have been found to provide vasorelaxant effects.

Studies suggest that these extracts may be used to lower blood pressure. Studies further suggest that the same extracts may inhibit platelet aggregation. They may also have anti-fibrinolytic activities. These effects suggest cardiovascular protection.

Other suggested benefits from studies include the following:

  • Anti-viral
  • Anti-cancer
  • Possible treatment for osteoporosis
  • Possible treatment for ulcer
  • Treatment for metabolic syndrome

Cryptotanshinone Dosage Information

There is currently no dosage information with regard to the use of cryptotanshinone as a specific mode of treatment. Note that there are no human trials to date; but we should expect to see them in the future.

Current tests suggest the use of danshen extracts, which also includes cryptotanshinone in the mixture. As a diabetes treatment, one study used 500 mg/kg of body weight for eight weeks.

Note that the use of danshen extract may have side effects such as dizziness, reduced appetite, itching, and drowsiness.

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