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Dendrobium nobile extract


Dendrobium nobile belongs to the family of orchids, which consists of more than 1200 species. It’s one of the fifty most used substances in 'Traditional Chinese Medicine' (TCM). In addition to its medicinal qualities, it also has a slightly stimulating effect - although this has not been scientifically proven.  

Besides the fact that stimulating herbs are used recreationally in the party scene, these products are also often used by bodybuilders. After all, most bodybuilders generally want to be able to exercise a lot and suppress their hunger to lower their fat percentage. This is why there’s always a high demand for legal stimulating herbs in the bodybuilder scene. Therefore, Dendrobium Nobile extract is a common ingredient in many different sports formulas.

In this article, we will discuss the biochemical background, history, medical applications and the effects of this flower.

Dendrobium nobile bloem

The plant

Dendrobium Nobile is an upright growing orchid. The leaves are oblong and oval. The plant can get 30 to 75 centimetres tall. As you can see in the picture, it looks like a regular orchid. Dendrobium Nobile needs cool nights to start blossoming. The plant can grow on trees and even on rocks. It can be harvested all year round, especially in spring. Dendrobium Nobile is native to Guangxi, Guizhou, Hainan, Hong Kong, West Hubei, Taiwan, south-eastern Xizang, Yunnan, Bhutan, India, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, northern Thailand and Vietnam.  

History of Dendrobium nobile

In TCM, Dendrobium nobile is also known as 'Shi Hu in Pinyin'. Its use dates back more than 2000 years. The oldest note about this plant can be found in 'Shen Nong's Herbal Classis'. This book was written between 800 and 300 years B.C. In TCM, the orchid was used to treat a large number of diseases, such as chronic laryngitis, digestive problems, eye diseases, thrombosis, diabetes and arthritis.  

Because Western medicine did not have an answer to everything, people started looking for alternatives, which happened about 100 years ago. Western medicine often falls short, especially in the case of chronic diseases. TCM often did offer solutions for chronic symptoms. This is how people from the west came into contact with TCM and therefore became familiar with Dendrobium Nobile extract.

The bodybuilder scene

As explained in the introduction, the bodybuilder industry is always looking for legal substances that stimulate fat burning. Therefore, ephedra was included in many formulas in the late nineties. It is also a well-known substance in TCM. Ephedra contains a bioactive substance called ephedrine, which is very similar to amphetamine and has a powerful stimulating effect. Although it has been used in TCM for centuries, the rapid increase in its use in the bodybuilder scene resulted in some fatal overdoses. This was mainly due to high dosages of the substance combined with intensive workouts. Between 1993 and 2003, the number of ephedra poisonings increased tenfold. In total, 21533 reports of health problems as a result of ephedra were made in the United States during this period. The main health risks were strokes, heart failure and liver problems. That is why ephedra has been banned since 2004.

However, the need for legal stimulants remained, and ephedra was replaced by geranium extract. This herb contains a substance called geranamine, with the synthetic name DMAA (1,3-dimethylamylamine). This is also an amphetamine-related substance. However, DMAA is four times less potent than ephedrine. [2] After this new drug conquered the market, it didn't take long before the first two overdoses were reported in the US. Two soldiers died of a heart attack during training, after taking a high dose of DMAA. In New Zealand, a number of people subsequently died of a stroke after taking 150 mg of DMAA. Movement scientists discovered that after using DMAA in combination with caffeine, blood pressure could rise by up to 20 %, which in combination with heavy physical exertion could potentially lead to a stroke. [3] Of course, the deaths received a great deal of media attention. The FDA indicated that they had received 42 reports of heart disease, neurological disease and psychological damage in DMAA users. Therefore, geranamine was banned in 2012.

Of course, they immediately looked for a replacement and so Denodrobium Nobile came to the attention. [4] Since 2012, this substance has entered the bodybuilder market and is now strongly on the rise. 

Making an extract

By extracting the stems in pure ethanol, the active substances are drawn out of the plant material. The ethanol may be further evaporated, resulting in a stronger extract.

legal status Dendrobium Nobile

At the moment, Dendrobium Nobile extract is not legal in the Netherlands.


Dendrobium Nobile contains a large number of bioactive substances, such as alkaloids, aromatic components, polysaccharide and sesquiterpenoids. However, it's unclear which component makes for the stimulating effect. Manufacturers who offer the product may claim that it is a good substitute for DMAA, but they cannot prove which component of Dendrobium Nobile replaces DMAA.

Medical use

Being an important herb in TMC, Dendrobium Nobilum has been thoroughly researched. It appears to have a broad spectrum of medicinal properties, including immune system modulation, nerve protection and anti-cancer properties. [5] Below is a list of five medicinal properties, to emphasize that Dendrobium Nobile is much more than just a natural stimulant:

  1. In TCM, the flower has been used to help one produce bodily fluids. Scientific research on humans has shown that those suffering from Sjögren's syndrome produce more saliva when taking Dendrobium Nobile. Sjögren's syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that limits the production of saliva, Dendrobium Nobile, therefore, proved to be an effective medicine for this condition. By tests on mice, researchers have been able to find out the biochemical mechanism. [6][7][8]
  2. It appears that certain substances in Dendrobium Nobile inhibit fibrosis in the liver. Fibrosis is a process in which connective tissue is formed in the organs as a result of inflammation, resulting in a decrease in organ function. [9]
  3. Dendrobin is a substance that is extracted from Dendrobium nobile and has anti-cancer properties. [10]
  4. Dendrobium nobile contains three substances that have a positive effect on the blood level of mice with diabetes. In addition, it has been demonstrated that these substances regenerate the pancreatic cells. The pancreas fails when a disease like diabetes manifests itself. [11]
  5. Mice with a peptic ulcer that were administered Dendrobium Nobile turned out to react well to this. [12]


The pure herb is not offered for recreational use in smartshops. If you want to try the pure herb, know that the dose in TCM is six to fifteen grams of dried material per day. It is therefore not recommended to take more than 15 grams at a time, as no studies have been carried out into the toxicity of a higher dose. If you use an extract, check how strong it is and calculate how much you can take.

Effect Dendrobium Nobile

After ingestion, it takes half an hour to an hour before the stimulating effect is observed. The overall reaction to this drug is very positive. People experience more energy. Yet, according to most, it feels different than a strong cup of coffee, because Dendrobium Nobile provides both a stimulating effect and a slightly euphoric feeling. A small percentage of the users doesn't notice any effect at all. However, a lack of reaction can happen with any other psychoactive substance as well. For example, some people don't notice any effect of truffles, while others get an overwhelming experience from the same dose. The lack of effect may be due to a full stomach, or to a particular food that has been consumed shortly before and that interferes with the bioactive substances. It is also possible that someone is simply insensitive to the substance. Some people become hyperactive after drinking one cup of coffee, while others drink more than ten cups a day without feeling anything.

The effect of Dendrobium Nobile lasts for about four hours.


Be careful with alcohol and medication. Dendrobium Nobile is relatively new as a recreational drug. Therefore, the combination of Dendrobium Nobile and other substances has not yet been studied sufficiently to know what the risks are. Do not combine with alcohol and other narcotics or stimulants.

Do not use this product during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. You also need to be careful when you suffer from high blood pressure, heart and/or vascular diseases, liver or thyroid disorders, anxiety attacks, depression or other psychological problems.  


Despite the fact that Dedrobium nobile extract has been used as a medicine in TCM for many centuries, recreational use is relatively new. Be aware that ephedra and geramine have also been used in TCM for centuries. However, when it was widely consumed in high doses in combination with a heavy work-out (including hours of dancing) and also ingested other herbs, both products appeared to lead to dangerous situations.

  1. The Severity of Toxic Reactions to Ephedra: Comparisons to Other Botanical Products and National Trends from 1993–2002, Alan D. Woolf , M.P.H. , M.D., William A. Watson , Pharm.D., Susan Smolinske , Pharm.D. & Toby Litovitz , M.D, Pages 347-355 | Received 25 May 2004, Accepted 17 Mar 2005, Published online: 07 Oct 2008
  2. Scientific Opinion on the Regulatory Status of 1,3-Dimethylamylamine (DMAA), Venhuis, Bastiaan J, Kaste, Dries de
  3. Phys Sportsmed. 2011 Sep;39(3):111-20. doi: 10.3810/psm.2011.09.1927, Effects of 1,3-dimethylamylamine and caffeine alone or in combination on heart rate and blood pressure in healthy men and women, Bloomer RJ1, Harvey IC, Farney TM, Bell ZW, Canale RE.
  4. Meet DMAA’s replacement: Dendrobium extract Retrieved from http://newhope360.com/ 20. Feb 2013
  5. Phytochemistry Reviews, June 2013, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 341–367, Chemistry, bioactivity and quality control of Dendrobium, a commonly used tonic herb in traditional Chinese medicine, Jun Xu, Quan-Bin Han, Song-Lin LiEmail author, Xiao-Jia Chen, Xiao-Ning Wang, Zhong-Zhen Zhao, Hu-Biao Chen
  6. Xiao L, et al. Dendrobium candidum extract increases the expression of aquaporin-5 in labial glands from patients with Sjögren's syndrome. Phytomedicine. (2011)
  7. Steinfeld S, et al. Abnormal distribution of aquaporin-5 water channel protein in salivary glands from Sjögren's syndrome patients. Lab Invest. (2001)
  8. Krane CM, et al. Salivary acinar cells from aquaporin 5-deficient mice have decreased membrane water permeability and altered cell volume regulation. J Biol Chem. (2001)
  9. Yang H, Sung SH, Kim YC. Antifibrotic phenanthrenes of Dendrobium nobile stems. J Nat Prod. (2007)
  10. Seco-Dendrobine-Type Alkaloids and Bioactive Phenolics from Dendrobium findlayanum.Yang D, Cheng ZQ, Yang L, Hou B, Yang J, Li XN, Zi CT, Dong FW, Liu ZH, Zhou J, Ding ZT, Hu JM J Nat Prod. 2018 Jan 17.
  11. Comparison of hypoglycemic and antioxidative effects of polysaccharides from four different Dendrobium species., Pan LH, Li XF, Wang MN, Zha XQ, Yang XF, Liu ZJ, Luo YB, Luo JP, Int J Biol Macromol. 2014 Mar;64:420-7.
  12. Protective effects of polysaccharide from Dendrobium nobile against ethanol-induced gastric damage in rats, Zhang Y, Wang H, Mei N, Ma C, Lou Z, Lv W, He G, Int J Biol Macromol. 2018 Feb;107

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