Pronounced su-wah-ja, ciwujia is extract of the root of a plant (Acanthopanax senticosus) grown in northeastern China. It is also known as Siberian ginseng.
In traditional Chinese medicine, ciwujia has been used for 1,700 years to prevent fatigue and boost immunity. The standardized extract of the root is available as a sports supplement; the best-known product is Endurox or Endurox Excel (which contains vitamin E). Other ciwujia supplements on the market are formulated with ginseng, bee pollen, carbohydrates, and licorice.
Endurox is promoted as a dietary aid to boost endurance, delay lactic acid buildup in muscles, and spare carbohydrates in favor of fat to fuel exercise. According to a survey released by the magazine Inside Triathlon, Endurox is the nutritional supplement third most frequently used by triathletes. It is also endorsed by many professional athletes, including NFL superstar Joe Montana.
Ciwujia stepped to nutritional center stage when it was learned that mountain climbers were using it to improve endurance and oxygen use at high altitudes. Interest in the herb grew.
Two studies of Endurox conducted at the Institute of Nutrition and Food Hygiene in Beijing, China, suggest that the herb increases fat-burning during exercise, in two ways. First, it shifts the body's fuel source from carbohydrates to fat. This means your body starts burning fat earlier in your workout. Second, supplementation retards the accumulation of lactic acid (this buildup accounts for the sensation in your muscles known as the "burn"). With less lactic acid, you can work out longer and harder and burn more fat in the process.
In the first study, eight men were given 800 mg of Endurox daily for 2 weeks prior to starting the experiment. By the end of 2 weeks, the men pedaled on stationary bikes with increasing levels of intensity. As the intensity went up, lactic acid levels in their muscles went down by 33 percent. That's the opposite of what usually occurs when you work out. As exercise becomes harder, more and more lactic acid swells your muscles, and you discontinue the exercise. In this case, the participants were able to continue exercising without fatiguing.
But here's the best part of the experiment: The participants increased their fat-burning by 43 percent, compared with controls.
A similar benefit was observed in the second study. In this experiment, ten men who had supplemented with Endurox experienced a 30 percent increase in fat-burning.
If these studies are any indication, ciwujia-containing supplements may confer a fat-burning advantage. Tapping into fat stores first during exercise, rather than carbohydrates, could definitely help you develop a leaner, trimmer physique.
The recommended adult dose, according to PacificHealth Laboratories (the manufacturer of Endurox), is two 400 mg caplets taken once a day, 1 to 2 hours before your workout. The company also advises taking it every day, even if you don't exercise daily.
PacificHealth Laboratories says its product is safe and has no reported side effects. Clearly, this natural product seems to work best in conjunction with regular exercise. It's definitely worth a try if you're active and want to accelerate your fat-burning potential.