The Tree Of Damocles
You are walking through a lush tropical landscape at midnight, the smell of exotic flowers and gently fermenting fallen fruits filling the air. Suddenly, a flash of lightning illuminates a mysterious looking tree above your head, which casts shadows of giant swords on the landscape around you. Your attention is immediately drawn to this tree, and subsequent flashes of lightning illuminate swarms of bats. Your pleasant midnight walk is now fraught with a sense of impending doom, much like Damocles suddenly unable to enjoy the spoils of life when he learns there is a large sword dangling above his head from a single strand of horse hair. You are standing under the Oroxylum indicum tree, also known as the midnight horror tree or better yet, the tree of Damocles!
The Oroxylum indicum tree has a long list of amusing names, our favorites being the ‘midnight horror tree’ and the ‘tree of Damocles’. The first name refers to how creepy this tree can look in tropical lightning storms. The second name refers to the giant seed pods that are carried on high and thin branches. From a distance, these bean pods look like swords, and it looks like there is quite little holding it up! Apart from the amusing names though, Oroxylum indicum has a very rich history of use.
Both as a traditional medicine and as a food source. As a food source, many parts of this tree are eaten. Most commonly though, the unopened flower pods are pickled, much like capers, and the bean pods are chopped up to make curries. The Oroxylum indicum tree appears to be native to India, and has a long history of use within Ayurveda. It is part of a very famous Ayurvedic formula called Dashmoola, in which the roots of Oroxylum indicum are used.
Dashmoola is mostly employed for general aches and pains, and Oroxylum indicum in general seems to be used for similar purposes even as a standalone. Furthermore, it is traditionally used to enhance digestion, respiratory function, joint comfort and skin health.
Instead of using the roots, we instead employ the bark. The bark is a rich source of some very interesting flavonoids, the one which we are most interested in being Oroxylin A. Oroxylin A was always a very elusive compound within nootropic communities, with research about this incredible molecule being shared far and wide. If you look at the pharmacological properties of Oroxlin A, it is easy to see why it garnered so much attention! However, it was always practically impossible to get a hold of this compound. That was until Sabinsa produced a cutting edge extract of Oroxylum indicum bark, yielding a whopping 10% Oroxylin A concentration. This finally gave all of us the chance to explore the unique properties of Oroxylin A, and let’s just say, we were not disappointed after trying it out!
The Elusive Oroxylin A
In the early days of natural nootropics, there were two that really stood out. Polygala tenuifolia and Oroxylin A. Both of these were reported to be significant dopamine reuptake inhibitors, while also helping to enhance neuroplasticity due to their nerve growth factor (NGF) and brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) boosting effects. Polygala tenuifolia was a plant we were quickly able to get a hold off, and produce a high quality extract from. However, Oroxylin A was very elusive. At the time, synthetic Oroxylin A was unobtanium level expensive (if it was even possible to make at all), and a botanical source didn’t seem to exist.
After searching for a source of Oroxylin A for many years, we were absolutely over the moon when we were able to obtain this unique Oroxylum indicum bark extract standardized to 10% oroxylin! We immediately got to beta-testing it and from the first dose we were amazed at its potency. All of those years of chasing down this compound proved to be entirely worth it! When we first got in a sample of Oroxylum indicum we really didn’t know what to expect, but an hour after taking the first 100 mg dose, we immediately realized we were working with a genuine and effective dopamine reuptake inhibitor. Up until this point, we had not come across a natural plant extract which had such a pronounced yet clean dopaminergic effect.
We had to wait a while to see if the neuroplasticity enhancing effects were real though, but after a few weeks, we realized these effects were genuine too. The memory enhancing effects of Oroxylum indicum were significant, but only after a few weeks. This mirrored our experience with other botanicals and fungi which produce their nootropic effects via neuroplasticity modulation, such as Bacopa monnieri and Lion’s mane.
A Natural Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitor
The one aspect of Oroxylin A that everyone was most excited about, was the fact that it functions as a dopamine reuptake inhibitor. If you are unfamiliar with the basics of neurotransmission, here is a quick overview of why taking a dopamine reuptake inhibitor is so interesting.
When nerve impulses travel down a dopaminergic neuron, they can trigger dopamine release in the synapse. This dopamine then floats around in the synaptic cleft, and can bind to receptors on the postsynaptic neuron. Once these receptors have been activated by dopamine, the dopamine unbinds and floats back into the synaptic cleft. Once here, a few things can happen. The dopamine can be degraded by an enzyme called monoamine oxidase (MAO), or it can be absorbed back into the presynaptic neuron where it came from by DAT.
Once the dopamine has been removed from the synaptic cleft by either of these processes, it can no longer act on the receptors of the postsynaptic neurons. In this situation, we would have to wait for another nerve impulse to trigger fresh dopamine release back into the synaptic cleft. However, if we block DAT with oroxylin A, then the dopamine can stay floating around in the synaptic cleft for a little while longer. This then means that it can bind to the postsynaptic dopamine receptor again, continuing to then generate dopaminergic signals.
If this is still a little bit too high level, we can break it down very simply. Imagine the above scenario as a bathtub. In this scenario, the bathtub is the synaptic cleft, your hand is the nerve impulse, the water coming out of the tap is dopamine, the drain is DAT and Oroxylin A is the drain stopper. So, when your hand (the nerve impulse) opens the tap, water (dopamine) immediately begins to flow out, but only a very small pool of water (dopamine) will form in the bathtub (synaptic cleft) because it is immediately being taken away into the drainage system by the open drain (DAT). If you want some water to build up in the bathtub, you can put the stopper (oroxylin A) into the drain and now the water (dopamine) is not immediately being taken away by the drain (DAT). This means that there is now much more water (dopamine) in the bathtub (synaptic cleft) than there was when the drain (DAT) was still fully open.
Extra dopaminergic signaling is important to us, because it is a major mediator of focus, motivation, memory, mood, reward and even pain! In the case of Oroxylum indicum, we are mostly interested in its ability to enhance executive function. This translates to significantly higher levels of focus, while also being able to boost motivation. This can really come in handy either when your general level of focus is not fantastic or when you are endlessly procrastinating! No wonder elevating dopamine levels is such a popular choice amongst students who need long periods of intense focus prior to their exams!
Oroxylum indicum: A Stackers Dream
Another very nice aspect of Oroxylum indicum, is that it fits into lots of different stacks. For example, if you’ve got a stack nicely dialed in but just need a little bit more of a dopaminergic push, then Oroxylum indicum fits in really well. Furthermore, dopamine is important for memory, so it will work very nicely in memory stacks, and surprisingly, dopamine plays a major role in pain processing so it will work well in pain stacks too. In our experience, Oroxylum indicum plays quite nicely with most botanicals and compounds, and thus, stacking with it is quite easy. Nevertheless, it can help to have a bit of inspiration, so here are a few of our favorite stacking ideas.