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Octacosanol is a chemical compound found in plants such as sugar cane and in wheat germ oils. Similar to vitamin E, octacosanol is thought to improve upon the body's natural ability to process and use oxygen. It is used to treat various conditions and as a dietary supplement.
Also known as tetracosanol and N-octacosanol, octacosanol is used as a supplement by some athletes. It is thought to help the body process oxygen and increase the amount of oxygen that is in the blood and flowing to the muscles. It is taken to increase strength and stamina, as well as to improve reaction time. This compound is also used in the treatment of a myriad of diseases, including Parkinson's and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease. It also can be prescribed for herpes, skin infections, high cholesterol and hardening of the arteries.
Most of the claims associated with the benefits of octacosanol have not been verified. There has been little evidence found to suggest that administration of octacosanol helps to control the symptoms of Parkinson's or Lou Gehrig's diseases, or that it shows a measurable effect on the condition of athletes. In fact, the combination of octacosanol and other Parkinson's medications such as levodopa/carbidopa have been shown to make symptoms worse.
Studies on the effects of octacosanol began in the 1930s and 1940s, with studies on athletes who were given a steady regiment of wheat germ. These athletes consistently outperformed the control group of athletes and those who were given amounts of vitamin E. Octacosanol is believed to work by speeding up the process by which lactic acid is removed from muscle tissue in the cycle of oxygen through the bloodstream. A version of octacosanol, called triacontanol, has been found to have a positive effect on the growth of plants, fruits and vegetables, increasing their size and yield.
The recommended dosage varies according to a number of factors, including a person's age and what conditions it is being used to treat, if any. Although it is considered a natural product that is created from a number of plant and vegetable sources, octacosanol is not an over-the-counter medication that should be used in self-medication. Octacosanol can sometimes be confused with policosanol, which is the compound found in sugar cane of which octacosanol is a part.