Stigmasterol is a chemical compound found in many plant fats. In addition to being found in plants, it is present in many animals which absorb it through their diets, and in animal products such as milk. For plants, stigmasterol plays a regulatory function. Humans utilize stigmasterol in a number of chemical processes which are designed to yield synthetics for the pharmaceutical industry.
Calabar beans, rapeseed, soybeans, cocoa beans, and nuts and seeds in general have a high concentration of stigmasterol. This compound can also be found in many other plants. It is part of a group of chemicals known as phytosterols. These steroid alcohols are usually insoluble in water, and are chemically similar to cholesterol, a compound found in animals.
Collected from plants, stigmasterol can be used to make synthetic progesterone for medical use. Progesterone can also be used as a precursor for an assortment of estrogens, androgens, and corticoids, making it useful in the manufacture of medications which use hormones in these groups. Plant sterols are used in the produced of a number of hormones intended for use in humans and other animals.
Plant sterols are touted in some regions as nutritionally useful foods which supposedly prevent cancers and provide other health benefits. The benefits of sterols are not well understood; people who eat a higher concentration of plants in their diets do tend to be healthier, but this could be caused by a number of factors beyond the sterols in the plants. For example, people may benefit from increased fiber, or any number of other compounds present in the plants they eat. Improved health may also be the result of interactions between compounds found in plants, which complicates matters even further.
Stigmasterol does seem to be play a role in reducing inflammation, which may because it is a precursor to chemical compounds which can limit inflammatory processes. Sterols like stigmasterol have also been recommended for their cholesterol lowering abilities, although more study is needed to determine which compounds perform this function, and how they work in the body.
In pure form, stigmasterol is a white powder which is sold in a variety of quantities by companies which process and refine it from plants. Labs which work with stigmasterol and other plant sterols can use a variety of techniques to manipulate them with the goal of creating new compounds from the sterols. These compounds include experimental products which labs develop to find new uses for old base ingredients.