Introduction

Gerovital or GH3 is yet another candidate compound which is touted as the secret to eternal youth. It is said to boost sexual prowess, prevent heart disease (which you might need to support your new-found sexual mojo) and also prevent wrinkles and color hair (which might be needed to attract the object of your desires with your new found sexual mojo).

Sounds too good to be true? Let the science decide for us.

What Is GH3 Gerovital?

Gerovital is also known as 2-diethylaminoethyl p-aminobenzoate monohydrochloride, chlorhydrate de procaïne, Gero-Vita, Gerovital, Gerovital-H3, GH-3, KH-3, Procaína, Procaïne, Procaine Hydrochloride. That’s a lot of names. Does it do anything?

The active ingredient in Gerovital is procaine. Procaine is a commonly used drug in medicine and is typically used as a local anesthetic agent. It was developed in 1905 by a German scientist, Alfred Einhorn. Procaine is usually injected when used as a local anesthetic.

Interest in procaine began with reports from surgeons of unexpected positive effects in their patients such as hair growth and re-coloring (1).

I find this confusing.  Firstly, and admittedly this is a gross generalization, many surgeons would have absolutely no interest in the color of their patients hair. Certainly, none of the surgeons I know would notice or care.

Secondly, why and how could that attribute the new hair color to procaine and not something else eg lack of pain or increased blood flow after successful surgery?

Dr Ana Aslan, a Romanian geriatrician, became interested in the possible anti-ageing effects of procaine. There were a number of formulation challenges to be overcome if procaine were to be used as an oral anti-aging agent.

Firstly, procaine is not absorbed well when taken by mouth. It is quickly broken down by enzymes in the body.

Secondly, procaine has a local anaesthetic effect which we would not need or want.

Dr Aslan headed to her laboratory and developed a modified version of procaine which she called Gerovital. Gerovital overcame the two problems of low oral absorption and local anesthetic effects. Gerovital contains more than just procaine hydrochloride. It also contains benzoic acid, potassium meta-bisulphite and disodium phosphate.

The compound has a pH value of 3.3. This particular pH is thought to be crucial to the stability (ability to stay in the body) of Gerovital.

Structurally speaking, procaine is an ester of two pro B vitamins, para-amino benzoic acid (PABA) and diethyl amino ethanol (DEAE).

At a crucial time in the exploration of Gerovital, Romania did not permit the exportation of the compound. This in turn had two interesting consequences.

Firstly, the development of a medical tourism industry in Romania as people of means travelled to obtain Gerovital treatments.

Secondly, a cold war developed between Romanian and US investigators. US investigators tried to formulate their own Gerovital for study purposes. The research studies were unsuccessful. The Romanians blamed the formulation used. The Americans blamed Gerovital.

Hence the cold war.

There are over 100 Gerovital products for sale on Amazon. They come in the form of anti-ageing creams, serums and hair oils. They come branded with Prof Aslan’s name. I saw one GH3 product which could be taken orally. On closer look, it did not technically contain GH3 but did contained PABA and DEAE.

Is There Any Research?

There are 45 publications and 10 clinical trials on Gerovital. To put this into context, there are 1000 publications and 32 clinical trials on Xbox gaming. You may well ask what the connection between longevity and the Xbox is? None at all. I am just highlighting how very little information there is on Gerovital.

Does GH3 Gerovital Reduce Age Spots or Wrinkles?

The published literature on GH3 is not very promising.

There is a case report of contact dermatitis caused by Gerovital cream in the literature dating back to 1985 (2).

Hypersensitivity caused by Gerovital was also described in the medical literature in 1977 (3). The authors of the paper advise that care should be taken when using Gerovital topically in order to avoid significant skin reactions.

This is certainly a major consideration for people planning on spending large amounts of money on Gerovital anti-aging face creams. Who wants to trade wrinkles for a bright red face? Not me.

Bottom Line

Gerovital does not reduce age spots or wrinkles.

Does It Help with Anxiety or Depression?

There is sketchy data from a 1978 study which compared Gerovital versus placebo in 25 middle-aged with mild to moderate depression (4).

Oddly enough the study showed significant improvements in both treatment arms of the study. Hardly a win for Gerovital. There is not much more available in the study details for us to assess.

Then there is a study from 1976 which looked at the effect of Gerovital in the treatment of depression in the aging population (5). Unfortunately neither the abstract nor original paper are available.

Similarly a study from 1974 looked at the effect of Gerovital in the same patient demographic but again neither the abstract nor the original paper are available for us to review (6).

We have more luck from a study done in the in 1975 in the Bronx (7). This study enrolled hospitalized patients with an average age of 73 years who had moderate depression. In this double blind trial design, patients were given either Gerovital or a saline placebo intramuscularly three times a week for 12 weeks.

The study failed to show any statistically significant difference between the two patient groups leading the authors to conclude that Gerovital had no beneficial effects on psychological functioning in this particular study.

Bottom Line

Gerovital does not help with depression.

Does It Help Recolor and Regrow Hair?

There are no clinical studies looking at Gerovital for hair color or growth.

Bottom Line

Gerovital does not help recolor or regrow hair.

Does It Lower the Risk of Cancer?

There are no studies looking at Gerovital in cancer.

Bottom Line

As far as we know, Gerovital does not lower cancer risk.

Does It Protect From Herpes?

There are no studies looking at Gerovital for the prevention of herpes.

Bottom Line

Gerovital does not protect from herpes.

Does It Increase Sexual Potency?

There is a study from 1972 which addresses the issue of Gerovital for ‘disturbances of sexual dynamics during the andropause’ (8). I love the quaint language. I am afraid that we don’t know what the study showed as yet again, we can’t access the data.

Bottom Line

There is no data to support the use of Gerovital if your ‘sexual dynamic’ is ‘disturbed’.

Does It Protect from Cardiovascular Diseases?

A 1977 paper from Germany compared the effects of placebo to Gerovital in 173 patients with atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) (9). Only the abstract is available to us and states that ‘the results were very encouraging in 46% of the treated patients, in 28% a slight improvement was obtained while in 26% the state was unchanged but not worse’.

I don’t know what measure was used for better or worse in this study. In the absence of more information, it is difficult to interpret these data. As a side note, the paper also had a single author which always raises issues about objectivity and quality given the fact that 173 patients were involved in the study which is a huge undertaking.

A systematic review of Gerovital in 1977 suggested that Gerovital may have an antidepressant effect and that any reports of improvement in cardiovascular symptoms may relate to the antidepressant effect (10). This is hardly rocket science but is discussed here as one of the very few links in the medical literature between Gerovital and heart disease.

Bottom Line

There is no trial data to support Gerovital for heart disease. (But it may not matter so much, as Gerovital won’t be helping you find your sexual mojo anyway – sorry, but I could not resist being sarcastic).

Does It Boost Immunity and Prevent Allergies?

There are no studies on Gerovital and immunity.

There are no studies to suggest that Gerovital can protect against allergy.

On the other hand, Gerovital has been shown to cause hypersensitivity reactions.

Bottom Line

There are no studies connecting Gerovital to health benefits in terms of immunity or allergy.

Is GH3 Gerovital Safe?

We have very limited data on the safety of Gerovital.

We can possibly extrapolate from safety data on procaine.

Procaine can cause a range of side effects including heartburn, migraines, and a serious inflammatory condition called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). SLE can cause of symptoms including arthritis, vasculitis, rashes, lung problems and renal failure.

Pseudocholinesterase deficiency is an inherited disorder which makes people hypersensitive to certain anesthetic drugs including procaine. If you have this disorder, you should not be given procaine intramuscularly. This many/not extend to Gerovital which is given orally.

Procaine can interact with a number of prescription medications and should be avoided. These include (but are not limited to) the heart medication digoxin, muscle relaxants, succinylcholine and some antibiotics.

Conclusion

What is really going on here? The harsh reality of life is that studies coming from outside of the USA are unlikely to gain widespread acceptance without endorsement in some way from the USA. This is neither my opinion nor my recommendation but it is my observation.

If Dr Aslan really wanted to change the world, then she would either have had to carry out high quality studies and publish them in highly respected journals or alternatively she would have needed to offer some of her ‘precious’ compound to other independent agencies to study.

Failure to do either and then to complain that the compound used by the USA was sub-standard smacks of the founder syndrome (the type of problem that arises when founders maintain a disproportionate and harmful influence that stymies future growth and progress).

I hate to have to be the one to tell you, but Gerovital ain’t our ticket to eternal youth.