The Devil’s Weed Science: Does Tribulus Terrestris Really Increase Testosterone?

Are you looking for a testosterone boost?

Do you want to improve athletically, build more muscle and become stronger and are looking for an edge?

Or do you suffer from signs of low testosterone and would like to improve your libido and sex life?

Tribulus Terrestris is a plant that is often said to help with both.

But as with all natural supplements that promise great results, you want to know: “Does Tribulus Terrestris increase testosterone?

As someone who is very passionate about getting the best scientific information about testosterone for my own training, I always end up spending hours researching everything.

What follows is a comprehensive look at the effects of the Tribulus plant according to the scientific research we have available at the moment.

So, does it?

Let me give you the short answer first: no, as far as we can see from the scientific evidence we have right now, Tribulus Terrestris does not increase your testosterone levels.

If you’re looking for a boost to your T, there are better ways to increase your testosterone naturally.

However, there is more to it than that and the plant actually might have the benefits you’re looking for.

What is Tribulus Terrestris

Tribulus Terrestris is a plant commonly found on all continents.

tribulus plant

It is used in both Indian and Chinese traditional medicine to treat a variety of conditions, but you and I are more interested in its performance enhancing capabilities.

The plant first became popular in the 1970’s, when Jeffrey Petermann, an American IFBB bodybuilding champion, credited it for his success.

However, there is little information about this claim or him online, apart from a myriad of articles copying the same (unreferenced) Wikipedia quote, and I’ve found no evidence that he actually said that.

Another popular story is that the Bulgarian weightlifting athletes used it to help them achieve their success at the Olympic Games.

The Bulgarian Pharmaceutical Group stated that “TT extracts increased libido, blood testosterone and spermatogenesis, and improved the male sexual function”. Under the name Tribestan, this preparation was supposed to be their secret weapon.

But given the extent of failed drug test from athletes from the former Soviet bloc (multiple Bulgarian athletes tested positive in 2008 and 2015, ultimately resulting in a ban for the Rio games), this is likely just a cover-up story.

In a sport as dependant on drugs as weightlifting (it is estimated that steroids add from 10-15 kg to the lifter’s total over his career, enough to make the difference between the good and the best), there are no clean athletes at the top levels - and they don’t take natural supplements either.

This isn’t meant as an attack on weightlifting. Other sports at the highest level certainly are no exception, especially if their drug testing regulations aren’t particularly strict.

How does Tribulus Terrestris work

The main ingredient of interest in the plant Tribulus Terrestris is protodioscin.

Protodioscin is a steroidal compound that “increases the concentration of androgen receptors in cells, causing the organism to become more sensitive to androgens like testosterone and DHT”.

In essence, it won’t increase your test levels - it will just make you more sensitive to whatever amount you already have. Your body doesn’t change, your brain does.

What is the difference between Tribulus and Bulgarian Tribulus?

Many supplements claim to contain authentic Bulgarian Tribulus, which is supposed to contain more protodioscin than other kinds (and the story about the Bulgarian weightlifters undoubtedly adds to the charm of the name).

But that is actually partially correct.

Protodioscin, seen as the active muscle building compound (Tribulus' most heavily marketed claim), is highest in Turkey (Ankara), Bulgarian (Haskovo hirsut) and Macedonian (Bogdanzi glabr) respectively. These three species have more than double all other species.

Species grown in middle-eastern Europe and Western Asia do have a higher protodioscin content than others, and should therefore have a greater effect.

Tribulus Terrestris studies and what they tell us

A number of studies have looked into the effect of the Tribulus plant, both on humans and animals.

In animals, studies have found that TT does increase libido in castrated rats and testosterone in rats, rabbits and primates.

However, not all researchers agree. A 2010 study “showed no changes in blood status of testosterone in castrated rats following a 28-day period of oral treatment with a high daily dosage of TT”.
scientific studies on tribulus

Still, most studies of Tribulus in animals show promising results. Unfortunately, the results have not been the same in human studies.

Dosages from 10 mg/kg to 20 mg/kg in young men had no effect on blood testosterone after 4 weeks of supplementation in a Bulgarian study.

In men with previous training experience, 3.2 mg/kg during an 8-week training period produced no improvement in bench and leg press, mood states, body mass or composition over the placebo group.

However, that is a small sample, but a similar study in rugby athletes taking a higher dosage (450 mg/day) also found no effect on performance.

Additionally, a 2010 study that combined Tribulus with androstenedione, a known performance enhancer, found evidence that

the addition of these herbal extracts to androstenedione does not result in increased serum testosterone concentrations, reduce the estrogenic effect of androstenedione, and does not augment the adaptations to resistance training”.

That means that not only did TT not improve the effects, it also had no influence on post-cycle estrogen levels, which is one the common reasons bodybuilders take the supplement.

Bu we have to look at both sides of the argument, and there have been some studies that have found that Tribulus Terrestris does increase testosterone levels.

One of them tested the Tribulus supplement from Optimum Nutrition and found an increase in testosterone after 10 days.

However, since the product uses a “proprietary blend”, it means there’s no way of knowing what ingredients are actually included in it and invalidates the study.

Another placebo-controlled double-blind study among older men with formerly impaired erectile function and lowered testosterone levels showed very high effectiveness.

But again, the study was using a product named Tradamixina, which includes a mixture of Tribulus Terrestris, Alga Eckonia, D-glucosamine and N-acetylglucosamine - there’s no way to know which of the ingredient, or which combination, was actually responsible for the results.

Now, there’s also the claim that an extract of protodioscin would work much better than just the herb.

It would make sense, since a study that analysed a variety of over-the-counter TT supplements found that the percentage of protodioscin, the main ingredient, ranged from just 0.17% to 6.49%, which means that some supplements may be too low in content to induce a significant effect.

A human study of the before-mentioned Tribestan, which is supposed to contain 10% of an extract of protodioscin, did find an increase in testosterone.

However, just a quick look at where the study was published reveals a conflict of interest. The study also hasn’t been peer reviewed, which diminishes its validity.

The only area where there is some potential for increased testosterone seems to be in impotent men as a way to reverse testicular damage. This is a small area of applicability, but to some, it may prove useful.

The main takeaway is that while animal studies showed promise for increased testosterone, no study has been able to confirm the same effects on humans.

In short: if you’re not a rat, a rabbit or a chimpanzee, TT probably ain’t gonna increase your testosterone.

Actual benefits of Tribulus Terrestris

While TT does not increase testosterone, it does have benefits that you may be looking for.

A lot of people seek out testosterone boosters to improve their sex life by boosting their libido and erections.

Thankfully, Tribulus has been shown to do just that.

libido enhancement with tribulus

Again, there are a lot of animals studies that show improved libido, but more interesting is a double blind study in humans that found supplementation of 6g tribulus root is associated with a significantly greater improvement in sexual health (assessed by survey) by 49.38% which was greater than placebo (27.80%).

The same study also found that after two months of daily supplementation (where almost half of participants reported erectile problems) there were significant improvements in the loss of erection (6.03%), rigidity (9.41%), premature ejaculation (6.12%), and lack of orgasm (9.76%).

Not half bad. If you are looking for a natural boost to your libido, TT does seem to do the job quite well.

Other benefits include:

  • depression treatment, but the doses need to be very high (750 mg/kg was as effective as the clinical dose of fluoxetine) and further research needs to be done on humans
  • anesthetic properties
  • may ease menopausal symptoms
  • check
    possible anti-diabetic effects
  • check
    possible anti-inflammatory effects
  • check
    appears to have protective effects in the liver and kidneys, more potent than Vitamin E, but further studies are required

Side effects & safety of Tribulus Terrestris

potential side effects

Tribulus Terrestris is a safe supplement for most healthy people.

Doses typically used for supplementation do not appear to be lethal or harmful for men, while for women, there is some evidence that it might affect fetal development.

But Tribulus has been known to interact with certain medications. Do not take if you are taking heart and blood pressure medicines, such as:

  • Beta-blockers
  • Digoxin
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Diuretics
  • ACE inhibitors
  • Alternate Arrow Right
    Nitrates

...or if you’re taking diabetes medication, as it may reduce your blood sugar levels to dangerously low levels.

If you are in doubt, always consult with your personal doctor before trying a new supplement.

How to take Tribulus Terrestris

If you use a 60% extract, the usual dose is between 200-450 mg a day if your goal is libido enhancement

If you do not take an extract, traditional dosages of the basic root powder are in the 5-6g range while the fruits are in the 2-3g range.

TT is an adaptogen, which means that your body will get used to it over time. I recommend you to use it for 8 to 12 weeks and then take a 4 week break to avoid developing a tolerance.

Summary

All in all, if you’re looking for a supplement that will help you in the bedroom, go ahead and give Tribulus a try. However, if you’re looking for a true natural testosterone boost, there are many better options.

Do you have any questions about the use of Tribulus Terrestris? Ask me in the comment below and I’ll answer every one!

If you want to increase your testosterone levels naturally, here’s what you need to do:

First, read my beginner’s guide to increasing your testosterone naturally, which includes some supplements that have been proven to raise your testosterone levels.

Then, check out my list of best exercises for raising your T levels, which will help you design your workout in the most optimal way for raising your testosterone.

 With those two things, you’ll be well on your way to seeing the benefits of improved test levels.

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