Shaun Ward MSc ANutr
Tribulus terrestris is a small leafy plant that is grown in many parts of Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
Historically, this plant was primarily used to enhance libido and maintain the function of the urinary tract.
Nowadays it is used predominantly by athletes or avid gym-goers who are looking for alternative and natural ways to increase their testosterone production to achieve greater athletic performance and physical appearance.
The marketing of herbal tribulus terrestris supplements certainly make it clear the product is to boost testosterone and libido, and these supplements are now used worldwide for these purposes.
The Potential Benefits of Tribulus Terrestris
Below is a list of every potential benefit that's backed by credible scientific research:
It May Increase Testosterone Levels
Tribulus terrestris supplements tend to make very extravagant claims that they can increase testosterone levels by stimulating the luteinizing hormone in males. Some common advertising claims we found are:
- “Can help increase growth compound levels”
- “Natural herb helps increase the natural production of testosterone”
- “Tribulus is used to improve fertility and boost male test production”
However, supporting evidence from the scientific literature is weak.
Some studies on animals have noted significant increases in testosterone production, however clinical experiments have failed to repeat these results in humans.
As an example, an animal study found that 50-100mg of tribulus terrestris per kg bodyweight increased testosterone production by 30-60% in just 2 weeks .
Other animal trials indicate that tribulus terrestris is effective at helping to normalize hormonal levels in animals with hormonal irregularities .
Some researchers think that an active ingredient within tribulus terrestris is a potent saponin called protodioscin, which supposedly acts upon androgenic pathways . Theoretically, the stimulation of androgen receptors may signal for the pituitary gland to secrete more luteinizing hormone, which subsequently stimulates the testes to synthesize more testosterone .
However, when tribulus is supplemented in healthy athletes there do not seem to be any significant changes to testosterone production .
A study on healthy young men also concluded that tribulus terrestris possesses neither direct nor indirect androgen-increasing properties .
Even scientific reviews analyzing elderly populations, that are likely experiencing declines in their hormone levels, failed to find any differences in testosterone production after supplementation .
It May Enhance Libido
Despite Tribulus terrestris not appearing to increase testosterone, it may have a slightly more pronounced influence on boosting libido – defined as the energy of sexual drive.
Studies have shown that men with poor sex drives can increase their desire for sex by ~80% after consuming 750–1,500mg of Tribulus terrestris daily for 2 months .
In general, there is are a multitude of studies that report similar benefits of the herb, and this effect has even been seen in women with low sexual desire .
Following on from these results, many people also now choose to supplement with tribulus terrestris in an attempt to treat erectile dysfunction. However, the libido enhancing effect does not appear to help erectile issues .
Tribulus Terrestris Does Not Affect Body Composition Or Performance
Due to the inability of tribulus terrestris supplements to increase hormone levels, there is also not a notable benefit on improving body composition or athletic performance.
To be honest, all claims that this supplement is a “testosterone enhancer” or “performance booster” should be ignored!
Studies that have analyzed the supplements effects on these factors confirm this, with no differences in strength, muscular endurance, and body composition between the supplement and a placebo in athletic populations after 8 weeks  .
How To Take Tribulus Terrestris?
Unfortunately, there is no credible evidence that has concluded the most effective and safe dosage of tribulus terrestris.
Based on the amounts used in human research trials, a suitable dosage range is around 500-2500mg per day. However, as most of the studies on this herb report negligible effects it is hard to pinpoint an effective dose.
Tribulus Terrestris Safety And Side Effects
Most studies, in both animals and humans, report minimal side effects or safety concerns .
Some possible side effects, especially at high doses, are:
- Minor stomach cramps
- Stomach reflux
- Kidney damage
- Kidney stones
Tribulus terrestris is a small leafy plant that is now sold as a supplemental herb for people looking to increase their testosterone production to improve their athletic performance and physical appearance.
However, the research on the herb so far has not shown any significant effect on performance or body composition even in athletes on intense training programs.
The only real effect of the herb appears to be on increasing ones sexual desire, especially in people who state they have low libido.