After protein powders and pre workout supplements, natural testosterone boosters are probably the most sought after supplements. The intentions are correct: more testosterone when combined with resistance exercise leads to larger increases in muscle mass. However, most testosterone boosters on the market are simply ways to get in your pockets and have very little scientific backing behind them.
Most consumers in the market for test boosters are young healthy males looking for a quick way to pack on muscle. The problem is, the healthy young male population is the worst candidate for these kinds of supplements because their natural testosterone levels are already sky high. Even if testosterone boosters had an effect, it would be negligible.
One of the most popular testosterone boosting supplements is tribulus.
What Is Tribulus
Tribulus Terrestris Plant
Tribulus terrestris is a herbal plant that has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese and Indian (Ayurveduc) medicine. Tribulus has also been widely used in Eastern Europe and was introduced as a medicinal product in the 1980s in Bulgaria. The original uses of tribulus were as an aphrodisac, treatment of erectile dysfunction, and improving the vitally/energy of older men. In the past decade, tribulus has been marketed to bodybuilders claiming that it can boost testosterone levels and increase muscle mass.
Animal studies have confirmed that tribulus has libido stimulating and erection supporting properties(1). Other animal studies have shown tribulus to increase serum androgren (testosterone and DHT) levels (2). However, similar results have not been able to be duplicated in humans.
How Tribulus Works
Tribulus’s main active component is thought to be a steroidal saponin named protodioscin. Steroidal saponins share the basic 4 carbon ring structure of all steroids. The exact pathways and mechanisms of how saponins work have not been identified and remains highly speculative.
Potential Benefits Of Tribulus
Supplement companies claim that tribulus can increase testosterone levels, muscle mass, and strength gains.
The study widely used to demonstrate tribulus’s ability to boost testosterone levels was conducted by Sopharma, the Bulgarian manufacturer of medicinal tribulus terrestris (Tribeston) (3). This internal study demonstrated that tribulus weakly but positively effected androgen levels. This study was not peer reviewed or published in a journal. So take it for what it’s worth knowing the company had financial interest in tribulus being effective.
Tribulus was shown to increase androgen levels in rats, rabbits, and primates between 25-52%. The animals were given 2.5-30 mg/kg of body weight for up to 8 weeks (4).
Similar findings were not found in a 2005 placebo controlled study that looked at serum testosterone levels of healthy young men who took 10 mg/kg or 20 mg/kg of body weight daily for 4 weeks (5). The study did not find a significant effect of tribulus on serum androgen levels.
The final study I’ll address was a placebo-controlled study conducted with a group of resistance trained men (6). Subjects consumed 3.21 mg/kg of body weight daily for 8 weeks and underwent a controlled weight training program. The study found no changes in muscle mass, strength, or calorie intake as a result of supplementing with tribulus.
Until further research is done, I cannot recommend tribulus for a testosterone booster. Other than an “in hourse” study, only animal studies have shown tribulus to postively effect androgen levels.
Effective dosage has not been established. Most manufacturers recommend between 500-1500 mg per day.
Tribulus Side Effects
No significant side effects reported in studies.
1. Gauthaman K, Ganesan AP, Prasad RN (2003). “Sexual effects of puncturevine (Tribulus terrestris) extract (protodioscin): an evaluation using a rat model”. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 9 (2): 257–65.
2. Gauthaman K, Ganesan AP (Jan 2008). “The hormonal effects of Tribulus terrestris and its role in the management of male erectile dysfunction—an evaluation using primates, rabbit and rat”. Phytomedicine 15 (1-2): 44–54.
3. Milanov, S., E. Maleeva, M. Tashkov. Tribestan effect on the concentration of some hormones in the serum of healthy subjects (Company documentation)(1981).
4. Gauthaman K, Ganesan AP (Jan 2008). “The hormonal effects of Tribulus terrestris and its role in the management of male erectile dysfunction—an evaluation using primates, rabbit and rat”. Phytomedicine 15 (1-2): 44–54.
5. Neychev VK, Mitev VI (Oct 2005). “The aphrodisiac herb Tribulus terrestris does not influence the androgen production in young men”. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 101 (1-3): 319–23.
6. Antonio J et al. “The effects of Tribulus terrestris on body composition and exercise performance in resistance-trained males”. International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism. 10.2 (2000):208-15.