Tribulus Terrestris and Testosterone: Useless Hype?
By Ali Kuoppala | Last reviewed Tue 25 September 2018
Medical Review by Gerardo Sison, PharmD & Dr. Stefano Pizzo, MD
Tribulus Terrestris (puncture vine) is a herb that grows pretty much all around the World but is typically found in dry and cold climates.
It’s the most well known “testosterone booster” in the bodybuilding community. With a bad reputation that is, and it really does share opinions. Some preach for its awesome effects, and some say it’s an utter waste of money with no benefits at all.
So let’s find out does Tribulus Terrestris really work and what’s the science behind the herb:
Do Tribulus Increase Testosterone Levels
Bodybuilders commonly use Tribulus Terrestris as a post-cycle remedy to jump-start the body’s own natural production of testosterone.
They do that based on the claims that Tribulus would increase luteinizing hormone (LH) levels which would then help the body synthesize more testosterone inside the testicles.
It makes some sense as Tribulus Terrestris contains steroidal saponins and steroidal glycosides, which may have slight androgenic effects in the body.
However, scientific research on the subject is a big mess of inconclusive evidence:
a) This study, for example, is the poster boy which is used as a “scientific proof” on how Tribulus would boost testosterone. However, the researchers used animal subjects (baboons and rhesus monkeys) and they gave them the Tribulus via injections.
The Tribulus injections did work quite well, as they more than doubled the testosterone levels of those primates, but not for a long period of time though.
Basically, this study proves nothing, except that there are some androgenic effects in the herb when it’s injected into monkeys.
b) Few long-term studies on animals have seen slight increases in testosterone levels of rabbits and rats (study, study).
But again, those are animal studies and they’re not enough to prove anything.
c) In this human study concluded by Antonio et al. Tribulus Terrestris supplementation did increase strength endurance and body composition of resistance trained men when compared to placebo.
However, That’s not enough to prove that the herb would increase testosterone levels, as it’s filled with nutrients and phytochemicals that may have a positive effect on body composition and muscle stamina even without a change in hormones.
d) Then finally came this human study which showed significant increases in testosterone and LH levels of men and women who take a standardized Tribulus extract containing at least 10% of the active ingredient Protodioscin (one of the steroidal glycosides).
e) What followed was few another human studies done with the actual Tribulus Terrestris plant which showed no increases in testosterone or LH levels of young men (study, study, study)
So what can we learn from those studies?
Well, it looks like the herb alone increases testosterone in animals, but not in humans. And when the active ingredient (Protodioscin) is standardized into an extract, it significantly increases testosterone and LH levels in both, men and women.
This makes some sense, as this study found out that most of the Tribulus products on the market contain virtually non-existent amounts of Protodioscin.
Meaning that most of the brands on the market are basically Tribulus Terrestris plant without the active ingredients that could have those modest androgenic properties.
In my opinion, Tribulus Terrestris is one of the worst testosterone boosters out there. Yes, it might work if you get an extract with a standardized amount of steroidal saponins and Protodioscin, but I wouldn’t bet my life on it.
The only thing that I’ve seen after trying out Tribulus Terrestris has been a slight increase in libido and beard growth rate, but those may be explained by other factors too.
So if you want to try Tribulus you’d better get a product like this which has a standardized amount of the active ingredients.
Or just get yourself a testosterone booster that actually works in humans without any guessing, such as micronutrients, Mucuna Pruriens, and Ashwagandha.