Tribulus Terrestris Fruit Extract
by Benjamin Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert
Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.
Tribulus terrestris (TT) is a plant which has gained in popularity among men's health supplements due to its claimed ability to increase testosterone, libido and strength. Researchers believe its steroidal saponins - protodioscin and diosgenin specifically - mimic hormones in the body and help enhance these benefits.
Tribulus terrestris is used as an herbal tonic and to treat various gynecological issues such as painful urination and involuntary semen release (spermatorrhea). Additionally, this remedy may help heart and circulatory issues; and digestive ailments like gas and diarrhea.
Tribulus is in a lot of T-boosters
Tribulus, a flowering plant native to Europe, Asia and Africa that has long been used in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine, can be found throughout its habitat in these three regions.
Tribulus is one of the most widely prescribed herbal remedies for men, primarily due to its purported increase in testosterone levels - though this may just be an unintended side effect of use.
Tribulus may also balance hormones for women (particularly estrogen levels) while protecting from inflammation within the prostate gland. Active ingredients found within Tribulus called Steroid Saponins act like natural steroids produced by our bodies, with Protodioscin being particularly abundant within it.
Studies have demonstrated the libido-boosting effects of this herb are believed to be caused by its high concentrations of saponins, and can increase both men and women libidos significantly; however, unlike some supplements Tribulus doesn't improve sex drive quite as significantly.
Traditional uses for this herb include treating sexual issues. More recently, however, natural health supplements using Tribulus to boost libido and strength often contain Tribulus extract as well. Some testosterone boosters also contain Tribulus; however, studies on humans and animals indicate it doesn't actually increase testosterone levels.
Tribulus may cause side effects such as digestive distress and prostate issues; according to one study, tribulus increased PSA levels by 20% - this indicator can help diagnose prostate disease more accurately. Furthermore, long-term use can result in ulcers for some individuals.
Does tribulus improve athletic performance?
To address this gap, a randomized, single-blind, placebo-controlled trial was conducted with 30 healthy trained males.
Participants were given either 770 mg of TT supplementation or a placebo daily for 6 weeks, and their body composition, hormonal response, and exercise performance were assessed before and after the intervention.
The results showed no significant differences between the two groups, except for testosterone levels and bench press performance. Overall, TT supplementation did not enhance performance or body composition in athletes.
However, it may be argued that the improvement of testosterone would be the result of the intense exercise which can cause spikes in androgen levels.
In another study which was published in 2000, the effects of tribulus terrestris on body composition and exercise performance in resistance-trained males were examined.
Fifteen subjects were randomly assigned to either a placebo or tribulus group, with the latter receiving 3.21 mg per kg body weight daily.
Before and after an 8-week exercise and supplementation period, body weight, body composition, maximal strength, dietary intake, and mood states were determined.
The results showed no changes in body weight, percentage fat, total body water, dietary intake, or mood states in either group.
Muscle endurance increased for the bench and leg press exercises in the placebo group, while the tribulus group experienced an increase in leg press strength only.
Therefore, it was concluded that supplementation with tribulus does not enhance body composition or exercise performance in resistance-trained males.
Could Tribulus use fail a drug test?
Tribulus terrestris is a popular herbal supplement that is marketed as a way to quickly increase muscle mass and strength.
To investigate these claims, a study was conducted on 22 elite male rugby league players who were randomly assigned to either a TT or placebo group.
After 5 weeks of training, both groups showed significant increases in strength and fat-free mass, with no differences between them.
Additionally, there were no changes in the urinary T/E ratio, indicating that TT does not pose a risk of a positive drug test.
Overall, the study suggests that the claims made by manufacturers about the effects of TT may be exaggerated, and that it should not be relied upon as a quick fix for muscle gain.
Should tribulus be used in sport?
TT is often marketed as a testosterone booster and remedy for impaired erectile function, making it popular among physically active men and male athletes.
However, there is limited scientific evidence to support these claims. Clinical trials have shown that TT used alone does not improve androgenic status or physical performance among athletes.
While some studies have shown that a combination of TT with other pharmacological components increases testosterone levels, it is unclear which components contribute to this effect.
TT contains several organic compounds, including alkaloids and steroidal glycosides, whose pharmacological action in humans is not fully understood.
Additionally, there have been reports of TT supplements being contaminated with banned steroids, and one accidental poisoning of a man has been described.
The Australian Institute of Sport does not recommend the use of TT by athletes. Overall, the published data on TT do not provide strong evidence for its usefulness or safe usage in sport.
Tribulus and health characteristics
Tribulus terrestris has been used in traditional medicine and sports nutrition to enhance performance and improve health.
However, there is no conclusive evidence to support these claims. To assess the potential effects of TT on physically active adult males, a systematic review of studies was conducted.
Out of 340 records, only 7 studies met the criteria for inclusion. The results showed that TT supplementation had a positive impact on lipid profile and moderate effects on inflammatory and hematological biomarkers.
However, there were no significant changes observed in renal biomarkers or immune system response.
Overall, the evidence does not support the use of TT for improving muscle damage markers or hormonal behavior.
Does tribulus help with libido?
Tribulus terrestris is a plant with a longstanding tradition in traditional Chinese and Indian herbal medicine, used to treat sexual dysfunction among both men and women, improve fertility, reduce blood sugar levels, enhance strength and endurance and boost strength and endurance.
Nowadays, however, its main use is as a male sexual enhancer and performance boosting supplement; additionally it may be taken to alleviate symptoms associated with hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD).
Tribulus contains several plant compounds known as saponins that contribute to its libido-enhancing effects, with protodioscin being perhaps the most significant one.
This steroidal saponin mimics certain sex hormones while increasing blood flow to reproductive organs through increased nitric oxide production and increasing blood flow to these organs.
Protodioscin levels vary greatly depending on where tribulus is grown - varieties from Southeast Europe typically contain over 30 times as much protodioscin as those grown from Western Asia do!
Tribulus has long been used for treating sexual dysfunction and erectile dysfunction, with claims that its active compounds might help promote sexual activity by way of steroidal saponins and coumarins.
Unfortunately, research supporting its benefits for sexual function or erectile dysfunction remains scarce.
Tribulus and erectile dysfunction
A 2016 study was conducted on 30 consecutive male patients presenting to Kasr-Al Ainy Andrology outpatient clinic complaining of manifestations of partial androgen deficiency in aging males (PADAM).
For this study (750 mg/day) of Tribulus terrestris in 3 divided doses, each of 250 mg, as an endogenous testosterone enhancer had been tried for a duration of 3 months.
The evaluation of its effect had been monitored for each patient concerning its effect on serum testosterone (total and free) and luteinizing hormone (LH), as well as its impact on erectile function, which was evaluated by the International Index of Erectile Function-5 (IIEF-5) questionnaire for those patients.
Results showed a statistically significant difference in the level of testosterone (total and free) and IIEF-5, but no statistically significant difference in the level of LH before and after treatment.
Also, the study showed statistically significant correlation between testosterone (total and free) and IIEF-5, but no statistically significant correlation between the level of LH and the IIEF-5 before and after treatment.
Tribulus and acne
Tribulus terrestris is one of the herbal extracts evaluated for its clinical efficacy in treating mild to moderate acne vulgaris.
In a randomized study, patients were given either herbal extracts or a placebo for 8 weeks.
By the end of the study, both inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne lesion counts were significantly reduced in the herbal extracts group.
Immunohistochemistry staining also showed a decrease in expressions of IL-1α, IL-8, and keratin 16 in the herbal extracts group compared to the placebo group.
The study suggests that herbal extracts, including tribulus, can be a safe and effective alternative to traditional acne medications.
Tribulus and diabetes
Diabetes is a disease that can lead to increased levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the body, contributing to its pathogenesis. TT is a plant used in Arabic folk medicine to treat various diseases, including diabetes.
In a study, rats were divided into six groups and treated with either saline, glibenclamide (Glib), or TT for 30 days.
The TT extract significantly decreased levels of serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and creatinine in diabetic groups, and lowered the MDA level in the liver in both diabetic and nondiabetic groups.
Additionally, levels of reduced glutathione (GSH) in the liver were significantly increased in diabetic rats treated with TT.
Histopathological examination revealed significant recovery of the liver in herb-treated rats.
These findings suggest that TT may have a protective effect on STZ-induced diabetic rats by inhibiting oxidative stress.
Tribulus terrestris, a plant belonging to the Zygophyllaceae family, has been used in traditional medicine for centuries due to its various health benefits.
The plant contains several active compounds, including flavonoids, alkaloids, saponins, lignin, amides, and glycosides, which have been found to possess aphrodisiac, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties.
Tribulus terrestris is commonly used to treat infertility and loss of libido, and has also shown potential in improving immune function, protecting the liver, reducing cholesterol levels, and fighting against parasites and cancer.
It is an extract that is commonly found in supplements with the aim of improving sports performance, testosterone levels and libido.
However, much of the evidence is lacking, and regardless of the claims it isn't likely to cause any failed drug tests among users.