Looking for a natural way to boost testosterone?
Fenugreek has been used for centuries in both culinary and medicinal ways to treat everything from PMS to limp libidos. So, could this readily available supplement be the answer to your prayers?
We take a look at the claims that fenugreek can boost testosterone and see how it compares to tribulus terrestris.
What is Fenugreek?
Also known as trigonella foenum-graecum or methi, fenugreek is an annual plant grown in semi arid conditions mainly cultivate for culinary use. Its seeds, sprouts and leaves are commonly found in Asian cooking as herbs, spices and vegetables. With a bitter taste, fenugreek is an acquired taste and, due to the high levels of coumarin-like compounds can cause an allergic reaction.
In the supplement industry, fenugreek is supplied in the form of a powder formed by crushing the seeds.
What is Tribulus Terrestris?
Another naturally occurring compound sourced from mother nature, tribulus terrestris is a plant in the calthrop family. Grown widely across the world, it is known in North America as puncture vine or devil’s weed. An invasive plant that has adapted to a variety of climates and soils, tribulus has been widely used in traditional medicines across Asia, especially India.
Supplements can be derived from the both the flower, seeds and fruit in a powdered form. The most common form of extract is taken from the root.
What are the Active Components of Fenugreek?
The dose and active compound of fenugreek will vary depending on whether you are using the seeds, leaves or flesh of the plant but the plant is largely comprised of:
- Alkaloids such as trigonelline
- Coumarins including cinnamic acid and scopoletin,
- Vitamins (A, B6, C, thiamin, folic acid, niacin and riboflavin)
- Minerals (iron, calcium, potassium, zinc, selenium, copper, manganese and magnesium)
What are the Active Components of Tribulus Terrestris?
The actual amount and split of ingredients in supplements that are derived from tribulus terrestris vary greatly by manufacturer. Not only can the supplier vary the recipe but the geographical location from which the plant has been sourced can also have an impact. However, the main active components are similar to fenugreek and include:
- Flavonoids such as quercetin glycosides (including kaempferol glycoside and rutin) and caffeoyl derivatives.
- Flavonol glycosides quercetin 3-O-rutinoside, quercetin 3-O-glycoside and kaempferol 3-O-glycoside.
- Steroidal saponins (Protodioscin and Protogracillin)
- Saponins (tribestin and protodibestin)
- Alkaloids (harmane and norharmane)
- Vitamin C.
What are the Benefits of Fenugreek?
Fenugreek has been used as a remedy for many ailments and complaints in traditional Indian medicine for centuries.
Due to its rich content of mucilage, it is a useful remedy for digestive disorders including stomach ulcers and indigestion. It can be used to help relieve constipation, ease a fever and to help combat high cholesterol.
The high fibre content of the leaves and vegetable itself is partly why many weight loss supplements include fenugreek in their ingredients.
Topical use of this plant has also been shown to soothe skin inflammation.
However, it is the ability of fenugreek to restore hormone balance which has earned it recent coverage. Used by women to help boost milk production during breastfeeding as well as alleviate symptoms of PMS and menstrual cramps, Fenugreek can also address an imbalance in testosterone levels in men.
What are the Benefits of Tribulus Terrestris?
Tribulus terrestris has been used as a botanical supplementary medicine for centuries to treat erectile dysfunction, urinary problems and as a mood enhancer and pain killer. It’s primary use is as a powerful aphrodisiac, working for both men and women.
In recent years, tribulus has risen to prominence as a natural way to boost testosterone. It is the steroidal saponins found in the plant that are thought to increase DHEAS, DHT and testosterone.
Tribulus has also been found to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Can Fenugreek Boost Testosterone Levels in Men?
The short answer to this is, possibly. Not particularly helpful but to find out why the answer isn’t as straightforward as it should be, we need to look at a few important factors.
First of all, and with many naturally occurring chemical compounds, substances can have very different results in individuals depending on dose, source and the biochemistry of the user.
There is no doubt that fenugreek shares many similarities with DHEA but it also shares many traits with phytoestrogens. As a result, some users can achieve results that show a positive impact on their testosterone levels whilst some, more anecdotally, report side effects such as enlargement of the breast tissue.
Studies have not been able to conclusively produce evidence to support the claim that fenugreek can boost testosterone and it is widely believed that any reports of gains as a result of fenugreek supplements is more likely to be due to a redress of hormone imbalance than an increase in androgen production.
That said, men who suffer from reduced or abnormal testosterone levels could see an improvement.
Can Tribulus Terrestris Boost Testosterone Levels in Men?
The active ingredients in tribulus terrestris have been shown to boost testosterone in animal studies by up to 52%. Human studies have so far been less convincing although there are trials that do support the claims.
One study showed improvements of 16% in healthy males and performance athletes; both groups had no issues with low testosterone levels. The study was conducted over a single 4-week period and in a small group, yet these results were deemed ‘insignificant’.
Whilst there is good clinical evidence to support the claims as well as strong anecdotal evidence, there are detractors of this powerful herb.
How Does Fenugreek Work?
In studies, both on humans and rats, the evidence is inconclusive to support the claim that fenugreek raises testosterone levels and most ‘proof’ is purely anecdotal. In fact, of the few studies where a conclusive result has been achieved what has actually been identified (conducted on laboratory rabbits) is that fenugreek can lower androgen levels and decrease fertility.
From the studies performed, it is thought that fenugreek acts by blocking the 5-alpha reductase enzyme which helps convert testosterone into DHT. As a result, naturally occurring testosterone fails to convert to androgen.
The result of these findings has suggested that even if fenugreek boosts testosterone levels the fact that this does not convert to DHT means that the results will be more anabolic than androgenic.
How Does Tribulus Terrestris Work?
The main active ingredient in tribulus is a steroidal saponin known as protodioscin. Steroidal saponins, also known as saraponins, work in three ways:
- Improving the body’s response to naturally occurring levels of androgens
- Acting as a precursor to testosterone by boosting DHEA levels
- Initiating the release of LH (luteinizing hormone)
All three of these factors are known to increase testosterone levels and some supplementary sources of tribulus contain as much as 45% by volume of protodioscin.
Who Uses Fenugreek?
Always looking for legal alternatives to steroids to produce results, fenugreek supplements are marketed at the body building community. There is also a big market for fenugreek with men who are suffer from impotence, low sex drive and fertility issues.
Who Uses Tribulus Terrestris?
Since the primary marketing drive of manufacturers of this powerful supplement are promoting the gains in testosterone, the majority of users for tribulus are:
- Athletes and body builders looking for natural alternatives to steroids to boost performance.
- Patients suffering from erectile dysfunction.
- Patients suffering from low testosterone levels.
- Men and women looking for natural aphrodisiacs.
Some people report using tribulus to enhance a positive mood and use small doses as part of a daily supplement programme.
Is Fenugreek Safe to Use?
There is some evidence to suggest that fenugreek can adversely interact with anticoagulant, anti-diabetic and antiplatelet medication.
Overdosing on seeds has been linked to intestinal problems causing wind, diarrhoea and dyspepsia in some individuals.
Some men using fenugreek to boost testosterone have reported side effects similar to the use of phytoestrogens, namely enlargement of their breasts.
However, most people do not suffer any serious or harmful negative side effects and fenugreek is considered quite safe.
Is Tribulus Terrestris Safe to Use?
Studies have shown that both short-term and long-term use of tribulus is quite safe though there can be some mild side effects in some patients. These can include restlessness and insomnia as a result of the energy boosting properties.
Mild effects such as a warm feeling and/or an increased heart rate can be experienced in some users.
Caution is recommended for patients who are diabetic as there have been shown to be mild interactions with prescription drugs.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also avoid taking tribulus supplements.
Men who have had problems with the prostate have also been advised not to take tribulus unless speaking with their physician first.
Lastly, due to the presence of small thorns, you should never eat any part of the fruit of tribulus terrestris. Supplements that contain the fruit have usually been processed to eradicate the risk of such occurrences but care should be taken in the quality you choose. Issues associated with eating the fruit can include serious lung problems.
Fenugreek vs Tribulus: Who Wins?
There is no doubt that there is more scientific evidence to support the claims that tribulus terrestris boosts testosterone levels.
However, there is contradictory evidence from some sources of research that continues to cast doubt.
Both are natural alternatives to steroids and have little or no side effects, being safe to use. The choice of supplement is down to the user and anecdotal evidence suggests that using both can be an effective choice.