Tribulus terrestris has been dominating forums and fitness blogs as a ‘super sports supplement’ for many years, with wide ranging claims to supposed health benefits.
From the power to increase testosterone, and improving urinary health, to providing a boost to the immune system, and being a potent aphrodisiac — can one little weed really offer so much?
We take a look at some of the benefits of this botanical supplement and give you the supporting evidence to demonstrate its efficacy.
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What are the benefits of Tribulus Terrestris?
Tribulus terrestris is an extract from a plant with the same name and contains steroidal saponins known to boost the libido and support healthy immune and urinary systems.
The extract has been used in traditional remedies (including Chinese medicine and Ayurveda) for a number of ailments for many centuries.
However, this potent herb has been causing a stir in the world of sports supplements for the last few decades over controversial claims that it can also boost testosterone levels.
Though there have been limited studies on humans, there is significant evidence to support the fact that tribulus terrestris does boost testosterone in animals (including primates).
One of the main properties of tribulus terrestris which has widely been accepted by both traditional and Western medicine is those associated with providing a natural boost to the libido.
Indian and Chinese medicine have both traditionally used this herbal extract to boost sexual health in males and females.
It is thought that the active ingredient, protodioscin, a steroidal saponins found in tribulus terrestris, is responsible for this positive aphrodisiac effect.
Controlled studies on both healthy and castrated rats found the supplement to be as effective as Viagra.
In human studies, results showed a significant boost in positive sexual behaviour both in terms of frequency and duration as well as in erectile function in adult human males. The extract was also shown to boost the sperm count of sub fertile men by almost 50%.
Treat Erectile Dysfunction (ED)
It is thought that the same compound that boosts libido causes the corpus callosum to relax and allows the blood to fully engorge the penis before becoming trapped in a ‘strategic’ position.
The result is an effective treatment for ED.
Studies conducted in 2012 were satisfactorily able to demonstrate that a dose of just 6g of tribulus terrestris could improve the symptoms of ED. Not only that but there was also a reported increase in stamina.
Though there are many detractors of the few human studies that have been completed on the effects on increasing testosterone levels using tribulus terrestris, there is positive proof that this supplement works to do just that.
Animal tests have conclusively been able to demonstrate that doses of 5mg/kg is enough to boost testosterone levels with an intravenous dose of 7.5mg/kg in primates resulting in increases of DHEAS, DHT and testosterone by 29%, 31% and 52% respectively.
Though there have been limited human studies, the results have been quite encouraging; however, many in the scientific community have disregarded the findings as being insignificant or flawed.
One such study, conducted in 2012 by Sellandi, Thakar & Baghel demonstrated that a 6g dose of tribulus resulted in an increase of testosterone levels by 16.3%; however, the findings were not deemed of ‘statistical significance’.
Similar studies undertaken in Bulgaria and Lithuania also report good results on base testosterone levels though these have largely been found to be dose dependent (details of which are not published).
Additionally a 2009 trial (Milasius et al., (2009)) proved a significant increase in serum testosterone levels in just three weeks. The same study also demonstrated a boost to alactic and anaerobic muscular power in the test subjects (all healthy young males).
In this last study, the tribulus terrestris extract was stacked with D-glucosamine, N-acetylglucosamine and Alga Eckonia.
Supporting Urinary Health
Used as an aid to urinary health in traditional medicine, trials in Western science have proven the effects of tribulus terrestris as an effective diuretic.
A daily dose of just 3g (either from the fruit or added to water) was enough to improve the daily urine output in patients suffering with hypertension (Murthy, Dubey & Tripathi, (2000)).
Though previous reports of the positive effect of tribulus terrestris on mood have largely been anecdotal, recent studies have shown a quantifiable effect, comparable to that of imipramine or diazepam.
In doses of 2g, corticosterone and corticotropin levels were reduced to normal levels. It was observed that tribulus terrestris was as effective as a clinical dose of fluoxetine as an anti-depressant.
Is Tribulus more effective than aspirin to treat pain?
The traditional use of tribulus terrestris for pain relief is relatively localised to just a few countries in the Middle East.
Whether this is due to a variation in the active ingredients or just a curious quirk of geography, the fact is that there is some scientific evidence to support this kind of remedy.
Extracts administered intravenously in mice showed that tribulus offered remarkable pain relief perception and was as effective as aspirin. Though human trials have yet to be scheduled, it does go some way to providing proof of what has been known in places like Iran for centuries.
Lower blood pressure and cholesterol
The same trials in hypertensive patients that demonstrated the diuretic benefits of tribulus also showed a positive impact on cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
In a group of 75 patients, most were reported to experience improvements in these base lines within just a week of receiving treatment.