Many fitness and health advocates have supported traditional herbal remedies to combat the effects of our modern diet and environment. And for good reason. Our own research here at the Great Green Wall has shown that traditional foods like Ginseng can have a multitude of health benefits, including T-Boosting.
One herb, Tribulus, has been on the forefront of this movement since the 1980s, and in the intervening decades a lot of articles and pieces have come about on both sides of the debate–either it’s amazing, people write, or it’s hogwash. In this article, we’ll try to find out what the truth really is.
What You Need to Know
History of Tribulus
The scientific name of this worldwide-growing herb is Tribulus terrestris, which in Latin means “caltrop plant.” Its other names also relate to the thorns on its bud that also look like devil, or goat horns. Perhaps because of this pictorial semblance to–ahem–horns, it has been used as a sexual health boon for thousands of years.
But as one research paper documents, Olympic athletes from Bulgaria brought Tribulus to the national stage when they credited its use for their impressive wins in weightlifting. But as the same researcher points out, it was later discovered that all of these athletes had actually been doping.
The narrative had been set, though, and to this day many athletes and men with Low-T have been chasing the myth of Tribulus in every supplement they buy. Let’s see what the science actually shows us.
Research: the Good, the Bad, the Bizarre
Current trends in supplement research tend toward studying the ingredients rather than the whole supplement. This allows scientists to identify what exactly, is moving the needle. Because Tribulus is one of the original ingredients in men’s supplements, we have a wealth of data to pull from.
Before we begin, I should point out that I’ve culled countless trials and experiments from the dozen I did keep. I’ve limited these data to only that pertains to Testosterone. If there’s no mention of the actual hormone in the research, I didn’t include it. That way you know we’re not just talking about “improved drive,” or other fuzzy phrases. We’re talking hard facts.
Possible Signs of Benefit
We’ll start with the research that shows some kind of T-Boosting, limited though it is. First, I have links to a collection of books here that claim to show Tribulus increases testosterone. But we should note that these excerpts don’t show their sources–or say how much or by what mechanism Tribulus is working. So what of the studies?
First we have two studies, both on male rats, that showed increases in Testosterone. The first showed the best results with extracts from the fruit of the Tribulus plant, while the other showed an increase in castrated rats. (A third study saw behavioral improvements in rats, and said it was “probably due” to T-increases, but didn’t actually claim that.)
Lastly, we have our only human study with positive results, in which male athletes had improvements in several biochemical markers related to muscle performance. They also had significant Testosterone increases–but only for the first ten days. After that the effect ceased.
Research with No Benefit
I’ll try not to crowd the next few paragraphs, but I want to demonstrate just how much research has gone into Tribulus, and how much of it hasn’t shown any T-Boosting properties.
First, we have a study on rats (poor buggers) in whom scientists wanted to measure tissue sensitivity to Tribulus. Specifically, they wanted to test whether any of the tissues responsible for hormone health reacted at all to Tribulus. Results were nil. No change to any tissue after using Tribulus.
Next we have the human studies, four of them that show no impact on human testosterone after taking Tribulus. First we’ll discuss one showing that in elderly men with ED, Tribulus actually is effective, and there was a small increase in Testosterone, though not statistically significant.
A brief note
A brief note on “statistically significant.” This is a mathematical measure, which has been tested extensively in the history of modern science, to determine whether the effect is because of the variable, or random chance. Essentially, in the experiment above, the men taking Tribulus did have Testosterone gains, but not much that researchers feel confident it was because of the herb and not some other factor.
Next we have a study of Rugby players. In it, there was no change in strength, muscle gains or Testosterone between the men taking Tribulus and those taking nothing. Researchers have cast a wide net looking for the elusive mechanism that Tribulus believers are looking for, and in a study of healthy young men, found that there is no benefit to Tribulus in testosterone, luteinizing hormone, or any other index for hormone health.
Finally we have a literature review, wherein the authors had access to all the data of all the studies that have ever been conducted regarding Tribulus in human studies. Their conclusion? Tribulus is completely ineffective.
Just Plain Weird
Just to give a peek behind the curtain on how exhaustive our research is at the Great Green Wall, here are two articles I had to include. One study showed that if you happen to be a morphine addicted mouse Tribulus may be the answer for your woes. The other is an article highlighting the positive results of Tribulus. Trouble is, in the authors’ own words, the piece was written to increase the sales of Tribulus.
Many people write in asking how we’ve developed our product reviews, and the answer is simple: if the science and evidence supports a formula, we’ll say so. That’s how our editors have narrowed down the absolute most effective T-Boosters like TestoPrime and Testogen. It’s worthwhile to note that neither of them use Tribulus. It’s also worth noting that the Australian Government has flagged Tribulus products as posing a risk of contamination.
In the end, there are dozens of proven ingredients with better testing and less scandal attached. If you’re inclined, a brief read through our “Nutrition” tab can get you started on a better foot.