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Tribulus Terrestris

Tribulus Terrestris Review

What is Tribulus Terrestris?

Tribulus terrestris (also known as puncture vine/weed, devil’s weed) is an indigenous medicinal herb that has been used for centuries in the traditional medicines of China and India. The main bioactive compounds found in Tribulus are believed to be the steroidal saponins which include protodioscin, prototribestin, pseudoprotodioscin, dioscin, tribestin, and tribulosin. Tribulus terrestris has become increasingly popular amongst body builders where it is taken in the belief that it increases natural testosterone levels by stimulating leutinizing hormone (LH) which in turn stimulates the natural production of testosterone. It is also commonly used by bodybuilders as a post cycle therapy (PCT) to try to restore the body’s natural testosterone levels. Tribulus terrestris has been heavily marketed by many supplement companies as a potential natural testosterone booster and for gains in both muscle mass and strength during resistance training.

Who may benefit from Taking Tribulus terrestris supplements?

Current research does not support the claims that Tribulus terrestris increases testosterone levels, muscle strength or muscle mass in humans. There is some evidence that Tribulus may aid the restoration of normal testicular function and therefore could be of benefit for bodybuilders during PCT. Tribulus possesses antioxidant activity, antiabetic activity, and may be of benefit in reducing blood glucose levels, total cholesterol levels, LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides.

Summary of Tribulus terrestris' Phyiological Effects:

  • Current research does not support claims that Tribulus terrestris increases natural testosterone, muscle mass or strength in humans
  • Appears to elevate antioxidant activity and functional enzymes
  • Tribulus may possess antidiabetic activity 
  • Appears to lower total cholesterol levels, LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides
  • May protect against heavy metal intoxication
  • Tribulus appears to have antihypertensive and vasodillatory effects and may protect against damage to heart cells.
  • May help to restore normal testicular function
  • Appears to possess some anticancer properties
  • Tribulus is genereally considered to be safe for most people when taken for periods of up to 8 weeks.


Tribulus terrestris Research

Animal studies looking at Tribulus terrestris and Testosterone levels
A number of animal studies have shown Tribulus terrestris to possess potential androgenic activity (Gauthaman et al., 2002; Gauthaman et al., 2003; Gauthaman and Ganesan in 2008). Researchers found that in animals Tribulus appeared to possess aphrodisiac properties (Gauthman et al. 2002), led to increases in body weight (Gauthaman et al., 2003), and may increase levels of testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS) (Gauthaman and Ganesan in 2008).

Human studies looking at Tribulus terrestris and Testosterone levels
Studies in humans looking at the effects of Tribulus terrestris supplementation have generally failed to demonstrate any increases in testosterone levels, muscle mass or strength (Antonio et al., 2000; Brown et al., 2000; Neychev and Mitev 2005; Rogerson et al., 2007). Research looking at the effect of Tribulus terrestris supplementation in resistance trained males found that at a dose of 3.21mg/kg it did not enhance either body composition or exercise performance (Antonio et al., 2000). However, the dose used in this first study was fairly low and equivalent to just over 300mg in someone weighing 100kg. When researchers looked at the effect of Tribulus terrestris (450mg) in elite rugby league players they failed to notice improvements in strength, muscle mass, and there was no change in the ratio of testosterone/epitestosterone ratio (Rogerson et al., 2007). Research using a much higher dose of Tribulus terrestris (10mg/kg and 20mg/kg bodyweight) in men aged 20-36 also found that there was no increase in testosterone, androstenedione, or luteinizing hormone levels (Neychev and Mitev 2005). This study is important since it shows that even when taken at high dosages - 20mg/kg equivalent to 2000mg in someone weighing 100kg – Tribulus terrestris did not alter testosterone levels.

There have been three studies that are often quoted in support of the use of Tribulus terrestris for raising testosterone levels. However, two of these studies (Kohut et al., 2003; Brown et al., 2001) used a combination of supplements including the known testosterone precursors androstenedione (300mg) and DHEA (150mg). Due to the combination of ingredients used in these studies, specifically androstenedione & DHEA, it is impossible to tell whether Tribulus terrestris had any effect on either the free or total testosterone levels and it seems likely that the increases were as a result of androstenedione & DHEA rather than Tribulus. In addition, when this combination of supplements was used in a younger group of resistance trained males there was no increase in either total or free testosterone levels (Brown et al., 2000). The third study, that is often used in the support of Tribulus, was performed in Lithuania by Milasius et al., 2009. It reported improvements in muscular power, and testosterone was observed to have increased during the first 10 days of the study. However, this research is only available in abstract form and there was no information regarding the experimental protocols and controls, subject data, the actual increase in serum testosterone, or muscular power, and is clearly opposed by data from a number of other studies.

Based on the bulk of current research on the effects of Tribulus terrestris there appears to be no conclusive evidence to support it’s use as a natural testosterone booster or to increase muscular mass or power in otherwise healthy adults of any age.

Tribulus terrestris and post cycle therapy
Tribulus terrestris has become a popular supplement for many bodybuilders during post cycle therapy (PCT). There is a lack of current research to support this although many bodybuilders report positive results through the use of Tribulus and it could be that whilst Tribulus doesn’t appear to stimulate testosterone production under normal circumstances, it may have a role in restoring normal testosterone production during PCT when testosterone production has been significantly reduced, by having a stimulatory effect on Leydig cells. Interestingly, a recent study has found that Tribulus terrestris provided protection against cadmium (Cd) induced testicular damage and also brought about a significant recovery from the Cd induced testicular damage (Rajendar et al., 2011). The Tribulus terrestris extract appeared to have this protective effect through a combination of antioxidant activity and detoxifying poisonous metals.

Tribulus terrestris antidiabetic effect
Tribulus terrestris is believed to possess hypoglycemic properties (El-Tantawy and Hassanin 2007; Ponnusamy et al., 2011). Research suggests that Tribulus could be beneficial for diabetes by lowering blood glucose and lipid levels (El-Tantawy and Hassanin 2007) and may even have a protective effect in diabetes possibly through antioxidant (Amin et al., 2006).

Tribulus terrestris and blood lipids
Animal studies have found that Tribulus terrestris appears to significantly lower serum lipid profiles and triglycerides (El-Tantawy and Hassanin 2007;Tuncer et al., 2009; Guo et al., 2007;)

Anti-cancer activity
There is evidence that Tribulus terrestris possess anticancer activity (Kim et al., 2011;Neychev et al., 2007; Kumar et al., 2006; Sun et al., 2004; Sun et al., 2003; Yang et al., 2005). Some of the positive effects reported include a reduction in tumour incidence, suppression of cancer cell proliferation, and induction of cell apoptosis (programmed cell death).

Protection against heavy metal poisnoning
Tribulus terrestris appears to provide protection against heavy metal intoxication including mercury (Jagadeesan et al., 2005; Jagadeesan and Kavitha 2006) and Cadmium (Rajendar et al., 2011).

Antihypertensive and vasodillatory effects of Tribulus terrestris
Tribulus terrestris appears to possess significant antihypertensive activity (Philips et al., 2006). This may be due to the positive effect that Tribulus is believed to have on nitric oxide levels. Nitric oxide is known to have a relaxing effect on blood vessels, thereby increasing blood flow and reducing blood pressure. Trbulus terrestris also appears to protect heart cells (Zhang et al., 2010) and may even improve heart function following a heart attack (Guo et al., 2007).

Protecting against damage to heart cells
Tribulus terrestris was found to protect cardiocytes (Zhang et al., 2010) impaired by adriamycin – a cancer drug that can have cause serious cardiac side effects – and improved cardiac function in the early stages after myocardial infarction (Guo et al., 2007).

Is Tribulus terrestris effective?

Tribulus terrestris does not appear to be effective at raising testosterone levels, increasing muscle power or muscle size in humans. There is some evidence that Tribulus may help to restore normal testicular function and could be beneficial during post cycle therapy. It appears to possess a number of health benefits including antidiabetic, anticancer properties, protection against heavy metal intoxification, and maintenance of normal blood lipid profiles.

How to take Tribulus terrestris?

There is currently no research on an effective dose of Tribulus terrestris in humans.Research has generally used a dose of between 10-20mg/kg bodyweight - equivalent to a dose of around 750-1500mg in someone weighing 75kg.

Tribulus terrestris side effects

Tribulus appears to be generally safe when taken for periods of up to 8 weeks, the longer term safety of tribulus is currently unknown. It should be noted that there has been a reported case of gymnaecomastia (the abnormal development of mammary glands in males) following Tribulus terrestris supplementation in a young male (Jameel et al., 2004). There has also been a reported case of hepatotoxicity, nephrotoxicity and neurotoxicity (Talasaz et al., 2010).

It is suggested that Tribulus should be avoided during pregnancy, breastfeeding, by those with benign prostate hypertrophy, breast or prostate cancer, and anyone under the age of 21. Anyone with a serious medical condition should consult their medical practitioner before using Tribulus.

Tribulus terrestris References

Amin A, Lotfy M, Shafiullah M, Adeghate E. (2006) The protective effect of Tribulus terrestris in diabetes.Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2006 Nov;1084:391-401.

Antonio J, Uelmen J, Rodriguez R, Earnest C. (2000) The effects of Tribulus terrestris on body composition and exercise performance in resistance-trained males. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2000 Jun;10(2):208-15.

Brown GA, Vukovich MD, Reifenrath TA, Uhl NL, Parsons KA, Sharp RL, King DS. (2000) Effects of anabolic precursors on serum testosterone concentrations and adaptations to resistance training in young men. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2000 Sep;10(3):340-59.

Brown GA, Vukovich MD, Martini ER, Kohut ML, Franke WD, Jackson DA, King DS. (2001) Effects of androstenedione-herbal supplementation on serum sex hormone concentrations in 30- to 59-year-old men. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2001 Sep;71(5):293-301.

El-Tantawy WH, Hassanin LA. (2007) Hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic effects of alcoholic extract of Tribulus alatus in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats: a comparative study with T. terrestris (Caltrop).Indian J Exp Biol. 2007 Sep;45(9):785-90.

Gauthaman K, Adaikan PG, Prasad RN. (2002) Aphrodisiac properties of Tribulus Terrestris extract (Protodioscin) in normal and castrated rats. Life Sci. 2002 Aug 9;71(12):1385-96.

Gauthaman K, Ganesan AP, Prasad RN. (2003) Sexual effects of puncturevine (Tribulus terrestris) extract (protodioscin): an evaluation using a rat model. J Altern Complement Med. 2003 Apr;9(2):257-65.

Gauthaman K and Ganesan AP (2008) The hormonal effects of Tribulus terrestris and its role in the management of male erectile dysfunction--an evaluation using primates, rabbit and rat. Phytomedicine. 2008 Jan;15(1-2):44-54.

Guo Y, Shi DZ, Yin HJ, Chen KJ. (2007) Effects of Tribuli saponins on ventricular remodeling after myocardial infarction in hyperlipidemic rats.Am J Chin Med. 2007;35(2):309-16.

Jagadeesan G, Kavitha AV, Subashini J. (2005) FT-IR Study of the influence of Tribulus terrestris on Mercury intoxicated mice, Mus musculus liver.Trop Biomed. 2005 Jun;22(1):15-22.

Jagadeesan G, Kavitha AV. (2006) Recovery of phosphatase and transaminase activity of mercury intoxicated Mus musculus (Linn.) liver tissue by Tribulus terrestris (Linn.) (Zygophyllaceae) extract.Trop Biomed. 2006 Jun;23(1):45-51.

Jameel JK, Kneeshaw PJ, Rao VS, Drew PJ. (2004) Gynaecomastia and the plant product "Tribulis terrestris".Breast. 2004 Oct;13(5):428-30.

Kim HJ, Kim JC, Min JS, Kim MJ, Kim JA, Kor MH, Yoo HS, Ahn JK. (2011) Aqueous extract of Tribulus terrestris Linn induces cell growth arrest and apoptosis by down-regulating NF-κB signaling in liver cancer cells. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Jun 14;136(1):197-203. Epub 2011 Apr 28.

Kohut ML, Thompson JR, Campbell J, Brown GA, Vukovich MD, Jackson DA, King DS. (2003) Ingestion of a dietary supplement containing dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and androstenedione has minimal effect on immune function in middle-aged men. J Am Coll Nutr. 2003 Oct;22(5):363-71.

Kumar M, Soni AK, Shukla S, Kumar A. (2006) Chemopreventive potential of Tribulus terrestris against 7,12- dimethylbenz (a) anthracene induced skin papillomagenesis in mice. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2006 Apr-Jun;7(2):289-94.

Milasius K, Dadeliene R, Skernevicius J. (2009) The influence of the Tribulus terrestris extract on the parameters of the functional preparedness and athletes' organism homeostasis. Fiziol Zh. 2009;55(5):89-96.

Neychev VK, Mitev VI. (2005) The aphrodisiac herb Tribulus terrestris does not influence the androgen production in young men. J Ethnopharmacol. 2005 Oct 3;101(1-3):319-23.

Neychev VK, Nikolova E, Zhelev N, Mitev VI. (2007) Saponins from Tribulus terrestris L are less toxic for normal human fibroblasts than for many cancer lines: influence on apoptosis and proliferation.Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2007 Jan;232(1):126-33.

Ponnusamy S, Ravindran R, Zinjarde S, Bhargava S, Ravi Kumar A. (2011) Evaluation of traditional Indian antidiabetic medicinal plants for human pancreatic amylase inhibitory effect in vitro.Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011. pii: 515647. Epub 2010 Sep 23.

Phillips OA, Mathew KT, Oriowo MA. (2006), Antihypertensive and vasodilator effects of methanolic and aqueous extracts of Tribulus terrestris in rats.J Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Apr 6;104(3):351-5. Epub 2005 Nov 9.

Rajendar B, Bharavi K, Rao GS, Kishore PV, Kumar PR, Kumar CS, Patel TP. (2011) Protective effect of an aphrodisiac herb Tribulus terrestris Linn on cadmium-induced testicular damage. Indian J Pharmacol. 2011 Sep;43(5):568-73.

Rogerson S, Riches CJ, Jennings C, Weatherby RP, Meir RA, Marshall-Gradisnik SM (2007), The effect of five weeks of Tribulus terrestris supplementation on muscle strength and body composition during preseason training in elite rugby league players. J Strength Cond Res. 2007 May;21(2):348-53.

Sun B, Qu W, Bai Z. (2003) [The inhibitory effect of saponins from Tribulus terrestris on Bcap-37 breast cancer cell line in vitro].Zhong Yao Cai. 2003 Feb;26(2):104-6.[Article in Chinese]

Sun B, Qu WJ, Zhang XL, Yang HJ, Zhuang XY, Zhang P. (2004) [Investigation on inhibitory and apoptosis-inducing effects of saponins from Tribulus terrestris on hepatoma cell line BEL-7402].Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2004 Jul;29(7):681-4.[Article in Chinese]

Talasaz AH, Abbasi MR, Abkhiz S, Dashti-Khavidaki S. (2010) Tribulus terrestris-induced severe nephrotoxicity in a young healthy male.Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2010 Nov;25(11):3792-3. Epub 2010 Jul 28.

Tuncer MA, Yaymaci B, Sati L, Cayli S, Acar G, Altug T, Demir R. (2009) Influence of Tribulus terrestris extract on lipid profile and endothelial structure in developing atherosclerotic lesions in the aorta of rabbits on a high-cholesterol diet.Acta Histochem. 2009;111(6):488-500. Epub 2009 Mar 9.

Yang HJ, Qu WJ, Sun B. (2005) [Experimental study of saponins from Tribulus terrestris on renal carcinoma cell line].Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2005 Aug;30(16):1271-4. [Article in Chinese]

Zhang S, Li H, Xu H, Yang SJ.(2010)[Effect of gross saponins of Tribulus terrestris on cardiocytes impaired by adriamycin]. Yao Xue Xue Bao. 2010 Jan;45(1):31-6.[Article in Chinese]