Many of today’s popular dietary supplements come from plants that have been used medicinally since ancient times.
One of these botanicals is Tribulus Terrestris, which is purported to have a variety of health benefits, including reduced blood sugar and cholesterol, altered hormone levels and increased sexual function and libido.
What Is Tribulus Terrestris?
Tribulus Terrestris is a small leafy plant. It’s also known as puncture vine, Gokshura, caltrop and goat’s head. (https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=29057#null)
It grows in many places, including parts of Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2225498/)
Both the root and fruit of the plant have been used medicinally in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Indian Ayurveda medicine. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24600195)
Traditionally, people have used this plant for a variety of potential effects, including to enhance libido, keep the urinary tract healthy and reduce swelling. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24600195)
Today, Tribulus Terrestris is widely used as a general health supplement, as well as in supplements that claim to increase testosterone levels.
Health Benefits of Tribulus Terrestris
1) Enhances Libido and Sexual Function
Multiple animal studies highlight that Tribulus increases sexual function and behaviour. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22368416, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12804079, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12127159, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/251710452_Aphrodisiac_activity_of_Tribulus_Terrestris_Linn_in_experimental_models_in_rats, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23526694)
Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) is a condition that reduces your interest in sex. People who suffer from it have a lack of sexual fantasies and desire that causes distress and relationship issues. It affects up to 30% of women and 15% of men. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11122954)
Many factors can affect HSDD, and supplements can be considered alongside lifestyle and psychological interventions. Tribulus is one promising supplement option, especially in women with reduced sexual desire or other types of sexual dysfunction. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12383030)
In 2 trials of 76 women with reduced sexual desire, taking 750 mg/day Tribulus for up to 4 months improved libido, orgasm, and satisfaction from sex. Another trial of 30 women found similar results using much lower doses of a Tribulus extract (7.5 mg/day) for 4 weeks. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29172782, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27760089, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24773615)
In two studies of 90 women with sexual dysfunction, taking 750 mg/day Tribulus found improved sexual function and libido. This suggests Tribulus is equally effective in both premenopausal and menopausal women. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4275110/, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26902700)
Interestingly, Tribulus may also increase sexual function in men – mainly by increasing desire and helping overcome erectile dysfunction (ED).
In a 12-week trial of 172 men with ED and reduced sexual desire, taking a higher dose of Tribulus (1,500 mg/day) improved satisfaction from sex, orgasm, and libido. Two other studies of 100 men with ED found lower doses (750 mg/day) for 3 months equally improved sexual function. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28364864, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25849625, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30253697)
2) Improves Fertility In Men
Infertility is a global problem that affects 8 – 12% of couples worldwide. Low sperm count and poor sperm quality (movement and shape) account for more than 90% of male infertility cases. Tribulus is traditionally used to combat infertility issues in men, although scientific studies have only recently shed some light on its potential. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3665088/)
Initially, scientists uncovered that tribulus increases sperm production in rats. In a cell study, it improved sperm quality and increased survival time. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19781624/, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5871152/)
Two clinical studies examined its effects in men with infertility. In one Ayurvedic study, taking 12g/day of Tribulus granules for 60 days improved sperm quality in 63 men with low sperm count. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3665088/)
In another study of 65 men with infertility, supplementing with 250 mg/day of Tribulus for 12 weeks increased sperm count and quality. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27401787)
3) Reduces Cholesterol Levels
In a couple of clinical studies, the effect of Tribulus appears to be mixed. For example, 2 studies found a strong effect. In a trial of 98 women with diabetes, 1 g/day of Tribulus for 3 months reduced total and LDL cholesterol levels. In another trial of 75 people, 3 g/day of an Ayurvedic Tribulus formulation reduced total cholesterol levels by 10% over the course of four weeks. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5103558/, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3336438/pdf/ASL-19-139.pdf)
On the other hand, taking 750 mg/day of Tribulus didn’t affect cholesterol levels in one 12-week trial of 180 people. However, the study included participants with normal cholesterol levels, while this plant may only be effective at lowering already raised levels in people at risk of heart disease.
The effects of Tribulus were more pronounced in animal studies. It decreased total, LDL, and HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides in rabbits. Tribulus also protected blood vessels from damage caused by a cholesterol-rich diet. What’s more, it also decreased total and LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in rats and chickens. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19269683, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14535016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26471188, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17907744)
Tribulus has a cholesterol-lowering effect but higher doses may be necessary and it may only be effective in people with high levels.
4) Lowers Blood Pressure and Heart Rate
In a study of 75 people with high blood pressure, 3 g/day of Tribulus for 4 weeks reduced blood pressure by 9% and decreased heart rate. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3336438/pdf/ASL-19-139.pdf)
In mice with high blood pressure, Tribulus reduced blood pressure by decreasing the activity of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE). ACE is an enzyme that increases blood pressure by constricting blood vessels. Based on this study, Tribulus acts very similar to drugs commonly prescribed for high blood pressure (called ACE inhibitors). (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14519445, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10465650)
Animal studies suggest Tribulus may have broader heart-protective effects. In cell studies, saponins from Tribulus protected heart cells exposed to harmful chemicals. It also increased antioxidant levels and reduced oxidative stress and damage in rat hearts deprived of oxygen. This may explain the basis for its traditional use in people with heart disease. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19408681, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18058379, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20453871)
One cell-based study posits that Tribulus may reduce excessive blood clotting that clogs blood vessels in people with heart disease. The risk of harmful blood clots increases when platelets become too sticky and excessively clump together, while Tribulus prevented platelet clumping. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15481631, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16414694)
To sum it up, tribulus can protect heart cells from stress and may improve heart health by lowering blood pressure.
5) Reduces Blood Sugar Levels
In a trial of 98 diabetic people, 1 g/day of Tribulus for three months reduced fasting blood sugar and HbA1c, a long-term marker of blood sugar control. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5103558/)
Tribulus reduces blood sugar levels in diabetic mice. Saponins and Cinnamic Acid found in this herb block enzymes that digest starches and sugars. This prevents blood sugar levels from spiking after a meal. It also increases insulin levels, which helps shuttle sugar from the blood and into the cells. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23594260, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17048632, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26974386, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5511977/)
By preventing carbohydrates from being digested and absorbed, Tribulus helps keep blood sugar levels stable, especially after meals.
Tribulus Terrestris Supplements
Tribulus Terrestris is a herb with a long history of use that can help improve libido and sexual function. The active compounds responsible for its effects are steroidal saponins, plant compounds that may mimic the effects of sex hormones and increase blood flow.
Besides boosting libido, this herb may help improve fertility, balance blood sugar levels, and protect the heart. Animal research points to its anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting potential.
In conclusion, Tribulus Terrestris is a widespread herb that may play a role in a thoughtfully planned program of herbal supplementation.
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