The Benefits of Tribulus Terrestris

The Science Behind Tribulus

Tribulus Terrestris

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If you’re searching the internet looking for a natural substance to increase your libido, you may run across Tribulus terrestris. Purportedly, this passion-inducing plant increases testosterone production and your sex drive.

Commonly known as Gokshur or Gokhara (puncture vine), the fruit, leaf, and root of tribulus is used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic medicine to treat a wide range of illnesses, diseases, and concerns like a low libido.

Health Benefits

Though used as a form of traditional medicine for centuries, tribulus supplements have recently become popular because of how they may influence sexual health and improve athletic performance.

In folk medicine, tribulus terrestris is used as a diuretic, pain reliever, and appetite stimulant, as well as a treatment for kidney stones, high blood pressure, and urinary infections. But what does the research say about these health benefits?

Sexual Health

Research on whether tribulus terrestris boosts sex drive is mixed and inconclusive. 

For premenopausal women struggling with a low sex drive, there is some evidence that the dietary supplement may boost desire, arousal, orgasm, and satisfaction, according to a 2018 clinical trial published in Gynecological Endocrinology. However, this was a small study that included only 40 participants and larger studies are needed to better understand the potential health benefits.

Tribulus has also been studied in men struggling with erectile dysfunction (ED) and low sex drive. A 2017 clinical trial published in Maturitas found that men who received a tribulus supplement reported better sexual function, satisfaction, desire, and orgasm than the men who received the placebo.

Though promising, clinical trials evaluating the benefits of tribulus on male sexual health has been inconsistent in terms of what researchers were investigating — ED, low libido, or both — and the tools used to evaluate efficacy — lab data measuring hormone levels versus a subjective questionnaire.

Athletic Performance

Tribulus terrestris is a popular supplement among athletes because of its androgenic effects, or how it stimulates testosterone production. Prolonged, intense exercise suppresses testosterone production, which negatively affects athletic performance. Supplementing with tribulus may boost testosterone, preventing this lull in performance. 

However, a 2021 clinical study involving CrossFit® trained athletes found that supplementing with tribulus didn’t improve athletic performance or body composition. The authors noted that more research is needed to determine the potential benefits tribulus terrestris supplements may provide for athletes and gym-goers.

Another study involving a group of highly trained boxers published in 2017 in the Journal of Sport and Health Science found no improvements in muscle mass or testosterone levels when supplementing with tribulus terrestris. However, the trained boxers did experience less muscle damage and improvements in their anaerobic performance — high-intensity training.

Blood Pressure

In animal studies, tribulus terrestris may lower blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels. However, it’s not clear whether this herbal supplement offers the same benefit to humans.

Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are a common condition that causes severe abdominal pain. In traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, tribulus terrestris is used as a treatment for kidney stones.

The plant may lower risk of kidney stones by increasing urination. Current research on the potential health benefits of tribulus terrestris for kidney stones is limited to animal studies.

Possible Side Effects

Most research evaluating possible side effects of tribulus terrestris is limited to animal studies. In these studies, large doses of the herbal supplement were shown to cause damage to the heart, liver, and kidneys. 

There is a case report of a young man who developed acute liver and kidney poisoning after taking high doses of tribulus terrestris over a two-day period to prevent kidney stones. Though this gentleman recovered, tribulus terrestris is on Dietary Supplement (DS) Toxic Table because it may cause kidney damage. 

Tribulus supplements marketed to athletes to enhance performance or build muscle may contain ingredients not listed on the label, such as androgenic anabolic steroids or other banned substances. Taking a supplement with a banned may lead to accidental doping.

Dosage and Preparation

Tribulus terrestris supplements come in capsule and powder form, as well as a tea. In traditional medicine, all parts of the plant are used for treatment. However, the tribulus terrestris supplements you find online or on the shelves at your local health food store may contain extracts from the fruit, leaves, or root, or a combination of these plant parts. 

There’s no standard dose for this herbal supplement and no known level of toxicity. Tribulus terrestris supplements may contain 250 milligrams to 750 milligram capsules. Follow the instructions on the Supplement Facts label for proper dosage and preparation. 

What to Look For

Because tribulus terrestris is popular for sexual enhancement and athletic performance, you can find this supplement at health food stores, vitamin shops, and online retailers. Many of these herbal supplements contain other ingredients, and it’s not clear how these other ingredients affect the actions of the tribulus.

When looking for an herbal supplement like tribulus terrestris, read the list of active ingredients on the supplement facts label. This list gives you an idea of the ingredients that might have a strong effect on your body.

You also want to look for a trusted third-party label on your supplement, such as the U.S. Pharmacopeia, NSF International, or Consumer Labs. These labels indicate that the supplement was tested by an independent party.

According to the FDA, it’s illegal for nutritional supplement makers to make claims that their product can treat any specific disease or ease any symptoms of a disease. You shouldn’t purchase any supplement that makes health claims. 

Before adding any dietary supplement like tribulus terrestris to your routine, talk to a health care provider for guidance. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much tribulus terrestris should I take for bodybuilding?

    There’s no set dose for the amount of tribulus terrestris you should take for bodybuilding. Studies investigating the use of the herbal supplement for muscle-building used doses ranging from 770 milligrams to 1,250 milligrams per day.

    Speak with a health care provider for guidance on how much tribulus terrestris you should take, if any.

  • What is the nutritional value of tribulus terrestris leaves?

    According to a nutrient analysis performed by the Department of Pure and Applied Science at Usmanu Danfodiyo University in Nigeria, a 100-gram serving of tribulus terrestris leaves has 292 calories, with 55% of calories coming from carbohydrates, 21% from protein, and 5% from fat.

  • What should I take with tribulus terrestris?

    Some supplements makers may recommend taking your tribulus terrestris with food; others may suggest taking the supplement on an empty stomach. Speak with a health care provider for guidance on if you should supplement with tribulus terrestris, and if so, how and when to take the recommended dosage.

  • Can I cultivate my own tribulus terrestris?

    Tribulus terrestris is a fast-growing plant. It grows best in dry to moist soil during the warmer months of the year. The plant won’t grow in a shady area and is sensitive to frost. 

    It’s most often found in subtropical and desert climate regions of the world, including the southern states in the US. Depending on where you live, you may be able to cultivate your own tribulus terrestris.

12 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Jill Corleone, RD
Jill is a registered dietitian who's been learning and writing about nutrition for more than 20 years.