Tribulus terrestris is sold as a testosterone booster that makes your muscles bigger, lets you workout longer and, last but not least, enhances your libido. Really?
First Of All, What Is Tribulus Terrestris?
Tribulus terrestris, more informally known as “puncture vine,” is a herb used in the traditional medicine of China and India. People there use it to treat erectile dysfunction and loss of libido, due to it supposedly “naturally” increasing testosterone.
That makes it a prime candidate for a workout supplement, but it only really paved its way into bodybuilding circles in 2005.
In that year true steroids and prohormones were pulled from store shelves and many supplement companies lost one of their main income sources. They desperately looked for a replacement and were willing to consider anything that promised to work similarly.
When it came to their attention that many Eastern European Olympic athletes believed in a herb called “tribulus terrestris” to increase their performance, they were interested. When a bit further digging revealed obscure Bulgarian research from the 1970s that claimed tribulus increased testosterone, they were ecstatic. When they finally learned that Jeffrey Petermann, a bodybuilder famous during that time period, had used it, they couldn’t believe their luck.
They had a product, they had what looked like scientific proof, and they had a poster child to say, look, he used it and he was big!
Now For Some Real Science
Despite me trying for hours to find the original 1970s Bulgarian paper, I came up empty. I have no idea what was in it, who conducted the research how and where exactly the paper was published. I’m willing to go far to give the other side a chance to state its case, but let me say all this makes it pretty questionable that it was serious and high quality research.
We do, however, have some real research on tribulus terrestris and testosterone to look at, published in respected journals:
- A 2000 study at Iowa State University found no effect on testosterone or resistance training performance.
- The result was replicated in a 2001 follow-up.
- A 2005 Bulgarian study found no influence of tribulus terrestris on androgen level in young men.
- In 2007, an Australian study concluded that tribulus terrestris supplements did not enhance strength gains.
The only verifiable research I found that noted an effect was done in Singapore on animals. But taking into account the above, we once more have a case where evidence from the animal model isn’t transferable to humans.
I’d Say Save Your Money
At $1 to $2 a for a shot or pill, tribulus terrestris supplements are an expensive hobby very unlikely to do anything for your workouts (or libido, for that matter). If you want to spend your cash, you are better advised to put it into a good protein supplement or high quality creatine.
Picture courtesy of “Lalithamba“.