Tribulus Terrestris: Not So Useless

Tribulus Terrestris (TT) is an androgenic adaptogen that grows as a shrub on the ground ready to puncture anyone’s feet that dares to walk barefoot around. To make the supplement, most companies use the whole plant, thorns and flowers.

I wonder how the story went about the first person that used TT?

“Ouch, I just stepped in a wicked looking thorn! It stings like crazy. Out of revenge, I’m going to dry you out in the sun, mash to a powder with a stone and then swallow you down.”

After eating the thorns he felt great, powerful and more androgenic and it started becoming a thing. Something like that?

TT grows mostly in warm temperate and tropical regions, such as southern Europe, southern Asia, throughout Africa, and Australia. It can thrive even in desert climates and poor soil.

TT is rich in various phytochemical components, with furostanol glycosides, such as protodioscin and protogracillin being the most abundant.

Protodioscin (PTD) is thought to increase DHEA, because they are structurally very similar. PTD is basically a DHEA molecule with a few sugar molecules attached. This makes it unable to be aromatased, yet have a DHEA mimetic effect.

TT also contains gitonin, and tribulosaponins A and B, which are believed to mimic testosterone-like effects in humans because of the similarities of their chemical structures.

Here are some benefits to TT:

  • Hepatoprotective
  • Antioxidant
  • Antiaging
  • Antitumour activities (R)
  • Protect against kidney stones (protective capacity rather than a curative property)
  • Anti-diabetic – lowers fasting glucose and insulin and improves insulin sensitivity
  • Cardioprotective
  • Neuroprotective
  • Lowers inflammation (inhibits iNOS and COX and inhibits the release of histamine and serotonin from mast cells)
  • Promotes proper blood flow
  • Improve skin thickness and quality
  • Memory enhancing
  • Inhibits the excess entry of calcium into cells, which will help against muscle excitation and spasms, inflammation, etc.
  • Anti-bacterial – it inhibits the bacteria that cause dental cavities as well as other bacteria in the gut
  • Wormicidal
  • Anti-fungal (effective against H. pylori, Candida albicans, Bacillus cereus, Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus, etc.)
  • Inhibits monoamine Oxidase (MAO), which leads to higher levels of dopamine in the brain (R). The increase in dopamine is consistent with the decrease in prolactin when taking TT.
  • Relieves pain
  • Astringent
  • Stomachic – promoting the appetite or assisting digestion
  • Antihypertensive
  • Diuretic – by lowering cortisol
  • Urinary disinfectant
  • Protects the testes from oxidative damage
  • Prevents the decline in testosterone due to morphine addiction (R)
  • Promotes proper glucose oxidation, lowers lactate and increases ATP production (R).

Exercise & testosterone

Many studies have found that TT is pretty useless when it comes to enhancing muscle mass, dropping fat or increasing testosterone levels (except maybe in infertile men with very low testosterone).

However, TT:

  • Increases androgen receptors in the muscles and brain (R).
  • Does benefit people who need to be explosive as it enhances muscle power production (R).
  • Is a potent adaptogen that downregulates the HPA axis (inhibits CRH and ACTH release) and prevents the rise in cortisol due to a stressor (R).
  • Can help to prevent overtraining by decreasing the cortisol:testosterone ratio caused to training too much (R).
  • Significantly reduces muscle damage and can speed up recovery. It does so by lowering IGFBP-3, thus creating more free IGF-1 from growth and recovery (R).
  • With a high protodioscin content (750mg TT per day containing 112.5mg protodioscin), after 12 weeks, was able to (R):
    • Increases DHEA from 4.39 to 12.43ng/ml (went above the upper range)
    • Increases free T from 333.10 to 360.62ng/dl
    • Increases DHT from 469.49 to 596.82pg/ml
    • Decreases prolactin from 17.53 to 7.67ng/ml

These data indicate that TT is not so useless. I’d say it’s more of an androgenic adaptogen herb that is most very effective for those who are not as stress resilient and are struggling to build muscle due to elevated cortisol and HPA overactivity.

It can also help with appearance as it lowers cortisol and inflammation and can help you get rid of excess water retention.

So what makes this herb unique. Why get this herb when you can rather get something that is actually proven to increase testosterone and muscle mass such as Ashwagandha.

Ashwagandha, which is also a potent adaptogen, can actually deplete the brain of dopamine and acetylcholine and significantly increase serotonin. This is in line with a lot of anecdotal evidence that people crashed after lots of ashwagandha use.

TT, on the other hand, doesn’t increase serotonin and also increases androgen receptors that have a potent mood and mental enhancing effect. I can personally attest to the this. With TT I feel rock solid, confidence, happy, relaxed, but still mentally awake and sharp. With Ashwagandha I feel only chilled out with none of the other benefits I get from TT.

In my opinion, TT will be safer to use but you have to get a good extract with a high protodioscin content to experience its androgenic benefits.

  • TT caps – 90% saponins and 40% protodioscin extract. (Amazon)
  • TT caps – 45% saponin extract (iHerb)
  • TT caps – 800mg >90% saponin extract per cap, 150 caps (for my South African peeps)

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10 thoughts on “Tribulus Terrestris: Not So Useless”

  1. Hi Hans, Thank you for your informative blog. I have 2 questions, maybe you can hep. Do you think it is safe to combine Tribulus with androsterone to prevent the possible aromatising effect? For dosing tribulus, do you prefer, one daily dose or divided throughout the day?

    • Hey Obi-wan. TT should have a anti-estrogen effect of its own so shouldn’t require additional aromatase inhibitors. But adding andro should defintely help lower excess estrogen that TT might not be able to control as TT is not a potent anti-estrogen. And yes, they should be safe to combine.
      I think both once a day or twice a day is effective so which ever one works best for you.

  2. Do you have any studies on its effects on estrogen? I’m a big fan of TT from what I’ve used so far, just stocked up on another years worth.

      • I was using PureBulk’s powder but as the taste is somewhat unpalatable I just bought a years supply of NOW Sport’s one that you have linked here. The anti-histamine/mast-cell stabilizing properties make it a big plus as I’ve been struggling with histamine intolerance. Do you have a study on that property?

      • That’s also great to hear man. I really like the NOW one. I don’t have a study on the mast cell stabilizing properties, but it’s most likely its ability to stop stress, which is causing mast cells to degranulate.

  3. Just found out Tribulus inhibits MAO-A, as someone with a mutated MAO-A gene that makes the enzyme less active this is somewhat concerning to me. Do you know the degree of inhibition and whether its a substantial concern? Or is it so miniscule that it really doesn’t matter? Hope you had a merry Christmas.

    • I haven’t seen reports of people getting high serotonin symptoms from it. In my experience it’s dopaminergic. Do you get high serotonin symptoms from it? If you get only positives, then there’s no need to stop taking it.


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