Tribulus terrestris is an herb also known as puncturevine caltrop or small caltrops. Its leaves, fruit, and roots have been used in the traditional medicines of China and India for centuries.

It is used in dietary supplements as a “testosterone booster” because an active component, protodioscin, has a chemical structure similar to that of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a hormone involved in testosterone and estrogen production in humans. For this reason, testosterone-booster products with Tribulus terrestris are marketed for sexual enhancement and athletic performance. However, there is little or no reliable scientific evidence regarding the ability of Tribulus terrestris to increase testosterone levels in humans or to enhance strength or athletic performance. Further studies are needed to determine whether these types of products lead to greater strength and gains in muscle mass.

Tribulus terrestris will not cause a positive result on a standard military drug test. However, as FDA has stated, “hidden ingredients are increasingly becoming a problem in products promoted for sexual enhancement.” For more information on dietary supplements that might be contaminated, please read FDA’s “Tainted products marketed as dietary supplements.”

Updated 28 March 2019

References

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Mazaro-Costa, R., Andersen, M. L., Hachul, H., & Tufik, S. (2010). Medicinal plants as alternative treatments for female sexual dysfunction: Utopian vision or possible treatment in climacteric women? The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7(11), 3695–3714. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.01987.x

McGuffin, M., Tucker, A., Leung, A. Y., & Kartesz, J. T. (2000). Herbs of Commerce (2nd ed.). Austin, Texas: American Herbal Products Association.

Neychev, V., & Mitev, V. (2016). Pro-sexual and androgen enhancing effects of Tribulus terrestris L.: Fact or fiction. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 179, 345–355. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2015.12.055

Pokrywka, A., Morawin, B., Krzywański, J., & Zembroń-Lacny, A. (2017). An overview on Tribulus terrestris in sports nutrition and energy regulation Sustained Energy for Enhanced Human Functions and Activity (pp. 155–165).

Qureshi, A., Naughton, D. P., & Petroczi, A. (2014). A systematic review on the herbal extract Tribulus terrestris and the roots of its putative aphrodisiac and performance enhancing effect. Journal of Dietary Supplements, 11(1), 64–79. doi:10.3109/19390211.2014.887602

Rogerson, S., Riches, C. J., Jennings, C., Weatherby, R. P., Meir, R. A., & Marshall-Gradisnik, S. M. (2007). The effect of five weeks of Tribulus terrestris supplementation on muscle strength and body composition during preseason training in elite rugby league players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 21(2), 348–353. doi:10.1519/00124278-200705000-00010

Şahin, A., & Duru, M. (2010). Effects of Tribulus terrestris (puncture vine) supplementation on performance and digestive system of broiler chicks. Tarım Bilimleri Dergisi, 16(4), 271–277. doi:10.1501/Tarimbil_0000001147

Saudan, C., Baume, N., Emery, C., Strahm, E., & Saugy, M. (2008). Short term impact of Tribulus terrestris intake on doping control analysis of endogenous steroids. Forensic Science International, 178(1), e7–e10. doi:10.1016/j.forsciint.2008.01.003

Setiawan, L. (1996). Tribulus terrestris L. extract improves spermatozoa motility and increases the efficiency of acrosome reaction in subjects diagnosed with oligoastheno-teratozoospermia. Advances in Male Physiology, 2, 105–114.

Sivapalan, S. R. (2016). Biological and pharmacological studies of Tribulus terrestris Linn – A review. International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research and Development, 3(1), 257–265.

U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2019). Tainted sexual enhancement products.   Retrieved 5 March 2019 from https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/MedicationHealthFraud/ucm234539.htm