Often dismissed as nothing more than an invasive and pesky weed popping up in yards across the country, you may want to think twice before pulling out the weed killer on this powerful medicinal plant.
As a staple in natural medicine for thousands of years, Tribulus terrestris has long been used to treat everything from sexual dysfunction to kidney stones and beyond. Nowadays, it’s much more common to grab a supplement at the store rather than brewing up the roots into a tea or tonic, but there’s no doubt that adding this incredible plant into your routine can come with some pretty impressive benefits when it comes to your health.
Ready to learn more? Let’s dig in and take a closer look at this super supplement and the beneficial effects that it has to offer.
What Is Tribulus Terrestris?
Tribulus terrestris, also known as the goathead weed, bindii and puncture vine, is a plant that belongs to the Zygophyllaceae family. It’s found around the world and grows well in dry climates, thriving in areas where other plants are unable to survive. It’s a small, flowering plant that produces a fruit made up of five spiky nutlets. The fruit is said to resemble the head of a goat or bull with horns sharp enough to cause injury to bare feet or puncture the wheels of a lawn mower.
Although the plant itself has been used in many forms of holistic medicine for centuries, it has emerged as a popular dietary supplement in more recent years and can be found in pill, powder or liquid extract form at health stores across the country. It’s most commonly used to treat sexual dysfunction and enhance libido, but has also been associated with a long list of other health benefits, including reduced levels of inflammation, better heart health and improved blood sugar levels.
- Enhances Libido
- Acts as a Natural Diuretic
- Relieves Inflammation
- Lowers Blood Sugar
- Improves Heart Health
- May Help Fight Cancer
1. Enhances Libido
Tribulus terrestris is well-known for its natural ability to increase sex drive and improve sexual satisfaction. One study showed that taking Tribulus terrestris enhanced several measures of sexual function in women after just four weeks and led to improvements in desire, arousal, satisfaction, lubrication and pain. (1)
Plus, according to a 2016 Tribulus terrestris review out of Bulgaria, it has also been shown to treat issues with sexual desire and prevent erectile dysfunction, although the exact mechanisms remain unclear. (2)
2. Acts as a Natural Diuretic
Tribulus terrestris has been shown to work as a natural diuretic, helping to increase urine production and flush out the body. In fact, one in vitro study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology showed that treatment with Tribulus terrestris was able to promote diuresis, indicating that it may be an effective natural remedy in the treatment of kidney stones. (3)
Natural diuretics like Tribulus terrestris may also have other beneficial effects on health and could help relieve bloating, lower blood pressure and enhance the body’s natural ability to filter out toxins through the waste.
3. Relieves Pain and Inflammation
Both in vitro and animal studies have found that Tribulus terrestris extract could have a powerful effect in relieving pain and inflammation. A study conducted by the Kerman Faculty of Pharmacy, for example, showed that administering high doses was effective at reducing pain levels in rats. (4) Meanwhile, other research shows that it could reduce levels of several markers of inflammation and also could help decrease swelling in animal models. (5)
4. Lowers Blood Sugar
Some research shows that adding Tribulus terrestris to your routine may bring big benefits when it comes to managing blood sugar levels. One study found that taking a 1,000 milligram supplement each day was able to significantly reduce blood sugar levels in women with type 2 diabetes compared to a placebo after just three months. (6)
Similarly, an animal study out of Shanghai showed that a specific compound found in Tribulus terrestris decreased blood sugar levels by up to 40 percent in mice with diabetes. (7)
5. Improves Heart Health
Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide and is considered a serious problem that affects millions around the globe. (8) Not only can Tribulus terrestris decrease inflammation, which is believed to play an integral role in heart health, but it has also been shown to reduce several risk factors of heart disease.
For instance, one study showed that taking 1,000 milligrams of Tribulus terrestris each day decreased levels of total and bad LDL cholesterol. (6) An animal study out of Istanbul had similar findings, reporting that it was able to protect the blood vessels against damage while also lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels. (9)
6. May Help Fight Cancer
Although research is still limited, some studies suggest that Tribulus terrestris may be beneficial as a natural cancer treatment. In fact, one in vitro study from Chungnam National University showed that it was able to induce cell death and block the spread of human liver cancer cells. (10)
Other in vitro studies have found that it may also offer protection against both breast and prostate cancers as well. (11, 12) However, more studies in humans are needed to determine how supplementation may impact cancer growth for the general population.
When used as directed, Tribulus terrestris is safe and has been associated with minimal side effects. Some of the most commonly reported adverse symptoms include:
- Stomach pain
- Difficulty sleeping
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
Tribulus terrestris is not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, as it may interfere with fetal development. It may also interact with diabetes and blood pressure medications, so talk to your doctor before trying it if you are taking any of these medications.
Uses in Ayurveda and TCM
Tribulus terrestris has been used as a natural remedy to treat a variety of health conditions in folk medicine for centuries, thanks to its powerful healing and health-promoting properties.
Also known as Gokshura, or “cow’s hoof,” in Ayurveda, Tribulus terrestris is often used as an aphrodisiac and natural diuretic. It’s believed to treat kidney stones, heart disease, cough, difficulty breathing and issues with urination. It’s also thought to stimulate the stomach and pacify the vata dosha. (15)
Meanwhile, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the fruits of the Tribulus terrestris have also been used to treat swelling, eye problems, stomach bloating and sexual problems. According to the Shern-Nong Pharmacopoeia, the oldest known pharmacological work in China, it can also help restore the liver, treat mastitis, prevent flatulence, relieve headaches and protect against acute conjunctivitis, or pink eye. (5)
Tribulus Terrestris vs. Testosterone
Testosterone is an important hormone that plays a key role in several different aspects of overall health, especially when it comes to maintaining body composition and boosting strength. While Tribulus terrestris was initially thought to increase levels of testosterone in the body, multiple studies have since debunked this claim. (2)
That being said, there are some definite similarities between the two when it comes to their respective effects on health. For example, like Tribulus terrestris, testosterone is believed to play a role in sexual function and testosterone therapy is commonly used to improve arousal and sexual satisfaction in both men and women. (16, 17) Testosterone is also thought to be involved in heart health, maintaining normal blood sugar levels and controlling inflammation. (18, 19)
However, testosterone also affects health in several other ways as well. In fact, some studies show that testosterone therapy could be beneficial for weight loss, strength training and bone health. (20, 21, 22) Reducing stress levels, increasing physical activity and consuming a heathy, well-rounded diet with plenty of foods rich in zinc are just a few simple ways to boost testosterone levels naturally.
Dosage and Supplements
Dosage for Tribulus terrestris capsules can range from 250–1,500 milligrams daily for the treatment of sexual dysfunction. Supplements also typically list the concentration of saponins, which are the beneficial compound found within Tribulus terrestris extract that are believed to be responsible for their effects on health. This amount can influence how much Tribulus terrestris you should take; most supplements contain 45–60 percent saponins, so if yours contains a higher amount, you’ll need a lower dosage to achieve the same results.
That being said, it’s always best to follow the dosage instructions listed on your Tribulus terrestris supplement to maximize the effectiveness. You may also want to start with a lower dose and slowly work your way up to assess your tolerance.
Tribulus terrestris is available in capsule, powder or liquid extract form, depending on your personal preference, and can be found in most pharmacies and health stores as well as online retailers. Check the ingredients label carefully and select a supplement with minimal added ingredients or fillers to get the most bang for your buck.
How to Use Tribulus Terrestris
There are several options for getting in your daily dose of Tribulus terrestris. Capsules can be separated into several doses and taken with meals throughout the day. Alternatively, you can also try adding a few teaspoons of liquid extract or powder to juice, water, shakes or smoothies.
Tribulus terrestris can be found around the world and goes by many different names. It’s also often referred to as devil’s weed, caltrops, bindii, goat head weed or puncture vine. Its name is thought to be derived from the Greek word “tribulos” meaning “water chestnut” or the Latin word “tribulus,” which translates to “caltrop,” a type of spiky weapon.
Although it has been widely used in many forms of holistic medicine throughout history, it gained widespread popularity as a dietary supplement in the 1970s. Many people began using Tribulus terrestris for bodybuilding believing that it would increase testosterone levels and could help enhance strength and muscle mass. However, controlled trials and Tribulus terrestris reviews show that while the supplement does come with an extensive list of health benefits, it’s unlikely to increase testosterone or affect body composition. (2, 23)
These days, it’s mostly used to prevent and treat sexual dysfunction but has also been associated with many other potential benefits, including reduced cholesterol levels and relief from pain and inflammation.
Risks and Interactions
Tribulus terrestris is generally safe and can be used with minimal risk of side effects. However, some of the most common Tribulus terrestris side effects include mild symptoms like stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, constipation and diarrhea. Animal models and human case reports have also tied supplementation to an increased risk of kidney problems, but this is considered very rare. (13, 14)
If you’re taking other medications or having any underlying health conditions, it’s best to talk to your doctor before starting Tribulus terrestris. This is important because it may interact with certain medications and decrease their effectiveness, including those for high blood pressure or diabetes.
Additionally, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, Tribulus terrestris is not recommended, as some animal models have found that it may interfere with proper fetal development. (24)
- Tribulus terrestris is a plant with powerful medicinal properties that has been used in natural medicine for centuries.
- Some potential Tribulus terrestris benefits include improved blood sugar levels, enhanced heart health, decreased pain and inflammation and increased libido. It’s also believed to have anti-cancer properties and may act as a natural diuretic in the body as well.
- Common side effects are mild and generally include symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain. In rare cases, it may also be associated with kidney problems and could cause issues with fetal development during pregnancy.
- Dosage can range from 250–1,500 milligrams per day, depending on many factors such as the saponin content of your supplement. Follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully or try adding a few teaspoons of powder or liquid extract to smoothies or beverages for an extra dose of health benefits.