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.
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.2 But what does the research say about these health benefits?
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 Gynecologica l 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.
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 boxes 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.
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 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.