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by Gary F. Zeolla
Tribulus is a herb that is purported to raise testosterone levels. It does so by increasing the body's levels of luteinizing hormone (LH). The LH then induces the body to produce more testosterone. Increased testosterone would have various benefits, such as the following:
Increased sex drive
Increased sexual performance
Increase in lean body mass
Decrease in body fat
Increase in metabolism
It was mostly the last item that was most interesting to me, as I have been struggling with fatigue from fibromyalgia since the spring of 2001. I have also been having problems with insomnia, and my sex drive has been running lower than would be considered normal for a 40-something male. For some time, I wasn't even getting nocturnal erections. So I have been experiencing several of the symptoms of low testosterone levels. And as a powerlifter, the increase in lean body mass and decrease in body fat would be nice as well. So I've experimented with various Tribulus products to see if they would help.
The first Tribulus supplement supplement I tried was Jarrow Formula's Tribulus Complex in October of 2003. And I did notice some increase in my sex drive, started getting erections at night, and saw some improvement in sleep from it, but I didn't notice any increase in energy levels or any of the other possible benefits of raising testosterone levels. I also ran into some problems with it. But this most likely wasn't from the Tribulus but from one of the other ingredients in the Complex. Along with 500 mg of Tribulus, each tablet of this Jarrow product also contains the following:
Ashwagandha extract - 100 mg
Andrograph extract - 100 mg
Rhodiola extract - 50 mg
Green Tea extract - 50 mg
A discussion of each of these is beyond the cope of this article. I will simply say that each has a variety of purported health benefits, but not in regards to increased testosterone levels. The Rhodiola, for instance, is supposed to increase energy levels. I had tried taking a Rhodiola supplement for this reason previously, but it made made me drowsy during the day, even if I only took it at night. But that product contained 500 mg. I didn't think the 50 mg in the Tribulus complex would be a problem. But with taking four tablets a day (for a total of 2000 mg of Tribulus and 200 mg of Rhodiola), I ended up with daytime drowsiness from it. So I had to stop taking the supplement. But if the reader does not experience any side effects, then the "extra" ingredients in the Tribulus Complex might prove beneficial.
But as for myself, I then switched to Biotest's Tribex. Along with Tribulus, at that time, it also contained Avena Sativa. This herb is also purported to raise testosterone levels, but by a different mechanism than Tribulus. Each Tribex capsule contained 250 mg each of Tribulus and Avena Sativa. I took four Tribex capsules a day, giving me a total of 1000 mg of each.
I found the Tribex to have an even greater effect than the Tribulus Complex. It increase my sex drive even further; I began experiencing even more frequent nocturnal erections, and it also seemed to help my powerlifting training. But it didn't seem to help with my fatigue. But still, the effect was greater than the Tribulus Complex. There are several possible reason for this difference.
First, maybe the Tribulus Complex would have helped more if the Rhodiola in it hadn't caused me problems. Second, Biotest claims the quality of their Tribulus is better than that of other Tribulus products. But I have found Jarrow products to generally be of high quality, so I doubt that was it.
Third, the Tribex is a capsule while the Jarrow product is a tablet. And by experience I have found supplements in capsule form to have a greater effect on me than tablets. This is probably because my body has an easier time digesting capsules than tablets.
Fourth, Biotest says that they "standardize" their Tribulus for a different "active" compound than other Tribulus products. So that could have made the difference. And finally, it could have been the presence of the Avena Sativa that made the difference.
However, there are two drawbacks to Tribex. First, it is very expensive. It costs much more than most other Tribulus products. And second, Tribex capsules are a bright blue. They look nice, but to make them this color requires the use of three different artificial colorings. And I would prefer to avoid such artificial chemicals whenever possible.
So for these two reasons I eventually stopped taking the Tribex. I then switched to taking Liddell's Male Sexual Energy. Among other benefits, this homeopathic spray is designed to raise testosterone levels. And it seemed to have as great of an effect as the Tribex did, but at a much cheaper cost. So I used it on and off over the next year and a half.
Meanwhile, in the spring of 2004 I decided to once again try Tribulus. This time I just bought a store brand version of Tribulus with 500 mg of Tribulus. I took as many as six per day for up to 3,000 mg of Tribulus. It had some effect, but not as much as the Tribex or even the Tribulus Complex did. This was probably because the quality was not that great. So I stopped taking it after a while.
But then I had a blood test done in March of 2005 that showed I in fact had low testosterone levels for someone my age. So I had been on the right track in experimenting with Tribulus before. But I had stopped all such supplements at the time I had the blood test done. My doctor wanted me to try testosterone replacement therapy, but I decided to give the natural route one more try instead.
At this time, without taking any testosterone enhancers, I was once again experiencing low sex drive, not getting nocturnal erections, having problems sleeping, and my powerlifting training had stagnated. I had even started to inexplicably gain weight, as in fat, not muscle. These are once again all symptoms of low testosterone levels, so I really didn't need the blood test to tell me what was wrong. But it was a nice confirmation.
So I started taking the Male Sexual Energy again. And within a couple of days I experienced an increase in my sex drive and began to at least occasionally have nocturnal erections. But I knew that this product alone would not suffice. So I decided to start taking Tribulus again.
The first product I tried was another off brand product. And it did have a significant effect. I noticed a further increase in my sex drive and more frequent nighttime erections. But the brand I was taking was rather expensive, so I looked for a less expensive but still high-quality product. I decided to try Optimum's Tribulus 625 Caps. I have found Optimum's 100% Whey Protein to be of high quality, so I figured their Tribulus would be as well. Each Tribulus 625 Cap contains (obviously) 625mg of Tribulus. But it is their own "Proprietary Tribulus Blend." As with most Tribulus supplements, it contains Tribulus Terrestris Extract, standardized to 40% Furostanol Saponins (the compound most Tribulus supplements are standardized to). But Optimum's product also contains Tribulus Terrestris powder.
I've seen this with other herbal products. The idea is to include an extract of the herb standardized to the believed "active" ingredient. But the product will also contain some of the whole herb in powder form. That way, if there is some beneficial component in the herb besides the believed active ingredient or that might work synchronistical with the active ingredient, then that will be included as well. So the Optimum practice seemed like a good idea.
I started taking 4 capsules per day, giving me a total of 2500 mg of Tribulus. Along with the Tribulus, I also began taking Action Labs Liquid Avena Sativa, one eyedropper (1 ml) per day, which supplies 1000 mg of Avena Sativa. This combination of Optimum's Tribulus and Action lab's Avena Sativa cost me about half of what the Tribex cost. But I was still getting the same amount of Avena Sativa and 2.5 times the Tribulus. I took these items for several weeks. And I did notice an increase in the frequency of nighttime erections and a slight increase in my sex drive.
One question that I have not been able to get a clear answer on is if Tribulus should be cycled (e.g. taken for a period of time than stopped for a period of time). Some sources recommend cycling it, while others say it is not necessary. I even tried contacting two different companies that sell Tribulus supplements. Neither gave me a clear answer. But if it is cycled, the main recommendations I have seen is to take it for four weeks then off for two weeks, or to take it for five days then off for two days.
In any case, after a while, I began having problems sleeping. I would wake up repeatedly through the night. This is the problem I always experience when I consume something I am allergic to. So in November of 2005 I had to stop taking the Tribulus and Avena Sativa. Later I tried using Twinlab's Tribulus Fuel as I've found Twinlab products to be of good quality. So I was hoping I wouldn't be allergic to it. But the first day I took it, I couldn't sleep. So I was still allergic to Tribulus, so that ended my needed my experimentation with Tribulus.
Meanwhile, I began researching other natural methods for raising testosterone levels. And I found that diet and exercise can have a dramatic effect. So I altered my eating plan and workout program so as to optimize hormones. And by doing so, I tripled my testosterone levels, from being clinically low to being in the middle of the normal range.
With this new program, I almost always experience nocturnal erections. My sex drive is much better than it was, and my powerlifting training has been going very well. I present in detail the eating and exercise plan I have been following in my book God-given Foods Eating Plan. So I will stick with this more natural program rather than wasting any more money on supplements.
But before ending this discussion, I want to add one final additional point. Products like the Tribulus will only help those who are over 30 or more likely over 40. The reason is, you really cannot raise hormone levels higher than where they were went you were about 18 with any "natural" product. So teenagers and even those who are in their 20's or possibly even 30's really will not benefit from such products. They will have their greatest effects for those over 40 and especially for those over 50. But everyone can benefit from a hormone optimizing diet and exercise program, as detailed in my book.
The products mention in this article are available from
For iHerb, when checking out, use referral code HOP815 to receive $5.00 off your first order.
Tribulus - Supplement Descriptions. Copyright © 2004, 2005, 2008 by Gary F. Zeolla.
The above article was posted on this site May 7, 2004.
It was last updated May 3, 2008.
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