I am always trying new supplements. If you were to take a peak inside my cabinets, you would see a ton of BCAA’s, Protein Powders, Pre-Workouts, Post-Workouts, Intra-Workouts, Creatine, HMB, Multi-Vitamins, Testosterone Boosters, and everything else you could possibly think of (that’s legal). My supplement stash drives my wife crazy! So we decided to do an inventory and clean things out.

As we were going through the supplements, she grabbed bottles labeled “Tribulus Terrestris” and “Bulgarian Tribulus” then asked “Isn’t this steroids?”. My mind was blown! Not only at the misinformation that is out there, but now I had to explain to my wife that I wasn’t taking any gear (steroids). So to put her at ease I went over some of the most common questions that people ask about Tribulus Terrestris extract.

  • What is Tribulus Terrestris?
  • Is Tribulus Legal?
  • Is Tribulus Safe?
  • Are There Any Negative Side Effects?
  • Does Tribulus Work?
  • Can Women Take Tribulus?

What is Tribulus Terrestris?

Tribulus Terrestris, or Tribulus, is a plant in the Zygophyllaceae family. It is native to warmer climates in Europe, Africa, Australia and Asia. Tribulus is used in a variety of sports supplements.

The use of Tribulus as a dietary supplement has been used for centuries in China, India and the Middle east to treat erectile dysfunction, dizziness, premature ejaculation and headaches.

In today’s sports supplement market, it is used in male enhancement supplements and as the key ingredient in the majority of all testosterone supplements. Why? Well, the active agent or chemical that is derived from Tribulus is believed to be protodioscin. In a nutshell protodioscin is a precursor to DHEA which is a precursor to testosterone.

Research shows that Tribulus moderately increases testosterone levels by stimulating the release of leutinizing hormon (LH). Because of this research and other studies, Tribulus has gained tremendous popularity and support by supplement companies and by people looking for a natural way to boost testosterone.

Is Tribulus Legal?

That depends. From where I’m sitting, Tribulus is totally legal. I can go to WalMart right now and find a Tribulus supplement. Just because it is legal doesn’t mean that you are good to go. If you are competitive athlete, you should check with your governing body, NCAA, NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, USSA, etc to see if taking a Tribulus supplement is even recommended. I have a friend who is a competitive professional snowboarder who was asking me about supplements, specifically testosterone supplements. I took a quick visit over to USSA.org, which is the the governing body for Skiers and Snowboarders and right there on its website it says the use of Tribulus is not recommended/banned. Why? According to the USSA Tribulus is a substance that could lead to a positive drug test. [1]

If you live in Europe or Australia you might have a hard time getting a Tribulus supplement shipped to you from the United States. Tribulus has landed on their prohibited imports list. [2]

Does Tribulus Have Any Negative Side Effects?

Since my wife was essentially convinced that Tribulus was just like taking steroids she was concerned about its side effects. She was concerned about ‘roid rage’, acne, hair loss etc. I just pointed to my face, lifted up my shirt so she could check me for acne, and showed her my full head of hair. She was still dubious. To many people, Tribulus might seem like it is one of those supplements that fall into that ‘gray area’ of ‘barely legal’. The truth is, Tribulus is all natural product that has been clinically studied in humans. Those studies show no negative long-term or short-term side effects.

In a recent study done on Tribulus, a 28-day oral toxicology test of 500mg/kg Tribulus Terreestris extract in rats (80mg/kg human dose) failed to establish any signs of toxicity.[3] A human study concluded that Tribulus is safe and free of any side effects in healthy adults. [6]

Does Tribulus Work?

Research has shown that Tribulus Terrestris supplements will increase the production of testosterone and improve sex drive. Supplement companies use the research that is available to them to develop testosterone supplements that will help you build muscle, boost your libido, increase testosterone production, and help you lose body fat. Some companies even fund the clinical studies of their own testosterone supplements to prove how effective they are. Supplement companies goals are to give you a product that works as advertised. All of their claims are backed by clinical studies, or should be. If they aren’t then the FTC drops the hammer on them and levies substantial fines.

What matters most to me, as it should you, is the clinical proof that tribulus will do what it’s supposed to do. Let’s take a quick look at some of these studies and findings.

In a recent study titled “Effects and Mechanism of Action of a Tribulus terrestris Extract on Penile Erection”, researchers concluded that “Tribulus terrestris extract showed a significant concentration-dependent increase in intracavernous pressure (ICP). Accordingly, the Tribulus terrestris extract may improve erectile function.” [4]

So, Tribulus has been clinically proven to help with sexual performance. But what about building lean muscle?

In a 2009 study completed by Milasius et al.25 In their study, 32 athletes, between the ages of 20-22 were separated into 2 separate groups. At the conclusion of the 20 day period it was found that Tribulus significantly increased anaerobic alactic muscular power (6%), alactate glycolyte working capacity (6%), and VO2 at aneorobic threshold (11%). In addition they found that serum testosterone, as assessed by changes in Km values, increased 13%. [11]

Can Women Take Tribulus?

After explaining all of this to my wife, I told her that women could and should also take tribulus supplements if their fitness goals are to lose body fat, increase strength, and build lean body mass with no water retention. Many women, like my wife, are concerned that these supplements will make them look manly or increase masculinity ie deepen the voice, increase facial hair, etc. This is not true at all. Hardcore steroids will definitely elicit those effects in women, but not Tribulus.

In fact there have been many clinical studies on menopausal women that show Tribulus can reduce the symptoms of menopause [9] including an alleviation of hot flashes, sweating, depression, insomnia, and anxiety. [10]

Final Thoughts

Me personally, I use a Tribulus supplement 2 months on and 2 months off. This is so my body does not build a tolerance to Tribulus and it also allows my body to continue to produce testosterone naturally. I also ONLY take Tribulus supplements that are standardized for 20% protodioscins or higher. These tend to be a little pricier, maybe by $5, but you get more bang for your buck as far as increasing your chances of producing more testosterone.

This is one man’s research based opinion. What really matters is how well it works for all of you. Please use our form below to share what your experiences have been with Tribulus. Please include the product(s) you have used, side effects, benefits, dosage, and let us all know if you think Tribulus is a good value or not.


[1] – http://ussa.org/global/sports-nutrition

[2] – http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/ocs-treaties-compliance-prohibited-impexp-precursor.htm

[3] – Singh S, Nair V, Gupta YK. Evaluation of the aphrodisiac activity of Tribulus terrestris Linn. in sexually sluggish male albino rats. J Pharmacol Pharmacother. (2012)

[4] – Korean J Urol. 2013 Mar;54(3):183-8. doi: 10.4111/kju.2013.54.3.183. Epub 2013 Mar 15. Effects and Mechanism of Action of a Tribulus terrestris Extract on Penile Erection.

[5] – J Strength Cond Res. 2007 May;21(2):348-53. The effect of five weeks of Tribulus terrestris supplementation on muscle strength and body composition during preseason training in elite rugby league players.

[6] – Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 1990 Feb;10(2):85-7, 68. [406 cases of angina pectoris in coronary heart disease treated with saponin of Tribulus terrestris] [Article in Chinese] Wang B, Ma L, Liu T.

[7] – Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2000 Jun;10(2):208-15. The effects of Tribulus terrestris on body composition and exercise performance in resistance-trained males. Antonio J, Uelmen J, Rodriguez R, Earnest C.

[8] – J Pharm Sci. 2001 Nov;90(11):1752-8. Determination of steroidal saponins in Tribulus terrestris by reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography and evaporative light scattering detection. Ganzera M, Bedir E, Khan IA.

[9] – Mazaro-Costa R, et al. Medicinal plants as alternative treatments for female sexual dysfunction: utopian vision or possible treatment in climacteric women. J Sex Med. (2010)

[10] – Zarkova S. Tribestan: Experimental and Clinical Investigations. Chemical Pharmaceutical Research Institute, Sofia, 1983.

[11] – Milasius K, Dadeliene R, Skernevicius J. The influence of the Tribulus terrestris extract on the parameters of the functional preparedness and athletes’ organism homeostasis. Fiziol Zh. 2009;55(5):89-96.

About The Author

Brian E. is from southern California and has worked for names like GNC and Vitamin Shoppe as a supplement expert and consultant. He currently lives in Utah and is studying marketing.

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