Tribulus is used in Ayurvedic medicine to enhance mental clarity. It is often promoted to athletes as an agent to increase muscle buildup and burn fat, though more research is needed to substantiate these claims. It is known to relieve pain, increase testosterone levels, improve the flow of liver chi, clear the lungs, stimulate circulation, and soothe the mucous membranes of the urinary tract.
Root, Fruit or Leaf
burra gokhbu, goats’ head, bur nut, ground burr-nut, Jamaican feverplant, caltrop, prickly caltrop, white caltrop; Abrojo Rojo (Spanish); Mayan: Chanixnuk, Punab-ki; Béégashii bitsiits’iin – bull head (Navajo); ji li dze, ji li zi (Chinese); Abrojo, Burra Gokeroo
Ayurveda classifies it as sweet and cold and uses it as one of the two main diuretic herbs for urinary problems, kidney and lower back pains, urinary tract stones and as an aphrodisiac and a remedy for male impotence. When it was discovered that Bulgarian athletes were taking Tribulus supplements to increase lean body mass, the plant began to be marketed as the herbal alternative to steroids. In traditional Mexican and Mexican-American medicine, an infusion of the leaves is used as a kidney cleanser. A decoction is used in treating impotence in males, nocturnal emissions, gonorrhoea and incontinence of urine. It has also proved useful in treating painful urination, gout and kidney diseases.
Tonic, male aphrodisiac, oestrogenic in females (indirectly), androgenic in men (indirectly), fertility agent
Enhancing effect on male sexual function; improves production and motility of spermatozoa; increases sex hormone production in both men and women; alleviates menopausal symptoms; improves fertility in women.
Male infertility and impotence
The results of open clinical trials conducted by four Bulgarian research teams, including a total of 363 men, indicated that TLSE had a stimulating effect on sexual function. Treatment with 750 mg/day for 60 days significantly increased motility and rate of movement of spermatozoa from 38 men with idiopathic oligospermia. In some cases, after repeated treatment at a dose of 1500 mg/day, a normalisation of the sperm profile was observed, accompanied by increased LH and testosterone and decreased estradiol. Patients with unilateral or bilateral hypotrophy of the testes and oligospermia demonstrated improvements in ejaculate volume, sperm concentration and motility after treatment (1500 mg/day, 60 days). Testosterone levels were also increased. Treatment of 51 infertile men with 750 mg/day TLSE for 3 months significantly increased ejaculate volume, sperm concentration, motility and velocity. Thirty-one pregnancies were recorded for 100 couples with infertility involving an immunological cause within 12 months of initiating TLSE treatment. The average time taken to conceive was 5.2 months. Before treatment sperm number and quality varied, but all men and 74% of women had abnormal results for sperm-agglutinating antibody tests. The dosage used was 750 mg/day for men and 750 mg/day from days 21 to 27 of the menstrual cycle for women until conception occurred.
Improvement in sperm profile was not observed in patients with chronic prostatitis (750 to 1500 mg/day).
Of 14 patients suffering reduced libido, 12 showed considerable improvement after 30 days (1500 mg/day), and one patient was slightly improved after 60 days. Libido has been enhanced in 27 of 36 patients with chronic prostatitis. The other nine patients, who all had chronic prostatitis for over 5 years, demonstrated no improvement. Libido was incidentally improved in patients with hypotrophy of the testes and idiopathic oligospermia.
In an open-label study, 98% of 50 menopausal women experienced symptom improvement after TLSE treatment, but not after placebo. 52 per cent of patients were experiencing natural menopause, and 48% had postoperative symptoms after removal of their ovaries. Predominant symptoms included hot flushes, sweating, insomnia and depression. The dosage prescribed varied, but generally, a maintenance dose of 500 to 750 mg/day of TLSE was reached after higher initial doses. Treatment did not result in significant changes in FSH, LH, prolactin, estradiol, progesterone and testosterone, although FSH tended to be lower.
Dosage (Divided Daily)
• Dried Plant: 5,000 – 12,000mg (Decoction/Tea)
• Ratio Extract: 500 – 1,500mg (40% Protodioscin or 90% Saponins)
Contraindicated in pregnancy due to traditional use as an abortifacient.
Avoid use in patients with androgen-sensitive tumours.
May cause gastric upset in a small percentage of cases. Take with food.
Interactions with other drugs
Balch, P. A., & Bell, S. J. (2012). Prescription for Herbal healing (2nd ed.). New York, N.Y.: Avery.
Mills, S., & Bone, K. (2000). Principles and practice of phytotherapy: modern herbal medicine. Edinburgh; London: Churchill Livingstone.
- Herbalpedia (2013)
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