The typical American man wants better sex and more intimacy. Yet, a 1995 study done by researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that 25 percent of men 40 to 49 years of age were already worried about their sexual performance. The report also found that as men age their sexual concerns increase, with 47 percent of men in their seventies anxious about sexual function.1
An estimated 30 million men suffer at one time or another from some degree of male erectile dysfunction, yet only 2.76 million visited doctors in 1997 with the complaint. Sexual dysfunction refers to a variety of ailments including “lack of sexual desire, difficulty becoming aroused, inability to achieve orgasm, erection problems in men, lubrication problems in women and pain during intercourse.” 2 Untreated, sexual dysfunction can have devastating effects on one’s self-esteem, health, marriage, career and friendships. It may be a sign of a physical or emotional problem that requires attention … or it may just be a matter of boosting hormone levels.
Andropause … the male “menopause”
According to Jonathan Wright, M.D. author of Maximize Your Vitality and Potency — For Men Over 40, almost all men over 40 need a little more testosterone in order to maintain everything from heart health to an optimistic attitude and deep, quality sleep … because men experience declining levels of hormones, just as women going through menopause.3
Low testosterone can result in a host of symptoms, including:
- Feeling weak
- Inner unrest
- Loss of ability to concentrate
- Memory failure
- Reduced intellectual agility
- Passive attitudes
- Low energy
- Muscle atrophy
- High cholesterol, triglycerides and glucose levels
- High blood pressure
- Increase in abdominal fat
- Poor sleep
A proven, natural testosterone booster for men
Tribulus terrestris, the Latin name for puncture vine, has gained popularity in the past decade among male athletes who attempt to build muscle by increasing testosterone production. And although studies show the herb does not enhance body composition or exercise performance,4 studies do show that Tribulus enhances male sexual function and satisfaction.
Tribulus terrestris grows naturally in North and South America, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. It is considered a noxious weed that grows along roadsides and in vacant lots. In fact, its seeds are sharp and painful to step on, and its fresh leaves are toxic to livestock, especially sheep, when consumed in large quantities. The berries and aerial parts of Tribulus are the parts most often used in traditional medicine for a variety of ailments including colic, headache, nervous disorders, constipation, and sexual dysfunction.
Research on laboratory animals has shown that, in addition to enhancing male sexual function, Tribulus also benefits a number of other health concerns, including:
- reduces cholesterol levels 5,6
- reduces triglycerides 5
- has antioxidant properties 5,6
- reduces serum glucose levels 6
- helps treat hypertension 7
How does it work?
Although the study is out of print, in the mid-70s, scientists at the Chemical Pharmaceutical Research Institute in Sofia, Bulgaria demonstrated that Tribulus may increase testosterone levels indirectly by raising blood levels of another hormone, luteinizing hormone (LH). LH is produced by the pituitary gland and plays a role in regulating natural testosterone production and serum levels by “turning on” natural testosterone production in humans. 8
A natural aphrodisiac
Additionally, Tribulus works by relaxing smooth muscles and increasing blood flow into the corpus cavernosa (the erectile tissue inside the penis). This relaxant effect observed in animals is probably due to the increase in the release of nitric oxide from the endothelium and nerve endings. 9 One rodent study found Tribulus to be an effective aphrodisiac. Sexual behavior and intracavernous pressure (ICP—blood flow into the corpus cavernosa of the penis) were studied in both normal and castrated rats to further understand how Tribulus stimulates sexual arousal. The rats that received the Tribulus showed an increase in prostate weight and ICP. There was also a mild to moderate improvement in sexual behavior as evidenced by an increase in mounting frequency.10
Tribulus also helps improve sperm motility (movement), thus enhancing fertility, as found in a double-blind placebo-controlled trial conducted on 30 men at the Airlangga University in Surabaya, Indonesia. Half the men received a 500 mg dose of Tribulus three times per day for 60 days, and the rest were given sugar pills. The ejaculate volume, sperm concentration, and other parameters were evaluated before and after treatment.
A significant increase in the percentage of slow or sluggish sperm in the treated group was observed when compared to the control group. The percentage of the sperm with normal acrosome reaction (penetration of the sperm into the ovum) was also increased, whereas the percentage of immotile sperm decreased significantly.
The men who took Tribulus also experienced an increase in sex drive and had more frequent sexual intercourse. No one experienced any side effects. The researchers concluded that Tribulus terrestris, given at 500 mg three times a day for 60 days, proved to be effective in restoring significant sperm functions, such as motility.11
The Tribulus berries and aerial parts contain a number of different substances including saponins, glycosides, flavonoids, alkaloids, resins, tannins, sugars, sterols, and essential oil. The steroidal saponins, including protodioscin, are considered the most active components. 12
Maintaining an estrogen-testosterone balance
As men get older they produce more aromatase, an enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen. This often results in an imbalance of estrogen and testosterone, because the already depleted levels of testosterone in an older man are converted into estrogen. 13
The problem is excess estrogen—in men and women—puts one at risk for cancer, and according to Dr. Jonathan Wright, “It is becoming increasingly apparent that the potent estrogen estradiol can be a major stimulant for prostatic cell proliferation.”
How do you get around it?
The key is to increase testosterone while blocking estrogen production in order to reduce risk of cancer. You can do that by adding the following nutrients to your health regimen: Tribulus, Di-indolylmethane (DIM)*, the active ingredient found in the cabbage-family of foods, and lycopene, a powerful antioxidant in tomatoes that reduces risk of prostate cancer. (Please see the article, Cabbages and Cancer Risk)
- Di-indolylmethane does not block all estrogens (there are many types of estrogen) but, rather, blocks production of 16-alpha-hydroxyestrone, thought to be the most cancer promoting estrogen metabolite.
And if you want to really boost your sex life, consider taking 250 to 750 mg of Tribulus, plus these other prosexual nutrients:
- Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)
- Ginkgo biloba
- Eurycoma Longifolia
- Yohimbine (from yohimbe extract, bark)
How safe is Tribulus?
No side effects have been reported in the medical literature regarding the use of Tribulus terrestris. However, little is known about its long-term use, and it is not recommended for pregnant or lactating women, or children. Men with enlarged prostates should consult their medical professionals before taking Tribulus.
Erectile dysfunction affects 50 percent of men ages 40-70 in the United States and is considered an important public health problem by the National Institutes of Health. Consumers are exposed to a plethora of natural products claiming to restore erection and sexual vitality … which is why it’s important to try to understand the science behind the claims. Although more human studies need to be done on Tribulus, so far, the research looks promising that it is a safe, natural, time-tested herb that boosts libido, increases sperm motility, and even provides cardiovascular benefits.14,15
A typical daily dosage of Tribulus is 250-750 mg. Be sure to choose an extract standardized for at least 30-45% steroidal saponins.
- Panser LA, Rhodes T, Girman CJ, Guess HA, Chute CG, Oesterling JE, Lieber MM, Jacobsen SJ. Sexual function of men ages 40 to 79 years: the Olmsted County Study of Urinary Symptoms and Health Status Among Men. J Am Geriatr Soc. 1995 Oct;43(10):1107-11.
- Morrow D. “New means to make men feel younger”. The New York Times, March 31, 1998; B1-B2.
- Jonathan Wright, M.D. and Lane Lenard, Ph.D. Maximize Your Vitality and Potency – For Men Over 40. Smart Publications, 1999.Sexual dysfunction common in men, women. Onhealth.webmd.com/conditions/briefs/item2C36836.asp.
February 10, 1999.
- Antonio J, Uelmen J, Rodriguez R, Earnest C. The effects of Tribulus terrestris on body composition and exercise performance in resistance-trained males. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2000 Jun;10(2):208-15.
- Chu S, Qu W, Pang X, Sun B, Huang X. [Effect of saponin from Tribulus terrestris on hyperlipidemia] [Article in Chinese] Zhong Yao Cai. 2003 May;26(5):341-4.
- Li M, Qu W, Wang Y, Wan H, Tian C. [Hypoglycemic effect of saponin from Tribulus terrestris] [Article in Chinese] Zhong Yao Cai. 2002 Jun;25(6):420-2.
- Sharifi AM, Darabi R, Akbarloo N. Study of antihypertensive mechanism of Tribulus terrestris in 2K1C hypertensive rats: role of tissue ACE activity. Life Sci. 2003 Oct 24;73(23):2963-71.
- Burke, Edmund R. “Fad or Fact? A look at Tribulus terrestris.”Nutrition Science News, March 1999, Vol. 4, No.3.
- Adaikan PG, Gauthaman K, Prasad RN, Ng SC. Proerectile pharmacological effects of Tribulus terrestris extract on the rabbit corpus cavernosum. Ann Acad Med Singapore. 2000 Jan;29(1):22-6.
- Gauthaman K, Adaikan PG, Prasad RN. Aphrodisiac properties of Tribulus Terrestris extract (Protodioscin) in normal and castrated rats.Life Sci. 2002 Aug 9;71(12):1385-96.
- L. Setiawan. Tribulus terrestris L. extract improves spermatozoa motility and increases the efficiency of acrosome reaction in subjects diagnosed with oligoastheno-teratozoospermia. Airlangga University, Surabaya, Indonesia (1996)
- De Combarieu E, Fuzzati N, Lovati M, Mercalli E. Furostanol saponins from Tribulus terrestris. Fitoterapia. 2003 Sep;74(6):583-91.
- Cohen, P.G. Aromatase, adiposity, aging and disease. The hypogonadal-metabolic-atherogenic-dissease and aging connection.Medical Hypotheses, 2001-56(6): 702-708.
- Adimoelja A. Phytochemicals and the breakthrough of traditional herbs in the management of sexual dysfunctions. Int J Androl. 2000;23 Suppl 2:82-4.
- McKay D. Nutrients and botanicals for erectile dysfunction: examining the evidence. Altern Med Rev. 2004 Mar;9(1):4-16.