Herbal Ergogenics: Bulgarian Tribulus Terrestris

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Herbal Ergogenics: Bulgarian Tribulus Terrestris

The name tribulus identifies a genus of approximately 20 species. Tribulus terrestris, a vine-like plant growing in subtropical climates, is one of the tribulus species. Bulgarian tribulus terrestris is the type that is typically used in dietary supplements. It can be extracted for a number of different constituents, with its protodioscins being the constituent believed to be responsible for most of the effects of Bulgarian tribulus terrestris. Typical uses of this herb are to promote energy, a healthy libido, increased muscle mass and elevated testosterone levels.

Bulgarian tribulus terrestris has been shown to raise testosterone levels and libido in animals. (2, 3) Human studies, however, have not proven that it has any effect on testosterone levels or that it can increase muscle mass or improve body composition. In fact, studies done on healthy male subjects have actually disproven Bulgarian tribulus terrestris in all of these aspects. (1, 4, 5) In one study, rugby players that were in the placebo group actually increased their strength more than those that were using tribulus! (4) Bulgarian tribulus terrestris may or may not have libido enhancing effects in humans, but increased libido does not necessarily mean increased testosterone levels.

Due to its ineffectiveness for increasing muscle mass and testosterone in humans, I would not expect to get any significant results with this herb as a standalone supplement. Bulgarian tribulus terrestris may, however, have some benefits which make it a worth-while herb to supplement with, and it may have benefits as a part of a formula containing other ingredients.


1. Antonio J, Uelmen J, Rodriguez R, & Earnest C. (2000). The effects of Tribulus terrestris on body composition and exercise performance in resistance-trained males. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 10(2), 208-15.

2. Gauthaman K, Adaikan PG, & Prasad RN. (2002). Aphrodisiac properties of Tribulus Terrestris extract (Protodioscin) in normal and castrated rats. Life Sciences. 71(12), 1385-96.

3. Gauthaman K, & Ganesan AP. (2008). The hormonal effects of Tribulus terrestris and its role in the management of male erectile dysfunction–an evaluation using primates, rabbit and rat. Phytomedicine : International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology. 15(1-2), 44-54.

4. Rogerson S, Riches CJ, Jennings C, Weatherby RP, Meir RA, & Marshall-Gradisnik SM. (2007). The effect of five weeks of Tribulus terrestris supplementation on muscle strength and body composition during preseason training in elite rugby league players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research / National Strength & Conditioning Association. 21(2), 348-53.

5. Neychev VK, & Mitev VI. (2005). The aphrodisiac herb Tribulus terrestris does not influence the androgen production in young men. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 101(1-3), 319-23.

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