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Tribulus (Tribulus terrestris)

What is Tribulus?

Tribulus is a small, thorny plant brought to us from the Ayurvedic medical system of India. Here, tribulus is primarily used for supporting the male reproductive system and the cardiovascular system.

This plant is considered a noxious weed in most of the places it grows. It can survive blazing hot sun and drought. Tribulus spreads aggressively through the use of spiky burrs on the seed shells that attach to animals and hikers socks and shoes — spreading the seeds for many miles.

As an invasive plant, Tribulus is an especially important herb — found abundantly on just about every continent except Antarctica.

What Else is Tribulus Known As?

  • Bindii
  • Bai Ji Li (China)
  • Caltrops
  • Gokshura (Sanskrit
  • Puncture vine

Herbal Actions/Properties of Tribulus

  • Male tonic
  • Cardiotonic
  • Circulatory tonic
  • Aphrodisiac

What is Tribulus Used For? 

Tribulus is particularly high in medicinal saponins — many of which have a direct impact on the cardiovascular system, and endocrine system.

Perhaps the most popular use of the herb is to support androgen production in men — including testosterone. This is most popular among athletes and aging men.

The other main application of tribulus is for its cardiotonic effects — supporting the microcapillaries around the body. The active ingredient — tribulosin — has been shown to reduce the damage caused during ischemia (lack of oxygen) in the heart muscle [1].

Folklore & History of Tribulus

Tribulus is named after the Greek word Tribulos — which means caltrop, which was a spiky weapon used in ancient times. This likely refers to the spiky seeds produced by the plant.

Most of the history of use for this plant comes from India via the Ayurvedic medical system where it shared very similar uses the plant is favored for today.

Some records in China report use of the plant a well. Here, tribulus was used for chest pain, skin lesions, and swollen or painful eyes.

In the Middle East, literature from the Unani medical system report using the herb as a diuretic, mild laxative, and general tonic.

Tribulus Side-Effects & Safety

Large doses of tribulus may cause damage to the liver or kidneys.

Tribulus has not been proven safe during pregnancy — so should be avoided while pregnant or breastfeeding.

How Much Tribulus Do I Use? 

The recommended dose of tribulus extracts (1:2) is around 7 – 14 mL per day.

If using capsules, make sure to double-check the recommendations on the package. The potency of each product can vary a lot, so the dose may change from one brand of tribulus extract to the next.

Scientific Research Involving Tribulus

  1. [2014] Phytopharmacological overview of Tribulus terrestris.
  2. [2012] Evaluation of the aphrodisiac activity of Tribulus terrestris Linn. in sexually sluggish male albino rats.
  3. [2010] Tribulosin protects rat hearts from ischemia/reperfusion injury.
  4. [2007] Phytochemical and antimicrobial evaluation of Tribulus terrestris L. growing in Nigeria.
  5. [2002] A novel furostanol saponin from Tribulus terrestris of Bulgarian origin.Fitoterapia.
  6. [1996] Steroidal saponins from fruits of Tribulus terrestris.
  7. [1982] Determination of furostanol saponins in the preparation tribestan.
  8. [1981] Steroidal saponins from Tribulus terrestris L. with a stimulating action on the sexual functions.

Other Resources

  1. [2013] Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy. Elsevier health.
  2. [2007] Indian medicinal plants: An illustrated dictionary.

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