What is Tribulus and where does it come from ?
The fruits of tribulus have been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine (India) and in traditional Asian medicine (China, Japan, Korea, etc.), mainly to treat infertility and the sexual dysfunctions, both for men and women. In Europe, tribulus has long been used to combat hormone deficiency. In China, it is credited with many other virtues. It is used, among other things, mixed with other herbs to treat disorders of the urinary system, hypertension, coronary heart disease and to stimulate the production of breast milk.
In the early 1980s, the public became interested in fruit extract from tribulus after learning that the Bulgarian Olympic weightlifters attributed his exceptional performance to him. Subsequently, the fame of the plant increased further when manufacturers claimed that it improved sexual performances. Tribulus extract is now listed as an ingredient in many products sold for this purpose.
The current trend of extract manufacturers tribulus is to standardize the extracts to 40% of saponins, which would be the active substances of the fruit.
Improved sports performance. To promote the sale of their products based on tribulus, manufacturers and distributors point to studies in Bulgaria in the early 1980s. These studies have shown that tribulus increases the levels of various steroid hormones, including testosterone, DHEA and estrogens, which would have a favorable effect on sports performance. These studies, already old, have a very relative value because of the methodologies used, which no longer correspond to current standards. In addition, two small clinical studies published in 2000 did not confirm these data. Finally, an Australian study published in 2008 concluded that tribulus had no effect on increasing muscle strength, losing fat or on testosterone in the urine. After 5 weeks of intensive training, the researchers did not observe any difference between the group which took 450 mg of tribulus extract per day and that which took a placebo.
Improved sexual performance. Claims that tribulus increases sexual performance are partly fueled by studies showing that tribulus extracts increase the level of sex hormones in laboratory animals (rats and rabbits) and have positive effects on their sexual behavior.
None of these effects have yet been seen in humans. Healthy young men took tribulus for 4 weeks without measuring any hormonal changes. Comparable results have been obtained in women. Extensive urinalysis revealed no effect on testosterone and DHEA production from two volunteers who had taken 1,500 mg of tribulus for 2 days.
Traditional uses. In vitro or animal results suggest that tribulus or some of its compounds may play a role in the treatment of cardiovascular disease and hypertension. However, convincing clinical data are currently lacking. The only ones available date from 1990 and concern 473 patients suffering from coronary heart disease. According to the authors of this study, the rate of remission in subjects treated with the extract of tribulus was greater than that of the 67 subjects in a control group treated with a conventional drug. The methodological quality of this trial leaves something to be desired, in particular because of the small number of subjects in the control group.
Furthermore, a recent experimental study would tend to validate the use made by Ayurvedic medicine of tribulus to treat kidney stones. Researchers have successfully inhibited training in vitro oxalate crystals (component of some stones), using an extract from the plant.
There is insufficient data to suggest a dosage.
Precautions and side effects
- There is insufficient data to establish the safety of tribulus in pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding.
- In a few preliminary trials, tribulus did not cause any noticeable side effects. However, there are insufficient data to establish its long-term safety.