Low testosterone is a problem more likely to affect men as they get older. It can also affect women, leading to fatigue and decreased libido.
While there are conventional treatments available, particularly testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), there are also natural ways to boost testosterone and help your hormones to come back in balance.
Herbs are at the top of the list as are a few specific supplements and lifestyle changes. Here's a look at your top natural options, plus a little more on what testosterone does in your body.
What is Testosterone?
Testosterone is a hormone that has many different roles in your body. Though often thought of as "the male hormone," it's present and important in both males and females. Men do, however, have much more testosterone (in general) than women.
In males, testosterone is very important for sexual development and continues to impact sexual health and libido throughout life. It also plays a role in fat storage, muscle mass, and red blood cell production.
In women, testosterone contributes to sexual drive, strength, and energy as well as bone density.
Low testosterone is much more likely to occur in men over age 45, although it can happen at any age, and testosterone levels typically start declining between age 25-30. (1)
Symptoms of low testosterone include:
- Decreased libido
- Erectile dysfunction
- Fertility problems
- Increased body fat
- Loss of muscle mass
- Mood changes
Naturally Balancing Testosterone
Like with any hormone problem, the effects of low testosterone can range from mildly annoying to severe. In severe cases, you'll most likely need the help of a health professional, but otherwise natural approaches can be extremely helpful.
Keep in mind that most herbs and natural remedies work more by helping your hormones to come into balance rather than by simply raising testosterone levels. You'll need to be consistent with them and allow them time to work in your body.
Top Herbs & Natural Testosterone Boosters
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that is highly valued in Ayurvedic medicine. It has a long history of use for bringing balance to both the male and female body and is one of the most researched herbs for low testosterone.
Studies have shown that taking ashwagandha may help to increase testosterone and DHEA (a precursor to testosterone and estrogen). It also frequently helps with symptoms like fatigue and a decreased sex drive. (2)
One study even found that taking ashwagandha extract for three months increased testosterone levels and increased sperm count by 167% in infertile men. (3)
Maca root is another adaptogen that has frequently been used for hormonal balance in both men and women. Black maca, especially, has a history of use for male (and female) fertility, libido, and erectile dysfunction.
Interestingly, studies have shown that maca does not directly raise serum testosterone levels.
Instead, the compounds and nutrients in maca root contribute to the health of your entire endocrine system, which helps your body produce and regulate hormones on its own. This could be why it can help with certain symptoms of low testosterone, and some researchers believe it may boost free testosterone. (4)
Ginseng is a popular herb because it can boost energy and stamina and reduce fatigue. It's also very helpful for boosting both male and female libido, likely by helping with hormone balance.
A few studies have shown that Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) can specifically increase both blood and free testosterone levels and improves sex drive. Separate research has also shown that it may help to treat erectile dysfunction. (5)(6)
Ginger is usually thought of as a digestive aid, but research has shown that it may also boost testosterone levels and increase other sex hormones as well. Researchers believe this happens because ginger enhances luteinizing hormone production, which stimulates the production of testosterone. (7)
To get the maximum effect, use fresh ginger root or take a ginger extract.
Pine Bark Extract or Pine Pollen
You might not think of pine trees as a medicinal plant, but many different parts of the tree (particularly pine needles) can be used as herbs.
When it comes to testosterone, pine bark extract has shown the most potential for boosting levels. It contains compounds known as proanthocyanidins that can increase testosterone and improve erectile dysfunction symptoms, especially when paired with another compound known as L-arginine aspartate. (8)
Pine pollen is another remedy that may work because it contains very tiny amounts of testosterone. It hasn't been the subject of research studies yet but has anecdotal support.
Tribulus terrestris is an herb used for many years in Ayurvedic medicine. For women, it can be used as a natural aid for PCOS. For men, it may help to increase the level of certain sex hormones, including testosterone. (9)
Tribulus is not a common herb in the west, so it's important to source it from a reputable company to avoid supplements that may contain something falsely labeled as tribulus.
Saw palmetto is a good herb for men's health, supporting libido and prostate health. It also has an interesting effect on testosterone.
Some studies have shown that saw palmetto may be able to directly boost testosterone levels. However, it has even more benefit by helping to preserve existing testosterone levels, so that you don't lose what you already have. Researchers think it does this by decreasing the activity of an enzyme that breaks down testosterone. (10)(11)
Zinc is an essential mineral that has shown a lot of promise as a supplement for boosting testosterone. This is mainly because zinc is involved in the production of testosterone and a deficiency is linked to lower testosterone levels. (12)
If you aren't deficient in zinc, it may not do much for testosterone. However, if you are, a supplement or eating high zinc foods can help boost your levels naturally. (13)
Vitamin D is a second nutrient that may boost testosterone levels. Again, this has only shown benefits in studies where a vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency was present.
If you think you might be short on vitamin D, adding a supplement (or getting more sunshine) is an easy way to try boosting testosterone. For certain people, it can help significantly. (14)
Exercise and Lift Weights
Exercise, and particularly weight lifting, has proven to be one of the most effective natural remedies for boosting testosterone. Large studies have shown that those who exercise more tend to have higher levels of testosterone, and this continues to be true with age. (15)
Resistance training (aka weight lifting) has shown the most benefits for improving testosterone levels in both the short- and long-term, but any type of exercise can be effective if you're consistent with it. (16)
Chronic stress can have a huge negative impact on your health and could be partly responsible for reduced testosterone levels. This is because stress raises the hormone known as cortisol, which can cause other hormones to decrease. (17)
It's hard (or impossible) to get rid of stress entirely, but getting it to a manageable level may automatically help boost your testosterone.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is good for you in a number of ways, and getting enough of it seems to be connected to having sufficient testosterone levels.
While researchers agree that different people need different amounts of sleep, getting less than 5 hours per night seems to be a trigger for reduced testosterone. Other research suggests that getting a few extra hours of rest each night could raise testosterone levels by about 15%. (18)(19)
Boosting Testosterone Naturally
Boosting testosterone doesn't usually happen overnight, but a combination of a healthier lifestyle (particularly exercise) and a few key herbs or nutrients can really make a big difference.
Don't forget to speak to a physician if you are suffering severe symptoms of low testosterone, but also don't underestimate the power of the natural world to bring your body back into balance!
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and should not be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your health care provider, herbalist, midwife, or naturopathic physician before taking herbs, supplements, etc. Here's the link to our full disclaimer.