What is Tribulus Root (Gokshura)?
Tribulus is a tiny fruit that comes from eastern parts of the world and has just recently made its way to western countries. Herbalists who know about this plant often use it for hormone-related issues for both women and men.
Here's more about the top health benefits of tribulus and the various ways herbalists have been using it for centuries.
Tribulus is a plant that grows natively in regions of southern Europe, southern Asia, Africa, and northern Australia. It's more commonly known as gokshura or puncture vine in Ayurvedic medicine and countries like India or Burma but is most often referred to as tribulus or Tribulus terrestris in the western world.
A low-growing plant, tribulus can be considered a weed (and is even nicknamed goathead weed and tackweed) but also has a long history of medicinal use.
Both the roots and the spiky fruits of the plant have been used medicinally in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). The fruits are more commonly used today and are usually what you'll find in tribulus supplements and extracts.
Like so many other herbs, tribulus has had multiple uses throughout history, but it has particularly been used to treat sexual disorders in both men and women.
In TCM, tribulus fruit has also been used to treat swelling, eye problems, liver problems, and bloating. In Ayurveda, tribulus has sweet, cold, and heavy properties and is considered an aphrodisiac.
What are the Health Benefits of Tribulus?
Is Tribulus a natural remedy for PCOS?
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is listed as the most common hormonal disorder affecting women of reproductive age in the U.S. It often involves painful and frustrating symptoms like ovarian cysts, weight gain, and acne.
Many women have used natural therapies, including herbs and lifestyle changes, to successfully address PCOS and bring hormones back into balance.
Dr. Aviva Romm lists tribulus as one of the herbs that can be used as a tonic for the endocrine system to aid hormonal dysregulation and PCOS. She specifically recommends Bulgarian-grown tribulus rather than the Indian or Chinese version. (Aviva Romm, MD. Botanical Medicine for Women's Health, pg. 116)
Keep in mind that addressing PCOS is a complex process and no single herb will do the job. If you are interested in tribulus, it's best to use it as part of a comprehensive plan under the guidance of a qualified herbalist or holistic doctor.
May Help Address Erectile Dysfunction
In the past, tribulus has frequently been used as a remedy for issues like erectile dysfunction (ED) and other sexual disorders, but modern research is still unsure about all that this herb can do.
For example, there have been multiple studies on the health benefits of tribulus for boosting testosterone, and the results are very conflicting.
Some show that tribulus may increase the levels of free testosterone in men (particularly when combined with other compounds), while others have shown no effect on testosterone. (3)
More promising is a different study showing that taking tribulus for 12 weeks significantly improved sexual function and erections in men with mild to moderate ED. (4)
Interestingly, the latter study used Bulgarian-grown tribulus, so it may be possible that the origin country factors into how effective tribulus is.
May Enhance Fertility & Boost Libido
Along with using tribulus for PCOS support, Dr. Aviva Romm also lists this herb as beneficial for both decreased libido and fertility. (Romm, pg. 145 & 369)
In fact, tribulus (or gokshura) has been used as a "sexual stimulant" for centuries to boost libido in both men and women and to improve sexual performance.
Some modern studies confirm these health benefits of tribulus and show that it can increase sexual desire in women and men with low libido. (5)
As far as fertility goes, studies have shown that tribulus can increase certain hormones associated with fertility and appears to help normalize ovulation, which can improve the chance of becoming pregnant. (Romm, pg. 370)
Has a Natural Diuretic Effect
As you can tell, tribulus really shines when it comes to hormonal support. However, it does have other uses, including the ability to act as a diuretic to support kidney health and flush out excess fluids.
This diuretic effect is likely a key reason behind the traditional use of tribulus to get rid of kidney stones-- something that does have a bit of support from modern research. (6)
Diuretics can also relieve bloating that is caused by fluid retention and help your body to get rid of toxins and waste products via urine.
Supports Stamina & Vitality
By working to normalize hormones and supporting sexual health, tribulus has an overall positive effect on vitality and stamina. It can be used as a general tonic for restoring vitality and also helps reduce the physiologic effects of stress. (Romm, pg. 116)
Tribulus has been fairly popular with athletes because of its positive effects on stamina, although studies have again been conflicted in this area.
Some research shows that it may boost recovery after a workout or enhance exercise performance, while other studies have shown no difference between it and a placebo. (7)
How to Use Tribulus Herb?
Unless you live in an area where this herb grows naturally, the best way to get the health benefits of tribulus is to use a standardized extract or buy the dried fruit.
You may want to try a supplement that only contains Tribulus terrestris (sometimes called gokshura), but you can also take it as part of an herbal formula like in these Pregnancy Prep capsules or these Ovulation Assist capsules.
For fertility and hormone-related issues like PCOS, Dr. Aviva Romm recommends taking tribulus only on days 5-14 of the menstrual cycle.
Again, it's best for you to consult with a qualified herbal practitioner if you want to try tribulus for something like PCOS to get individualized recommendations.
What are the side effects of Tribulus Root?
In general, tribulus is safe and well-tolerated. Rarely, it may cause stomach pain, cramps, or vomiting, especially if a large dose is taken.
Studies so far have not shown conclusively whether tribulus can cause issues during pregnancy, but it is traditionally contraindicated during pregnancy in TCM. It's probably best to avoid it during pregnancy and breastfeeding for this reason.
Just like with other herbs, be sure you only buy tribulus from a reputable supplier to ensure you are getting a quality, uncontaminated product.
Tribulus: A Mighty Herb for Hormones
Though tribulus is not as well-studied as other herbs, it still has very real health benefits and has been used for centuries in traditional medicinal practices.
This herb is especially powerful for hormone support and hormone-related issues and can make a big difference when used the right way!
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.