The Ultimate No-BS Guide to Natural Herbal Testosterone Boosters

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I have been pretty obsessed about natural testosterone optimization for roughly five years now. So obsessed actually that it has become my job. During this time of natural hormone optimization, I’ve personally tested and researched an absolutely ridiculous amount of different herbal testosterone boosters, and in this post, I’m going to break down their effects, and the science (or in some cases the lack of it) behind them.
 
Keep in mind that this article is about testosterone boosting herbs. The list doesn’t include any isolated vitamins, minerals, amino-acids, or fatty acids (not that some of those wouldn’t be effective in raising & maintaining testosterone levels, they’re just beyond the scope of this article).
 
Also remember that no herbal supplement is a magic-pill. To really raise your testosterone levels naturally, you have to optimize your diet and workouts, you have to get proper sleep, and you should have plenty of sex, along with bunch of other stuff found around this site. Supplements are just there to give you that nudge towards the right direction, but never think that they’re anywhere near equivalent to steroids or HRT.
 
NOTE: There’s about 30 herbs in this list, but not all of them are something I would recommend to a friend. The bad ones are included only so that you’ll know what to avoid. Also note that the list is not in any particular order of effectiveness.
 
So, without further ramblings, let’s check out the herbals:
 
 
 
 


Forskolin


coleus forskohlii testosteroneForskolin (Coleus Forskohlii) is not that popular of a herb when it comes to boosting testosterone levels. It’s actually marketed as a fat burner, and mainly to desperate women, by no other than the ridiculous TV persona; Dr. Oz.
 
But Dr. Oz and the fat melting claims aside, forskolin can actually be a potent testosterone booster.
 
This is because it stimulates cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) production in the body, and cAMP acts as a second messenger between cells and hormones.
 
Increased cAMP levels should, by all the laws of common sense, increase the sensitivity, amount, and activity of hormones all over the body. And forskolin is actually so effective at boosting cAMP, that scientists use it as a positive control in test-tubes.
 
Theories aside, there are actually few relevant studies about Forskolin and testosterone:
 
a) In this study, Gorard et al. administered 250 mg’s of 10% Forskolin extract to his 30 obese male subjects, twice a day, for 12 weeks. At the end of the 12 week stretch the Forskolin group had increased their testosterone levels by 33% when compared to placebo.
 
b) In this in-vitro study, forskolin was able to increase testosterone levels by ~200% in isolated leydig cells due to cAMP stimulation.
 
c) In another in-vitro study, the researchers treated testicular leydig cells with triclosan (a testosterone lowering chemical in various consumer products). Triclosan suppressed cAMP, and various enzymes needed in steroidogenesis, resulting in lowered testosterone production. However, the triclosan-induced decrease in the production of testosterone returned to normalcy when the cells were treated with Forskolin.
 
d) As a final piece to the puzzle, in this study, forskolin was found to be a potent activator of androgen receptors (the receptor sites where testosterone binds into and eventually induces the anabolic effects). This took place because forskolin stimulated the production of cAMP, which then increased the enzyme protein kinase A (PKA) levels, and PKA regulates glycocen, sugar, and lipid metabolism inside the androgen receptors.
 
Forskolin is an interesing herb, I would definitely recommend it, and for a long time it was one of my favorites. However I can’t personally use it anymore, since I live in Finland and the European Union decided to add it into their dreaded “medicine list” in the beginning of 2015 (meaning that I can’t order it anymore without getting into trouble with the customs office). Ridiculous I know, especially since it’s a herbal extract, but that’s the EU and I have to live with that.
 
 
 
 

Mucuna Pruriens


mucuna pruriens is a testosterone increasing herbMucuna Pruriens (Velvet Bean) is an Indian Herb used generously in their herbal medicine; Ayurveda.
 
It’s usage as a sexual tonic dates back thousands of years, and lately M. Pruriens has gotten quite a reputation for its proclaimed effects on increasing testicle size.
 
But the big question is, why would Mucuna Pruriens increase testosterone levels?
 
And the answer is in a compound called L-Dopa (levadopa), which acts as a neurotransmitter/dopamine precursor in the human body.
 

Mucuna Pruriens is considered to be the richest known source for natural L-Dopa, and it’s a well-researched fact that the ingested L-Dopa quickly converts into actual dopamine.

 
That’s a good thing, since increased dopamine, tends to stimulate testosterone production due to the fact that it drives down prolactin. So by all laws of common sense, M. Pruriens which is a rich source of L-Dopa, should increase testosterone levels…
 
…And there’s actually some research backing this up:
 

a) First of, there are several animal studies where Mucuna Pruriens has been able to increase testosterone levels and sperm parameters (study, study, study).
 
b) Then came a human study where M. Pruriens was able to significantly increase sperm concentration on infertile and healthy men. (this could explain the proclaimed testicle size boosting effects).
 
c) Another human study followed, where 75 healthy and 75 infertile men, were given 5 grams of ground up Mucuna Pruriens for 90 consecutive days. The results showed that testosterone levels increased significantly (38% in infertile men and 27% in healthy men). Luteinizing hormone (LH) also increased (41% in infertile males and by 23% in healthy males). And prolactin decreased (-32% in infertile group and -19% in healthy group).
 
d) Similar results were seen in this study, where Mucuna increased testosterone levels by 38% in infertile men (this study had no healthy men as subjects though).
 
Mucuna Pruriens, like Forskolin, is also one of my personal favorites when it comes to testosterone boosting herbs. However the same exact fucking thing that happened with Forskolin, happened with Mucuna Pruriens in the beginning of 2015. It contains L-Dopa, and L-Dopa was added to the EU’s “medicine list”. Therefore if I would order Mucuna from the US, the customs office would destroy it and accuse me with some illegal drug smugling shit. Again, that’s the EU.
 
 
 
 

Tribulus Terrestris


tribulus testosterone booster or notTribulus Terrestris (puncture vine) is probably the most popular testosterone booster out there.
 
Many steroid using bodybuilders use it as post-cycle remedy to jump-start their natural testosterone production…
 
…Mostly because it’s claimed that tribulus increases luteinizing hormone (LH) levels, and therefore would naturally enhance T production.
 

The only downfall with this is the fact that T. Terrestris is pretty useless in these regards. In fact it doesn’t work at all as claimed in humans.

 
The science around Tribulus Terrestris is fairly dubious, and inconclusive:
 

a) In this animal study, which is usually the poster-boy of the effectiveness of T. Terrestris, the researchers noted increases in both LH and testosterone. However the fact that is often left unmentioned, is that they injected large doses of tribulus into baboons and rhesus monkeys, and not only that but the results also rapidly waned off. So if you’re not a monkey who’s going to inject the herb intravenously, this study proves absolutely nothing.
 
b) In few rat and rabbit studies, orally administered tribulus has failed to increase testosterone levels (study, study).
 
c) There has been few (manufacturer sponsored) studies about tribulus where an extracted form containing at least 10% protodioscin would in fact increase testosterone levels. However, several non-sponsored studies have shown no effects (study, study, study).
 
It annoys me that T. Terrestris is the “most-popular” herb for boosting testosterone levels, when in fact it doesn’t seem to work. This makes all the other herbs for such purpose seem useless, which in reality isn’t always the case.
 
 
 
 

Maca


maca doesn't increase testosteroneMaca (Lepidium Meyenii) is, after Tribulus Terrestris, probably the second most-popular testosterone booster.
 
And would you guess it, it doesn’t seem to be effective in those regards either!
 
The only thing that maca does, is that it acts as an aphrodisiac; increasing libido and erectile quality in athletes, healthy men, and depressed men
 
…But this doesn’t automatically mean that Maca would boost testosterone levels. In fact, several studies have found that Maca does nothing for testosterone, LH, or FSH levels (study, study, study).
 

It’s an aphrodisiac, and works its libido enhancing magic through some other pathway, but not via the endocrine system.

 
Maca is sold a lot as a testosterone booster, but it doesn’t increase testosterone levels. Never has in any study. The last time I tried Maca was probably 3-4 years ago, when it was hyped up as the next best thing since sliced bread. I was sceptical of the claims back then, and I’m fairly certain that now that they were complete bullshit.
 
 
 
 


Ginger


ginger can boost testosterone levelsGinger is the common household spice which probably everyone already knows…
 
…However there’s one positive benefit to ginger that is often left untold.
 
Ginger can potentially increase testosterone levels.
 
This was seen in a Iraqian study where ginger supplementation increased LH (43%), FSH (17%), and testosterone (17%) levels in infertile men (the researchers didn’t specify the dosage). As there was no group of healthy men in the study, it’s hard to say if the increase in testosterone is caused by the anti-inflammatory compounds in the herb, and if the same effects take place in a set of healthy gonads on non-infertile men.
 
NOTE: Few animal studies have found multiple compounds in ginger root to be androgenic (study, study, study), which means that the effects seen on that Iraqian study can be caused by something else than just reduced inflammation of the testicles.
 
There’s a big possibility that ginger increases testosterone. A study on non-infertile men would be great, but since a bottle of high quality organic ginger root costs about $4, I have no problems using it in the absence of more conclusive evidence 😉
 
 
 
 

Chrysin


chrysin estrogen blocker or notChrysin is not really a herb, but it’s thrown around in the herbal category so I’ll address it here anyway.
 
It’s a naturally occurring flavonoid in honeycombs, some mushrooms, chamomile, and in passion flowers.
 
It’s used primarily as an estrogen blocker, due to the claims that it could block the aromatase enzyme (which is an enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen).
 
Chrysin is also added to some pharamaceutical testosterone gels to block topical aromatization.
 
But is there any real evidence behind chrysin? Yes and no:
 
a) In 1984, a study found that in high doses, chrysin flavones extracted from passion flowers, inhibited the aromatase enzyme activity in isolated cells inside a petri dish. 20 years later a similar test-tube study was published were chyrsin was again able to block aromatase enzyme and therefore also estrogen production. Based on these two in-vitro studies alone, the clever marketers of the bodybuilding industry started selling chrysin to gym rats as an estrogen blocker. Soon the alternative medicine group followed, and then it was even added to topical testosterone gels by big pharmaceutical companies.
 
b) Then the human and animal studies rolled in, and showed that chrysin did nothing to the aromatase enzyme or estrogen. It was completely ineffective when taken orally (study, study, study).
 
c) Many researchers wondered why it was so effective in isolated cells, but not when taken orally, until it was found that human cell membranes effectively block chrysin from entering the cells and having any effect at all on estrogen levels in organisms (study, study, study).
 
Chrysin would be cool if it would enter the cells to excert its effects, but this seems not to be the case. Hence why I don’t recommend oral chrysin supplements. With that being said, the Life Extension Foundation does sell a chrysin supplement called Super Miraforte, which contains piperine to enhance bio-availibity. However there’s no evidence that even when taken with piperine, chyrsin would become effective.
 
 
 
 

Saw Palmetto


saw palmetto increases testosterone but inhibits 5-alpha reductaseSaw Palmetto is an extract made out of the fruit of a plant by the name of Serenoa Repens.
 
It’s a very popular supplement, and its proclaimed effects include: a boost in testosterone, improvements in prostate health, and hair regrowth.
 
Is it effective in boosting testosterone? Well yes kind of possibly, but it works through a pathway that I would not recommend…
 
…Here’s what I mean:
 
a) In few studies, it has been seen that saw palmetto can increase testosterone (study, study), but this is because saw palmetto blocks the enzyme 5-a activity, and thus, blocks testosterone from converting into its more potent form; dihydrotestoterone. That’s why I don’t use, nor do I recommend saw palmetto to anyone.
 
b) Dihydrotestosterone (and similarly testosterone) is demonized in the media and some claim that it can cause prostate enlargement and hair loss (despite the fact that in this study a super high dosage of DHT did not cause any adverse effects in the prostate, and in this study increased T and DHT levels were linked to increased hair growth). Anyway, as you might guess, saw palmetto is praised for its DHT lowering effects and that’s one of the reasons why it sells so well as a prostate supplement.
 
c) Saw Palmetto comes with a side effect of minor sexual dysfunction (study). Obviously this is not a surprise when it lowers DHT (the main androgen behind sexual organ development and function).
 
Bottom line: Saw palmetto can increase testosterone levels, but it does so by reducing DHT. Meaning that the extract doesn’t really stimulate new production, it only leaves more to your serum when it can’t naturally convert T to its more potent form. On top of that saw palmetto comes with a side effect of minor sexual dysfunction. In short, I can’t recommend saw palmetto with a straight face to anyone as I don’t believe in the benefits of reducing DHT.
 
 
 
 

Shilajit


shilajit authentic resinShilajit is considered to be the cornerstone of Indian herbal medicine; Ayurveda.
 
It’s a dark rocky tar like substance collected from the deep rocks of Himalaya.
 
It’s claimed that Shilajit would contain up to 85 different trace minerals in their ionic form, along with organic fulvic acid to improve the absorption. However this could also be just marketing hype, as I’ve never found any exact studies displaying the mineral content.
 
Anyhow, on infertile men, 200 mg’s of Shilajit for 90 days has proven to be pretty damn effective:
 
shilajit testosterone booster
 
A study on non-infertile men would be really great, and I would also like to see a detailed mineral content of Shilajit being presented along with the claims. Still, Shilajit has potential.
 
I use it once in a while and I always feel really good when I’m on it, this could be caused by the fulciv acid and the effects could be something else than a boost in testosterone though.
 
In the absence of more conclusive studies, I can still recommend Shilajit (just avoid the snake oil salesmen, since authentic Shilajit can be really hard to find).
 
 
 
 

Velvet Antler


deer antler velvet does it workVelvet antler is a supplement made by crushing the antler of elk or deer into a powder form.
 
On various boards around the internet you can hear claims of it being full of natural growth factors and testosterone boosting compounds, and that it could skyrocket your testosterone and growth hormone levels…
 
…And surely it’s sold for those purposes too. It’s also claimed to increase power, aerobic capacity, recovery, you name it.
 
How about the evidence?
 
a) Deer antler powder does not increase LH, FSH, total testosterone, or free testosterone levels in humans (study, study) and same goes for elk antler velvet (study).
 
b) Deer antler velvet does nothing for IGF-1 or human growth hormone (HGH) levels (study, study).
 
c) Antler velvet has no effect on power output, nor does it have on aerobic or anaerobic performance (study, study).
 
In conclusion, antler velvet is good for: nothing, except for maybe the manufacturers bank accounts.
 
 
 
 

Horny Goat Weed


horny goat weed a natural herbal testosterone supplementHorny Goat Weed (Epimedium, HGW) is a flowering herb from the Mediterranean region of Asia.
 
It has been used as an aphrodisiac in Chinese medicine for more than a thousand years, only recently has the Western medicine started researching this compound.
 
Why would HGW increase testosterone levels?
 
Well that’s mainly due to a bio-active compound called icariin (which Horny Goat Weed is the richest known source).
 
Here’s some research:
 
a) In this in-vitro study, icariin was found to be a natural PDE-5 and PDE-4 inhibitor (ED drugs like Viagra and Cialis work through PDE-5 inhibition). Even though icariin is not nearly as effective as the blue pill is, this could still explain some of the claimed aphrodisiac effects of horny goat weed. In the same study, it was noted that icariin activates the cAMP enzyme (due to PDE-4 inhibition), which is positively associated with increased testosterone production.
 
b) This rat study found out that at the dose of 80mg/kg icariin is able to triple testosterone levels, without changing the levels of gonadotropins (LH and FSH). The researchers claim that icariin acts as a testosterone mimetic in the body, and doesn’t stimulate the hypothalamus-pituiary-testicles axis like many other herbal T boosters do.
 
c) In few animal studies, icariin has suppressed the levels of the stress hormone; cortisol (study, study). As you might already know, elevated cortisol levels will suppress testosterone synthesis, due to the facts that elevated production of cortisol “robs” the cholesterol needed for testosterone synthesis, and high cortisol directly suppresses testosterone production inside the gonads.
 
d) Icariin is also very potent nitric oxide (NO) booster (study, study). Increased NO production will relax blood vessels and increase blood flow, and this might be one of the reasons why HGW is primarily considered to be an aphrodisiac (libido booster).
 
Icariin is very interesting. There’s not any human data, only in-vitro and animal studies, but still, the effects have been quite impressive. I’m eagerly waiting for human research on HGW and icariin, but in the meantime I have no problems using HGW with standardized icariin.
 
 
 
 

Royal Jelly


royal jelly testosteroneRoyal Jelly is an anabolic porridge like liquid that is secreted from the hypophranyx glands of the worker bees.
 
When the bee hive decides it’s time to change the queen, they select a small larvae and begin to feed it with royal jelly.
 
It’s this nutritional powerhouse that eventually makes the larvae to grow 60 times bigger and live for 40 times longer than other bees in the hive…
 
…In other words, because of royal jelly, she becomes the queen bee.
 

Royal jelly is incredible dense in nutrients and various enzymes, it also contains small amounts of testosterone, not a mimetic, but the actual hormone.

 
Because of its nutrient profile, royal jelly is often used as a natural infertility cure among both, men and women…
 
…But what about the research? Well here’s some:
 

a) Royal jelly seems to be effective against infertility, as in this study, 25 mg’s of RJ taken for 3 months, was able to increase testosterone levels by 20% on infertile men.
 
b) In another study where the subjects were healthy, a larger dose (3,000 mg’s) was given for the duration of 6 months. As a result, the RJ group increased their testosterone levels by 14% when compared to placebo. Albeit this isn’t a huge increase, there’s still one interesting factor in the study desing: the placebo group received a liquid control substance, which was similar to royal jelly in terms of vitamins and minerals, yet there was something in RJ that still managed to boost the test groups T by 14%.
 
c) There’s plenty of animal studies which also support the evidence that royal jelly has a testosterone boosting effect (study, study, study).
 
It’s not completely clear what causes this increase in testosterone, but so far it has been seen that royal jelly supplementation converts DHEA and cholesterol more easily into testosterone by stimulating the 3β-HSD2 and/or 17β-HSD3 enzymes in testes, and that it also stimulates the pituiary gland to release more luteinizing hormone (LH).
 
NOTE: Due to the fact that RJ is collected from the hypophranyx glands of the worker bees, it’s fairly expensive.
 
 
 
 

Tongkat Ali


tongkat ali herbal testosterone supplementTongkat Ali (Eurycoma Longifolia, Long Jack, Pasak Bumi) has a huge reputation in Malaysia due to its pro-erectile qualities. It’s also widely used in Thailand and other surrounding countries.
 
It seems to have a positive effect on libido and erections, can modulate SHBG levels, and some research suggest that Tongkat Ali can significantly increase testosterone…
 
…in an in-vitro study, the herb extract blocks estrogen more effectively than tamoxifen and few studies have found that it can also suppress the stress hormone; cortisol.
 
Here’s some research:
 
a) In several animal studies, Tongkat Ali has increased the frequency and stiffness of erections, with one study suggesting that it’s party due to the herbs androgenic effects (study, study). In rabbits, Tongkat Ali has been noted for its ejaculation delaying effects (study).
 
b) It’s claimed that Tongkat Ali would boost testosterone by stimulating the CYP17 enzyme in testes (an enzyme that converts cholesterol more easily into pregnenolone, and pregnelonone more easily into androgens), and surely enough this theory can hold water since Tongkat Ali is bio-available enough to reach its target; testicular tissue (at least in rats that is).
 
c) In this human study, 300 mg’s of Tongkat Ali or a placebo pill was given to 109 subject males. 12 weeks into the study, the Tongkat Ali group had 44% higher sperm motility, 18% higher semen volume, and according to a questionaire, their libido and erectile quality had both increased significantly in comparision to the placebo group. Unfortunately hormones weren’t measured in this trial.
 
d) In this human study, the researchers had 64 “moderately stressed” subjects, out of which 32 were male and 32 were female. They were given either 200 mg’s of Tongkat Ali extract or a similar looking placebo capsule. After 4 weeks, the Tongkat Ali groups results showed a -16% decrease in cortisol and 37% increase in testosterone.
 
e) in this in-vitro study, Tongkat Ali blocked estrogen more effectively in a petri dish than Tamoxifen (a popular synthetic estrogen blocker).
 
NOTE: There’s a bunch of studies cited in the above papers which show that Tongkat Ali can reduce SHBG and thus could significantly increase free-testosterone levels. However these are all done by some dude called Dr. Tambi, and none of his work is linked up on pubmed. His name also appears in few patents, but all the work is said to be presented in conferences and so forth. So either he is bullshitting or just doesn’t believe in the power of the internet 😉
 
Tongkat Ali seems to be really effective, despite the fact that some of the research is bit dubious. I have used several different brands of the herb in the past, but nothing compares to the original Indonesian Pasak Bumi which is wild harvested from Sumatra. Their packaging might not be flashy, but the product easily outplays all the competition.
 
 
 
 

Arkarkara Root


arkarkara root supplement for increased testosterone levelsArkarkara root (Anacyclus Pyrethrum) is a herbal aphrodisiac from the Indian herbal medicine; Ayurveda.
 
It’s similar to chamomille, and it’s active compounds (alkylamides) are somewhat similar as the ones that can be found in the Maca root.
 

Arkarkara roots are touted to be pro-erectile, pro-fertility, and pro-testosterone, but there’s only rodent studies to support this herbal supplement.

 
Anyhow, here’s what studies say about Arkarkara root:
 

a) In this animal study, the rodents received 50-150 mg/kg of Anacyclus pyrethrum for 28 days. At the end of the trial, the researchers noted dose-dependent increases in luteinizing hormone (LH) and testosterone, highest ones being 2x the baseline. Androgenic effects, such as increased testicular weight, were also noted.
 
b) The principal bio-active ingredient in Arkarka root (alkylamide LM-MS) is known for its stimulatory effect on the hypothalamus (which is a brain substrate that starts the cascade of events that lead to testosterone synthesis). This stimulation of the hypothalamus would go hand-in-hand with the effects that were noted in the study above (increased LH).
 
c) Water and petroleum extracts of Arkarkara root are both seen to increase mounting frequency and erectile quality in rodents. Surprisingly, the effects can continue for up to 15 days after the supplementation has been ceased (study, study).
 
Does the root work on humans is not known, and the answer can be found only after someone test the roots on healthy humans.
 
The current evidence is interesting for sure, but I wouldn’t buy Arkarkara root before there’s some conclusive human evidence about the androgenic effects. Especially since the active compounds are similar to the ones seen in Maca, and Maca doesn’t raise testosterone in humans…
 
…With that being said, if you want to get yourself some Anacyclus Pyrethrum, this supplement is the only one (that I know of) containing the root on the market.
 
 
 
 

Sorghum


sorghum for dht boostSorghum (Sorghum Bicolor) is a grain native to Africa, which has some potential androgenic effects.
 
This was seen in this in-vitro study, where Sorghum Bicolor extract was able to raise the enzyme 5-a reductase levels by 54%…
 
…And the enzyme 5-alpha reductase converts testosterone into its more potent form; dihydrotestosterone, which has 2-3 greater affinity for androgen receptors. Therefore it’s only logical to suspect that sorghum probably has an androgenic effect in the body.
 
There’s also another in-vitro study where compounds called proanthocyanidins in sorghum extract lowered the activity of the aromatase enzyme (which as I’ve probably said many times in this post, is an enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen).
 

The only downfall with sorghum, is the fact that there isn’t any studies on its androgenic effects when taken orally. So it’s not really known how bio-available the grain is inside the human body…

 
…I don’t mind the lack of research though, it’s so cheap (even though I have to order mine from the US), and actually tastes pretty good. So why not just substitute some of the more shittier flours (wheat et al.) with sorghum? I’ts even gluten-free so people with celiacs disease can consume it safely.
 
 
 
 


Grape Seed Extract


grape seed extract testosterone supplementGrape Seed Extract (GSE) is not exactly a herbal supplement, but it gets thrown around in the herbal category, so it’s going to be addressed here anyway.
 
Grape seed extract, as the name indicates, is an extract made from the seeds of grapes.
 
It’s a potent natural estrogen blocker, and this is due to the fact that two compounds in GSE; proanthocyanidin and procyanidin, can both inhibit the aromatase enzyme.
 
Here’s some research:
 
a) In few in-vitro studies GSE extract has been found to inhibit the aromatase enzyme in a dose-dependent manner (study, study) Similar effects have also been seen in animal model (study).
 
b) Due to the fact that GSE is a pontent antioxidant, it protects testosterone molecules from oxidative and toxin induced testicular damage (study).
 
c) GSE is a potent nitric oxide (NO) booster in animals and humans (study, study, study, study, study, study), and can therefore be used to increase blood flow and improve recovery & workout quality.
 
d) GSE is better when taken to empty stomach, as this study found that the amount of proanthocyanidin/procyanidin in the bloodstream was roughly 5 times greater in a fasted state than in a fed state.
 

You’re probably wondering if similar results can be attained by just eating a bunch of grapes or other foods containing proanthocyanidin and procyanidin?

 
The answer is yes, but it can be extremely hard…
 
…To get similar effects as seen in studies above, you’d need to consume ~2 grams of the active ingredients, which translates to: 20 cups of grape juice or 12 cups of red wine or 300 grams of aronia berries (richest known source). You could also just take a teaspoon of This GSE powder 😀
 
 
 
 


Butea Superba


butea superba and testosterone levelsButea Superba (Red Kwao Krua) is a herb from Thailand that contains androgenic phytonutrients.
 
The composition of Red Kwao Krua is in fact bit weird, it contains mostly phytoandrogens, but then also phytoestrogens, and to balance things out; anti-estrogenic compounds.
 

It’s generously used among the men of Thailand, and B. Superba is claimed to increase libido, erectile quality, and the levels of androgenic hormones.

 
Does it though?
 

a) For the claimed pro-erectile qualities, in-vitro and animal studies have shown that B. Superba could improve the hardness factor (study, study). However, the human studies conducted on Red Kwao krua have been so poorly misconducted that it’s hard to say if the effects can be seen in humans.
 
b) 3,7,3’Trihydroxy-4′-methoxyflavone, one of he active ingredients in Red Kwao Krua, is a strong cAMP phosphodiesterase inhibitor, meaning that it prevents the inactivation of cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP). As cAMP is a second messenger between cells and hormones, this should in theory raise testosterone levels (see forskolin for example).
 
c) In a human study which lasted for 3 months, 1 gram of powdered B. Superba was able to increase serum testosterone levels by 11% when compared to placebo.
 
d) There’s also a case-study about this 35 year old Thai male who took an unreported dosage of Butea Superba for “few weeks” and as a result was diagnosed with hyperandrogenemia (his serum DHT level were measured at 1512 pg/mL, when the normal reference ranges are between 250-990 pg/mL). The man’s primary complaint was very high sex drive, and after closer inspection, the medical experts concluded that this novel case of hyperandrogenemia was caused by a Red Kwao Krua supplement (which the man took to prevent hair loss). After he stopped taking the herb, his DHT fell back withing the normal ranges and sex drive was “normalized”.
 
I started testing this 30:1 extract of Butea Superba exactly one week ago, and so far I haven’t seen any significant improvements in erectile quality (I’m probably not the best test subject for this anyway though). However, the effects that I have seen so far are; increased libido, reduced subcutaneous water, oily skin, and for some reason I seem to sweat like a pig now.
 
 
 
 

Ashwagandha


ashwagandha powder for boosting testosterone levels naturallyAshwagandha (Withania Somnifera) is an adaptogenic herb from the Indian Ayurveda.
 
It’s also called Indian Ginseng, even though it’s not structurally similar to the other herbs in the ginseng group.
 
Obviously, as it’s an adaptogen, Ashwagandha should reduce stress. And stress reduction is one of the claimed reasons to why it would be a testosterone booster (think cortisol).
 
Another claimed “mechanism of action” are the withanolides, which are the active compounds in Withania Somnifera. They’re anti-inflammatory and claimed to stimulate the brain to release more luteinizing hormone (LH).
 
Here’s what research has to say:
 
a) First of, the claim about Ashwagandha reducing the stress hormone cortisol. It seems to be true on humans (study, study, study) as well as in animals (study, study, study).
 
b) So what about luteinizing hormone (LH), aka. the gonadotropin that stimulates testosterone production in leydig cells? Well this seems to be true too, at least in animals and stressed human subjects (study, study, study).
 
c) What about testosterone? Well, Ashwagandha seems to increase T as well, however, all the studies are conducted on infertile or stressed men (study, study, study).
 
d) There are other benefits to Ashwagandha supplementation too. It reduces “the bad” LDL cholesterol, increases “the good” HDL cholesterol, and reduces triglyserides (study, study, study). Ashwagandha also increases serum DHEA levels and hemoglobin (study). Not to mention that it positively influences the thyroid hormones T3 and T4 in rodents (study, study).
 

All-in-all, Ashwagandha might just be one of the healthiest herbals to consume. It does increase testosterone levels on infertile men, but no evidence exists of it doing so on healthy subjects. I take it anyway. Even if the herb wouldn’t do shit for T, at least it’s going to improve cardiovascular health and reduces stress.

 
Ashwagandha powder is quite bitter, I add it to coffee, smoothies, yogurt, etc. The traditional Indian way of using Ashwagandha is to boil some whole milk with honey and add the powder to it.
 
 
 
 


Bulbine Natalensis


bulbine natalensis a herbal t boosterBulbine Natalensis is an African herb with possible testosterone boosting effects. However, no human research exists of the plant yet.
 
It’s rich in steroidal saponins, alkaloids, and glycosides.
 
Bulbine is claimed to be an aphrodisiac, and generously used among various tribes in Northern and Eastern Africa for intestinal health and to promote healthy libido.
 
The science behind bulbine is scant. No human data exists for its hormonal effects yet:
 
a) In rodents, B. Natalensis can significantly increase testosterone levels. At 50mg/kg testosterone levels were increased by a staggering 346%. However at 100 mg/kg testosterone levels started to decline and symptoms of toxicity were noted. Another rodent study also noted significant increases at <100 mg/kg dosages. These anabolic effects were caused by elevated LH levels and increased enzyme activity in testes.
 
b) Bulbine Natalensis supplementation might be problematic due to the fact that it starts producing toxic effects in liver and kidneys at rather low dosages (study, study).
 
Bulbine Natalensis surely is very interesting, and I’m eagerly waiting for human data on those hormonal effects. However, due to it’s toxic effects at even low dosages, B. Natalensis supplementation might not be worth it. If you’re willing to risk your liver and kidney health for a T boost, you could just go a head and jump into oral steroids rather than take a herb that causes similar negative effects…
 
 
 
 

Muira Puama


muira puama and testosterone levelsMuira Puama (Ptychopetalum olacoides, Natural Viagra, Potency Wood) is an aphrodisiac tree bark from the Amazonian rainforests.
 
The active ingredients include: several alkaloids, beta-sitosterol, and muirapuamine.
 
Muira Puama was first mentioned in 1929 in the Brazilian Pharmacopoeia, and it’s mainly used to relieve the symptoms of impotence and erectile dysfunction
 
It’s not that popular of a supplement, especially for boosting T, but there’s some research behind it:
 
a) Several active compounds in Muira Puama are considered ergogenic, and believed to have an anabolic androgenic effect (study).
 
b) A French sexologist called Jaques Waynberg took some Muira Puama from the Brazilian rainforest back to Europe where he examined the herb and its effects in his clinic for more than a decade. One of his studies where 362 men with erectile problems used Muira Puama for 2 weeks, showed that 62% of the men in the study noted “dynamic improvements” in sexual performance and hardness of the erections (source).
 
c) M. Puama acts as a nerve tonic and enhances blood flow to the pelvic region (source).
 
And that’s it. There’s no research about testosterone, and some evidence that it might be an effective boner-herb. I would love to see it being tested on humans, but since the supplement industry hasn’t really tapped into Muira Puama yet, I don’t think we’ll see human research anytime soon.
 
 
 
 

Fenugreek


fenugreek is useless t boosterFenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is considered by some to be the “best natural testosterone booster”.
 
I disagree, since few studies show how it doesn’t work at all. And the only study showing any effects, is sponsored by a fenugreek manufacturer.
 

Fenugreek seeds are popular in some Arabian countries and India. The active compounds claimed to increase testosterone are protodioscin (same as in Tribulus) and fenusides.

 
It’s not only used by men, some women use it to increase lactation during pregnancy, and it seems to work, due to the fact that it contains phytoestrogens and diosgening (study, study).
 
Here’s some research:
 

a) In two human studies fenugreek has failed to increase testosterone levels (study, study). The only study that noted significant improvements in T was (surprise, surprise) sponsored by Indus Biotech, which manufactures “Torabolic” (a fenugreek supplement).
 
b) In this study, fenugreek did nothing to testosterone, but it lowered 5-alpha reductase enzyme activity and thus, lowered dihydrotestosterone levels.
 
I don’t see why anyone would want to use Fenugreek. Since it seems to do nothing to testosterone but lowers DHT.
 
 
 
 

Rhodiola Rosea


rhodiola rosea testosterone boosting herbal supplementRhodiola Rosea (rose root, arctic root) is an adaptogenic herb which grows in the harsh conditions of Siberia and Northern Asia.
 
Claimed to be used even by the Vikingks, most herbalists agree that Rhodiola Rosea is the most beneficial adaptogenic herb the human race has discovered so far.
 
And since it’s an adaptogen, it’s often used in lowering stress, and to balance hormones.
 
Does it affect testosterone levels though? Here’s some research:
 
a) As an adaptogen, R. Rosea has a good track record showing how it reduces fatigue and increases subjective well-being in humans (study, study, study, study, study). Based on those studies it would make sense that the herb would at least somehow modulate cortisol levels.
 
b) And that seems to be true, since there are few studies where Rhodiola has lowered the stress hormone; cortisol (study, study, study). This should positively impact testosterone production (at least in stressed humans).
 
cortisol response when taken rhodiola rosea
 
c) Weirdly enough there isn’t much research looking at the herbs effects on testosterone. This one noted improvements in the cortisol-to-testosterone ratio after exercise in men who took Rhodiola, and there’s also this weird patent by some dude called Rulin Xiu, where it’s claimed that Rhodiola can increase testosterone levels by up to 70%, but no citation to this claim is made.
 
Can’t say for sure what it does to testosterone levels when there’s not much research around, but at least it could improve the C:T ratio in exercising humans, and significantly lowers all the parameters of stress. Bulk Rhodiola is also quite cheap to supplement with, at least if you make tinctures out of it. a 500 gram pouch would last for years.
 
 
 
 

Ginseng


panax red korean ginseng supplementGinseng root (Korean Red Ginseng, Panax Ginseng, true Ginseng) is one of the most researched herbals in the World.
 
Not only that, but it’s also one of the most-used herbal supplements…
 

…In 2010 more than 80,000 tons of ginseng was produced in South Korea, China, Canada, and the United States. Global sales of the root exceed more than $2 billion dollars annually.

 
It has been in use in the Chinese herbal medicine for centuries, and the claimed benefits include: erectile dysfunction relief, stress relief, libido boost, adaptogenic effects, balanced hormones, etc.
 
But what does it really do?
 

a) There’s a lot of research behind Ginseng’s benefits when it comes to treating erectile dysfunction (ED), and the best part is that most of these are peer-reviewed human studies (study, study, study, study). The mechanism of action? Most likely increased nitric oxide production (study).
 
b) But when it comes to testosterone, the evidence isn’t that clear: in animals Ginseng increases testosterone, and one human study did note significant increases in T, DHT, FSH, and LH after ginseng supplementation, but the subjects already had low T due to either varicolele or infertility. In healthy men, such increases are not seen.
 
If you have low testosterone and ED due to varicolele or infertility, then ginseng supplementation will most likely increase your testosterone levels. If your gonads are in top-notch condition already, you will probably see no benefits from Ginseng supplementation…
 
…Either way, at least it works as a boner-pill and this is not due to hormonal effects, but more likely caused by increased nitric oxide production.
 
NOTE: In this review it was noted that 25% of the tested Ginseng supplements were not as strong as promised, and 45% were either contaminated, or lacked the active ginosides. One of the brands that did pass with flying colors was Solgar’s Ginseng Root Extract. So if you’re planning on using Ginseng, that’s my recommendation.
 
 
 
 

Pine Pollen


pine pollen natural androgenPine Pollen (Pollen Pini) is our natures very own androgen.
 
It contains testosterone, and various other androgens. No mimetics, but the actual androgens which are naturally in the bloodstream.
 

For example, the Pinus Sylverstis variete contains 80 ng/g of testosterone, 110 ng/g epitesosterone, and 590 ng/g androstenedione (study).

 
It’s unlikely that these androgens make it into the bloodstream when pine pollen is taken orally in a capsule or as a powder. However, when P. Pollen is dissolved into an alcohol solution (tincture) and absorbed through the mucus membranes of the mouth (which are permeable to hormones), there’s a good change of actually getting those androgens into your body.
 
Not only the androgens, but pine pollen is also a complete protein with 22 amino-acids, it includes over 100 different enzymes, more than 15 vitamins and 30 minerals, essential fatty acids (omegas 3, 6, and 9), and brassinosteroids along with many other plant sterols…
 
…In short, it’s an androgenic super-food of the super-foods.
 
The bad news is that there’s still no research on its hormonal effects, as pine pollen is extremely unpopular. I don’t care about that though. It’s such a nutrient dense super-food that even if it wouldn’t do jack shit for testosterone, I’d still be using it (I don’t buy it though, living in Finland allows me to harvest my own).
 
 
 
 


Suma Root


suma root as a t boosting supplementSuma root (Pfaffia Paniculata, Brazilian Ginseng) is an adaptogenic herb with possible ergogenic activity.
 
It’s also called “The Russian Secret”, due to the fact that during the cold war a Russian scientist by the name of V.N Syrov extracted an ergogenic compound called ecdysterone from Suma, and found that it was more anabolic in-vitro than two synthetic steroids: Dianabol and methandrostenolone (study). After that it was given to the olympic athletes of the now fallen Soviet-Union.
 
Since it was found to be very effective on athletes as an ergogenic aid, and as it was the cold war, the researchers vowed to never let the U.S know about Suma or ecdysteroids, hence the name “The Russian Secret”.
 
Here’s one abstract of Syrov’s trials:
 

“Experiment participants first noted a “sense of well-being” within 3-5 days, and a new increased desire to get to their next training session. Weight lifters experienced much less pain during heavy lifts when they took Suma. These researchers recommended 500 mg. for every 40 lbs. of body weight, spread out evenly in two divided doses, for the maximum gain in muscle strength and size. During a 54-day period, the dosage was only taken on days 1-10, 16-25, and days 31-40.”

 
Since the fall of the Soviet-Union, Suma is no longer a secret, and the Western science has conducted some research on the plant:
 

a) Suma is known to be pretty dense in nutrients. It includes 19 amino acids, various electrolytes, multiple trace minerals, zinc, magnesium, iron, germanium, panthoneic acid, vitamins B1, B2, A, K1, K2, E, steroidal glycosides, plant sterols, steroidal saponins, nortripenes, ecdysteroids, and pfaffic acids.
 
b) One patent application from 1995 describes a double-blind controlled human study, where the subjects who received suma, had significant increases in their hemoglobin (red blood cell count). Elevated hemoglobin is often linked to increased testosterone production, and that’s also one of the reasons why men have significantly higher red blood cell count than women do.
 
c) The beta-ecdysterone in Suma is anti-estrogenic in-vitro, and few rodent studies have noted increased testosterone levels after Suma consumption (study, study).
 
d) A bunch of Japanese researchers identified three more anabolic ecdysteroids from Suma in 1988.
 
Sadly, no human data on Suma’s hormonal effects exists. Ecdysteroids and Suma look very promising on the paper, but until any peer-reviewed human studies will be conducted, there’s always a chance that it does absolutely nothing.
 
 
 
 

Stinging Nettle Root


stinging nettle root testosterone booster or notStinging nettle (Urtica Dioica) is the stinging plant that everyone knows.
 
The leafy part of the plant is a known anti-inflammatory agent, which seems to lower various inflammation related parameters in clinical studies (study, study, study)…
 
…And its roots are claimed to increase testosterone, lower SHBG, and to help with prostate problems.
 
But are those only claims?
 
a) There’s evidence that nettle root extract can relieve symptoms of bening prostate hyperplasia (study).
 
b) There’s also evidence that in rodents, nettle root could increase testosterone levels in rodents (study). And several in-vitro studies shows that the lingans in nettle root can block SHBG from binding into hormones, and thus increase free-testosterone and free-DHT levels. Nettle root was in fact so powerful in a test-tube that it even displaces hormones from SHBG, making them bio-available for the receptors (study, study, study, study)
 
c) However, the above studies on SHBG were done in-vitro, and in the only human study where the subjects took nettle root extract orally, there was no increase in testosterone. What’s worse is that there’s some evidence of the herb acting as 5-a enzyme inhibitor, meaning that not only did it do nothing to testosterone, there’s a possibility that it could also decrease DHT levels.
 
I did use nettle root extract a while ago, since I was only familiar with the SHBG blocking research, but now that I’ve taken a closer look at the evidence, I think I’ll just throw the herb into the trash bin. As it doesn’t increase testosterone in humans, it probably means that the lingans are not that bio-available after all…
 
 
 
 

Conclusion


Well, that’s a lot of herbs. I know that the list doesn’t include all of the herbs that are claimed to increase testosterone…
 
…There are multiple “herbal T boosters” out there that didn’t make the list, simply because they’re extremely unpopular and their research is still in early stages (Fadogia, Massularia acuminata, Pedalium murex, etc).
 
NOTE: I’m not a big fan of supplements, and I wholeheartedly believe that true natural testosterone optimization should be more focused on proper nutrition, proper exercise, proper sex, and proper sleep, and well, a bunch of other stuff too. Anyhow, there are no magic-pills out there. Yes some of the herbs work exceptionally well, but remember that they’re just supplements, and supplements alone are not going to do anything dramatic.
 
ALSO NOTE: To support this article (and to avoid the never ending questions about cycling herbs), I wrote an article that describes how to properly cycle herbal supplements for maximal results. Go read that here.
 
Sources generously used: Examine.com, Anabolicmen.com, Google Scholar, PubMed, Tropical Plant Database, Wikipedia.

 
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  • amilitarymind .

    My hitta my hitta! This article has answered many questions about Herbal T boosters for me. Ali, you’ve done it again, you keep coming up with the goods. Thanx brother. Keep it up.

  • Guest

    Should I cycle ginger? I use it daily in my meals but after reading this article and the other one you posted yesterday I’m wondering if I need to start using less of it so it stays effective to me.

    • nick

      I do cycle ginger cause it has androgenic effects.

  • Sean

    Thanks for the awesome article, Ali! Great to see a solid list of herbal test boosters supported/rejected with studies included all in one place! I don’t use herbal T-boosters currently for similar reason to what you said in the end (good day to day habits will do the most natural T optimization), but it’s still nice to have this list in case I ever considered adding some herbal boosters! Plus I’ll be able to help out any of my buddies who are wasting their time with BS supps!

  • MaxMan

    What is the latest on Gynostemma and Schizandra?

  • MaxMan

    Update on Butea Superba ?

  • sakata

    what is your take on Tulsi (Holy Basil Leaf)? It had some very interesting studies done when performed on mice and rabbits.

  • Mike

    What do you think of Sarcosine (below is an excerpt of a product):
    • It naturally increases levels of testosterone when combined with
    D-aspartic acid. By encouraging production of GnRH
    (gonadotropin-releasing hormone) by the hypothalamus, it boosts the
    release of FSH and LH which in turn stimulate the testes to produce more
    testosterone.

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