Although Tribulus Terrestris (Puncture Vine) is considered a noxious weed in the United States and Australia, it is widely used to enhance sexual desire in both men and women, and to treat erectile dysfunction in men. It has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine and Indian Ayurvedic practice. Body builders sometimes use it after a cycle of anabolic steroids to restore testosterone levels in the body.
Tribulus Terrestris is a low-growing flowering plant with small yellow flowers. Although native to the Old World, it has become naturalized throughout the rest of the world in warm climates, and can thrive in deserts and other poor growing conditions. It grows as an annual in colder climates. It gets its most commonly used name (Puncture Vine)from the caltrop-like seeds, which, when mature, are capable of puncturing feet, hooves, and even bicycle tires. It has many other common names besides puncture vine, including bindii, devil's thorn, devil's weed, caltrop,goathead and tackweed. It is extremely resistant to most of the techniques commonly used to control invasive plants, partly because the seeds maintain their viability for many years.
The active ingredients in Tribulus Terrestris include saponins, lignin amides, flavonoids, alkaloids and glycosides.
As a dietary supplement, Tribulus Terrestris has been shown in some animal studies to increase levels of testosterone and to increase sex drive and performance. See also our article on Testosterone. Historically, it has been used to treat a wide variety of conditions, but today it is mainly used by athletes to increase strength and muscle mass, as well as for sexual enhancement in both men and women. A study in Bulgaria in the seventies alleged that it encouraged androgen production and reception. Some attribute the Olympic success of the Bulgarian weight-lifting team to the use of this herb. It continues to be used by those who believe that the active ingredients increase testosterone levels, as well as sexual and athletic performance. It is believed to increase sperm production in men and egg production in women. It also is used to treat erectile dysfunction.
It is believed to be helpful in treating some cardiovascular conditions including angina, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, anemia and poor circulation. Digestive disorders that may benefit from the use of puncture vine include constipation and flatulence. It is used in Chinese medicine as a liver tonic, and for food poisoning and overeating. It has many uses in the Ayurvedic tradition, including pacifying vata, as a diuretic and to treat disorders of the genitourinary system. In other medical traditions, this herb is also used as a diuretic to treat hypertension and for angina pectoris. It is believed by some to help prevent both oxalate and struvite kidney stones. It is believed to have antiseptic and diuretic properties that can reduce the incidence of urinary tract infections. It is also used as a treatment internally and externally for immune disorders, such as allergic skin conditions, eczema and psoriasis.
While all parts of the plant can be used, most preparations utilize the roots or seed pods. The roots and seeds may be dried, powdered and taken in a capsule, or dried and used as a tea. The active ingredients are sometimes extracted and formulated into extracts and tinctures for internal use. It is commercially available in all these forms, as well as creams and gels for external application. Dosages recommended vary widely depending on the condition being treated. It is not recommended for use in pregnant or nursing women.
Tribulus Terrestris may cause stomach upset, but this can usually be controlled by taking the herb with food. It may affect blood sugar levels. Research suggests it can increase prostate size, so should not be used by men with enlarged prostates. It should not be used by women with a history of breast or uterine cancers.
In conclusion, Tribulus Terrestris is a widespread herb that may play a role in a thoughtfully planned program of herbal supplementation.
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