Tribulus terrestris, also referred to as caltrop, puncture vine, or gokshur in India, is popular for its sexual health benefits. It’s an important ingredient in the formulation of many male enhancement supplements and has been promoted to treat erectile dysfunction, infertility, and low levels of libido. Tribulus terrestris is also commonly used in athletic performance supplements to improve sports performance and enhance muscle strength.
The main phytochemicals found in Tribulus terrestris are flavonoids, alkaloids, glycosides, tannins, and saponins. Of the latter, the most important one is protodioscin. Because of the saponin content of this herb, scientists are curious whether it can be used to treat conditions other than sexual dysfunction. Read on to find out what new studies have discovered about the benefits of Tribulus terrestris.
#1 Anti-diabetic Potential
A study published just early this year suggests that Tribulus terrestris may potentially be used for the treatment of diabetes. This medicinal herb actually contains various phytochemicals that are considered to have hypoglycemic potential. In the treatment of diabetes, hypoglycemic agents are medications or chemicals that help lower the levels of glucose in the blood.
Harmine. This alkaloid compound was initially thought of as just a hallucinogenic agent. Harmine has been traditionally used as an ingredient in ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic spiritual medicine used by the Amazonian native tribes. Recent studies show that harmine also has the capability to restore beta cells. These cells are found in the pancreas and are involved in the production, storage, and release of insulin.
Aside from its potential for increasing insulin levels, harmine has also been found to have anti-inflammatory effects. One study found that harmine can actively prevent inflammatory damage of the lung in mice models. An earlier study published in 2016 also showed that harmine is able to promote adipose thermogenesis or fat burning and that it has the potential to be used as treatment for obesity. Another study published in 2017 found that harmine may have neuroprotective effects, improved learning and memory, and enhanced cognitive functions.
Although these two studies did not involve Tribulus terrestris, the fact that Tribulus terrestris also contains harmine may soon lead scientists to investigate whether the herb can also show the same anti-inflammatory, fat-burning, and neuroprotective effects.
#2 Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Tribulusamides. When tribulusamides A and B were first detected in Tribulus terrestris, some of their properties were tested. One of the earlier discoveries about these two compounds is that they help protect liver cells from cellular death. A recent study confirmed the anti-inflammatory properties of Tribulus terrestris through the actions of tribulusamide D, another compound found in the ethanol extract of Tribulus terrestris. The researchers further suggested that tribulusamide D has the potential to be developed as a treatment for inflammatory disorders.
#3 Kidney Stones Management
In traditional Persian medicine, Tribulus terrestris is used for the treatment of urinary system illnesses. As early as 2003, researchers have confirmed through a scientific study that Tribulus terrestris does indeed have diuretic effects. Validating the traditional use of Tribulus terrestris to treat urinary stones, the researchers suggest that consumption of Tribulus terrestris may help get rid of urinary stones.
A 2016 study further validated that Tribulus terrestris can prevent the formation of calcium oxalate crystals. Of the various types of kidney stones, the most common ones are calcium oxalate stones caused by high levels of oxalate in the urine. Although more clinical trials are needed, we may see the use of Tribulus terrestris in kidney stones medications or supplements in the near future.
#4 Cardioprotective Properties
A 2018 study on how saponins protect the heart showed that Tribulus terrestris, an herb rich in saponins, does contain compounds that have cardioprotective properties. One type of triterpenoid saponin found in Tribulus terrestris was found to prevent the death of cardiomyocytes or the cells in the heart that are responsible for the heart’s contraction.
When a patient suffers from ischemia or hypoxia, which means that there is a lack of oxygen going into the organs, it leads to the death or apoptosis of the cardiomyocytes. By preventing cardiomyocyte apoptosis, Tribulus terrestris helps protect the heart’s muscles.
On Sexual Function
When it comes to Tribulus terrestris, sexual function is always discussed. After all, the herb is globally popular as a sex enhancement supplement. Previous studies on Tribulus terrestris have confirmed its potency and safety when it comes to increasing libido, improving erectile function, and enhancing overall sexual performance.
A recent study further confirmed the potency of Tribulus terrestris in enhancing sexual functions. The researchers compared Tribulus terrestris with Mucuna pruriens and Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), both of which are also known to have aphrodisiac uses in traditional medicine. Extracts from each plant were prepared and tested on different groups of mice.
Extracts from the three plants were all found to have boosted the sexual functions of mice. Mounting frequency, for instance, increased two-fold in the rats that were fed with Mucuna pruriens extract and almost three-fold with Ashwagandha. However, mounting frequency increased the highest in the mice fed with Tribulus terrestris extract.
In fact, for all the sexual functions that were measured in the study, it was the mice fed with Tribulus terrestris that showed the most improvement. Mounting latency and intromission latency were the least in the group of mice that were treated with Tribulus terrestris.
Intromission frequency was also the highest in the Tribulus terrestris group. With regard to sperm viability, treatment with Tribulus terrestris also showed the best results, especially in terms of sperm motility and sperm count.
One of the more interesting results of the study is that when various tissues of the reproductive parts of mice were treated with Tribulus terrestris, the results suggested that Tribulus terrestris may restore antioxidant activity, prevent the proliferation of cancer cells, as well as promote the death of tumor cells.
The Bottom Line
These recent studies show that the full potential of Tribulus terrestris as a medicinal plant has yet to be fully discovered. Moreover, these scientific studies establish the fact that Tribulus terrestris is not just beneficial for bedroom performance but that it is an overall health enhancer.