Natural T Treatments
Supplements to Boost Testosterone
Medically reviewed by Dr. Larry Lipshultz M.D
It’s easy to become confused about which natural supplements help boost testosterone and which ones are questionable if you listen to the commercials and ads touted on the internet and late-night television. Among all the hype there are a few natural nutritional and herbal remedies that have some scientific backing to support the claims.
Natural Supplements to Boost Testosterone
The following natural supplements can be supported by scientific studies or trials and mayAdvertisement
(1) help improve your testosterone levels, and/or
(2) relieve symptoms of low testosterone, and/or
(3) support activities associated with testosterone production.
Consult a healthcare provider before beginning any supplement program, and purchase your supplements from reputable manufacturers that provide references for their claims and a way to contact them with any questions you may have about their products.
Acetyl L-carnitine. Carnitine is available in several forms, but the one we are concerned with is acetyl L-carnitine, an antioxidant that is manufactured in the kidneys and liver. Acetyl L-carnitine converts fat into energy and transports waste materials out of the body’s cells. Although mostly known for its ability to enhance sexual function and improve mood, it also has an effect on testosterone. In a study that compared the use of testosterone against acetyl L-carnitine and propionyl L-carnitine in 120 men, the investigators found that the carnitines were significantly more active than was the testosterone when it came to erectile function scores.
Arginine. Also referred to as L-arginine, this essential amino acid is transformed into nitric oxide once you’ve ingested it. Greater production of nitric oxide is important for blood flow, heart health, and sexual function. Use of this amino acid may complement your efforts to boost testosterone.
Ashwagandha. A 2015 study of this Ayurvedic herb showed that it has an ability to raise testosterone levels. Fifty-seven young males were randomly assigned to receive either 300 mg ashwagandha root extract twice daily or placebo for eight weeks. All the men participated in resistance training for the duration of the study. Compared with placebo, the men who took ashwagandha had significantly greater increases in muscle strength and testosterone levels and significantly greater decline in body fat.
Avena sativa. You may be familiar with the expression “sow your wild oats.” It’s no coincidence that avena sativa (aka, wild oats) is associated with increasing T levels. An extract from wild oats called avenacosides boosts the release of a luteinizing hormone, which in turn stimulates the production of testosterone. Supplementation with avena sativa also supports libido and healthy erectile function.
Two studies by the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality focused on avena sativa. In one, men aged 22 to 64 who were experiencing erectile dysfunction and sexual problems took avena sativa three times a week for six weeks. They reported an improvement in libido, pleasure during sex, and overall erection strength. Another study noted that men who took avena sativa had a 22 percent increase in genital sensation and a 36 percent increase in the frequency of orgasm.
Beet root. Numerous studies have shown that beet root, which is rich in nitrates, is beneficial for individuals with high blood pressure. Beet root also has demonstrated an ability to enhance exercise performance and tolerance. Therefore, while beet root does not have a direct impact on testosterone levels, it can be a complementary supplement to improve athletic performance.
Beta-sitosterol. Beta-sitosterol is a plant sterol found in a wide variety of plants and has a chemical structure similar to cholesterol. However, its health effects are unlike those of cholesterol. In fact, research has shown that beta-sitosterol helps prevent the enzyme aromatase from transforming testosterone into estradiol and the enzyme 5-alpha reductase from converting testosterone into estradiol, which in turn works to maximize healthy testosterone levels.
Boron. You don’t hear much about this trace mineral, and when you do, it’s usually associated with bone health. However, research has shown us that as little as 10 mg of boron may cause a significant drop in SHBG and estradiol along with an increase in levels of free testosterone.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids. The branched-chain amino acids are three essential nutrients that the body gets from proteins in meat, dairy, and legumes. They get their name from the fact that their chemical makeup has a branch off the main portion of the amino acid. These amino acids—isoleucine, leucine, and valine—are associated with several benefits, including boosting T levels, increasing or stimulating regeneration of skeletal muscle (and resulting in an increase in lean muscle mass), helping prevent fatigue during intense exercise, and improving exercise performance. The best BCAA supplements contain plant-based protein (but not soy) and no artificial additives or preservatives.
Citrulline. This amino acid, which is sometimes referred to as L-citrulline, transforms into the amino acid arginine once it is ingested. The arginine, in turn, converts into nitric oxide. Therefore, both citrulline and arginine (see “Arginine”) play an important role in male sexual function and health. Although citrulline has not been shown to have a direct affect on testosterone, animal research has demonstrated it has a beneficial impact on erectile function and response and therefore may complement other supplementation efforts for low T.
Creatine. This organic acid is normally associated with increasing muscle strength and athletic performance, but there also is some evidence it can boost testosterone levels. In a 2015 study, 20 young men were given either 5 mg of creatine or a placebo four times daily dissolved in grape juice. The men participated in three sessions of resistance training (on days 3, 5, and 7) and they all were tested for levels of testosterone and cortisol on days 4, 6, and 8. Tests showed that men who had taken creatine had significantly higher testosterone levels on days 5 and 7 than did men who took placebo. Cortisol levels were also reduced from baseline on days 5 and 7 among men who took creatine.
Fenugreek. This cooking herb also has been shown to enhance sex drive, assist in fat burning and muscle building, and may help maintain healthy T levels. In addition, one small eight-week study appearing in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism looked at the effect of 500 mg fenugreek capsules or placebo in men who participated in resistance training. Those who took fenugreek showed an increase in both total and bioavailable testosterone but not in DHT, and they also lost some body fat, which helps keep down the amount of testosterone converted to estradiol.
Ginkgo biloba. This ancient herb contains dozens of substances, but two groups in particular—flavonoids and terpenoids—are especially important in promoting blood vessel and heart health. Consequently, ginkgo biloba can be helpful in treating erectile and sexual dysfunction, as has been demonstrated in a number of studies.
Green tea extract. Phytochemical compounds called catechins are among the substances in green tea extract that run interference with a metabolic process (glucuronidation) that causes testosterone to break down. This game-changer thus helps raise the level of testosterone. For example:
Epigallocatechin is a catechin in green tea extract that inhibits 5-alpha-reductase, an enzyme that converts T to DHT. Thus this action of green tea extract helps reduce this transformation and aids in maintaining healthy T levels.
A 2012 study reported on how green tea catechins interfere with glucuronidation, which results in an increase in circulating T levels.
Magnesium. This mineral plays a role in more than 300 biochemical processes in the body, and among them is an ability to boost testosterone levels. Research shows that men who took magnesium supplements (10 milligrams per kilogram of body weight) boosted both total and free testosterone levels. A recent Polish study noted that low magnesium levels in the body seem to be associated with testosterone deficiency, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, therefore emphasizing the need for men to maintain adequate magnesium levels.
Pygeum africanum. The main benefits of this African herbal remedy is its ability to support sexual function as well as prostate and urinary tract health. Although Pygeum africanum has not been shown to have a direct effect on testosterone, it has demonstrated important benefits on men’s prostate health.
Resveratrol. This antioxidant, which is found in red grapes, onions, and several other foods, has improved testosterone levels in several experiments. For example, testosterone levels rose by 50 percent in a mouse study in which the animals were given resveratrol.
Saw Palmetto and Astaxanthin (combined). Perhaps you recognize saw palmetto as a popular and effective natural remedy for an enlarged prostate. When you combine this herb with the potent antioxidant astaxanthin, a carotenoid found in microalgae, salmon, yeast, and other sources, the synergy can be quite powerful. In a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, researchers found that this combo reduced both estrogen and DHT while also boosting T levels.
Stinging nettle. If you’ve ever suffered with a prostate condition, such as an enlarged prostate, then you may be familiar with stinging nettle. This herb also has an effect on SHBG, in that it can stop the interaction between SHBG and free testosterone, which results in more free T in the body. An added bonus of nettles is their ability to block aromatase, the enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen.
Tongkat ali. The ability of supplements from this Far Eastern tree to boost testosterone levels has been impressive. In one study, older men who took 400 mg daily of tongkat ali extract for five weeks showed a significant rise in both total and free testosterone concentrations. A 2014 report appearing in the journal Andrologia noted that this herb “has been shown to restore serum testosterone levels,” as well as have “significant positive effects on bone health” and antidiabetes benefits along with fighting power against prostate cancer cells.
Tribulus terrestris. Similar to wild oats, tribulus terrestris contains a substance called protodioscin, which stimulates the release of a luteinizing hormone. This flowering herb also boosts the production of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a hormone that is a precursor of testosterone.
Tribulus terrestris demonstrated several benefits in a recent review appearing in the Journal of Dietary Supplements. The authors found that the herb was effective in enhancing concentrations of testosterone when it was used along with other supplements, and that it also triggered the release of nitric oxide, a substance that benefits heart health, strength, and athletic performance. An animal study showed that levels of free testosterone rose when the animals were given Tribulus terrestris extract.
Vitamin D. Low or deficient levels of vitamin D have been associated with low T. A common name for this nutrient—the sunshine vitamin—provides a hint as to why so many people are deficient: insufficient exposure to sunlight, as the body manufactures vitamin D when skin is exposed to the sun. Since food sources are not reliable, the only other way to get this nutrient is from supplements. Your physician should have your vitamin D levels checked (a simple blood test is all you need) to determine whether you may need an aggressive supplement approach to reverse a deficiency. What should your numbers look like? Generally, 40 to 80 ng/dL is considered a healthful range for this vitamin in your blood.
Zinc. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey reported that even with supplementation, 20 to 25 percent of older adults had inadequate levels of zinc. Since your body can’t produce testosterone without adequate amounts of zinc, it’s important for you to determine whether you need to supplement with this mineral.
Even a marginal deficiency in zinc can have a negative effect on a man’s testosterone levels. For example, in a study of 40 normal men (20-80 years), restricting intake of dietary zinc resulted in a significant decline in T concentration in young men after 20 weeks. Zinc supplementation in elderly men who were marginally deficient in zinc resulted in an increase in T levels.
You can get zinc from foods, including oysters (especially high), lean meat, fish, beans, fortified cereals, and fermented dairy (e.g., yogurt, kefir). When choosing a supplement, 15 mg daily is suggested. High doses may cause nausea or interfere with absorption of copper and other essential minerals.
References for Supplements to Boost Testosterone:
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Breza J et al. Efficacy and acceptability of tadenan (Pygeum africanum extract) in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH): a multicenter trial in central Europe. Current Medical Research Opinion 1998; 14(3): 127-39
Cabeza M et al. Effect of beta-sitosterol as inhibitor of 5 alpha-reductase in hamster. Proceedings of West Pharmacological Society 2003; 46:153-55
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Cohen AJ et al. Ginkgo biloba for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction. Journal of Sexual and Marital Therapy 1998; 24:139-43
Dr. Edward Group. What is avena sativa?
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Jenkinson C et al. Dietary green and white teas suppress UDP-glucuronosyltransferase UGT2B17 mediated testosterone glucuronidation. Steroids 2012 May; 77(6): 691-95
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