Tribulus terrestris

Herbs gallery - Tribulus

Common names

  • Caltrop
  • Goathead
  • Puncture Vine
  • Tribulus
  • Yellow Vine

Tribulus terrestris is a perennially growing herbaceous plant that is native to several regions across the globe having tropical as well as moderate climatic conditions.

In colder climatic conditions, this herbaceous plant is also found growing as an annual during the summer. People belonging to various dissimilar civilizations have employed this plant for treating several health conditions.

Findings of many studies have revealed that this herbaceous plant is a strong supplement that enables our body to enhance testosterone naturally, probably facilitating more muscle growth, augmented vigour as well as endurance.

The stems of tribulus spread out from the plant's crown roughly to a distance between 10 cm and sometimes even more than 1 meter. Usually, these stems are branching. They are generally horizontal and form flat patches on the ground.

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Nevertheless, at times they may also grow a little upwards when growing in shaded places or under taller trees. This plant has a prominent taproot. The leaves are pinnate and compound having leaflets that are less than 1/4 inches (6 mm) in length.

The flowers have five lemon-yellow hued petals and are also small, measuring anything between 4 mm and 10 mm across. Following a week after blossoming, each flower gives rise to a fruit that splits on its own to release about 4 to 5 nutlets each enclosing a single seed.

The seeds or nutlets of tribulus are tough and have 2 to 3 prickly spines that are 10 mm in length and 4 mm to 6 mm wide. These nutlets have a remarkable resemblance to the bulls' or goats' heads and the spines or 'horns' are so sharp that they can puncture bicycle tires or even the tires of lawn mowers. If they stick into your feet they may cause immense pain.

The plant is commonly called puncture vine or goathead owing to its resemblance of its spines to goats' or bulls' head and its ability to puncture cycle tires. For several centuries, herbalists in India and China have used Tribulus terrestris in the traditional medicine of their respective countries.

This species became familiar in North America sometime during the mid-1990s after Olympic athletes from the East European nations claimed that using this herb facilitated as well as enhanced their performance.

Tribulus encloses active compounds known as steroidal saponins. The actions of tribulus are usually attributed to two types of glycosides contained by it - spirostanol glycosides and furostanol glycosides. These are mainly present in the leaves of the plant.

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Parts used

Fruits, young shoots and leaves.


Tribulus has a number of therapeutic uses and is generally employed to treat health conditions related to reproductive organs - erectile dysfunction (ED), infertility and poor libido. During the last 10 years, the popularity of this herb in augmenting sports performance has increased manifold.

Many have promoted tribulus for treating these conditions, as findings of researches undertaken in Russia as well as Bulgaria have suggested that this herb augments the male sex hormone testosterone levels by means of enhancing luteinizing hormone (also called interstitial cell-stimulating hormone), estrogen and DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone - a steroid hormone produced naturally by the adrenal glands). However, there are some reservations regarding the purpose of these studies.

Findings of a very recent study showed that using tribulus supplements in dosage of anything between 10 mg and 20 mg for every kg of one's body weight every day for a period of four weeks did not have any effect on testosterone, androstenedione or the luteinizing hormone in comparison to persons who did not use tribulus.

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Preliminary studies conducted on animals have revealed that the use of tribulus intensified their sexual performance, while augmenting the intracavernous pressure.

It was found that a raise in the male hormone testosterone levels was responsible for this. Thus far, scientists have not been able to undertake any well-designed research to corroborate the initial findings.

There are several other uses of tribulus, for instance, it is one of the herbal supplements that is employed to cure erectile dysfunction. In addition, this herb also possesses a number of attributes that help to boost energy - similar to those of ginseng, tongkat ali, maca and cordyceps.

While tribulus contains a number of ingredients, this plant primarily encloses active elements like tribulosin, kaempferol, kaempferol 3-rutinodside, kaempferol 3-glucoside, and harmine. In addition, it also encloses active compounds known as steroidal saponins, which are primarily present in the plant's leaves.

There was a time when the indigenous tribes of South Africa used tribulus in the form of a weapon. They gathered the sharp spiny seeds of the plant, immersed them in poison and put them on the ground for the barefoot members of rival tribes to step on them and be poisoned.

In recent years, several studies have been undertaken with the view to corroborate the health benefits of using tribulus. For the most part, these studies have been conducted on animals and the findings have been rather mixed - encouraging as well as negative.

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Although it appears that a number of claims regarding the various health benefits offered by this herb may be true, there is a need for more improved as well as larger studies to understand and confirm actual benefits of using Tribulus terrestris.

It is likely that tribulus is gaining in popularity as an herbal remedy for ED (erectile dysfunction) because it has the ability to unwind the smooth muscles and also facilitates blood circulation to the genitals.

As it is said to work to augment the levels of testosterone naturally, the popularity of tribulus as an herbal supplement for body building has increased. In addition, more and more men are now using this herb to gain body weight.

While tribulus is frequently used for treating erectile dysfunction, impotency, building body and weight gain, this herb has traditionally been employed for a variety of purposes, including treating several other diseases. Herbalists in India, China and Europe have successfully used tribulus in the form of a natural remedy for high blood pressure (hypertension) and also to treat high levels of blood cholesterol.

In addition, traditionally this herb has also been used to treat constipation, nervous disorders as well as to invigorate the central nervous system (CNS). It has also been used to treat a number of types of headaches.

It has been found that tribulus also possesses anti-tumour and anti-microbial attributes. Besides its ability to lower high levels of blood cholesterol owing to the active elements contained by it, this herb is also an antioxidant.

Although a number of researchers have claimed that they have used the herb successfully to treat hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes, there is a need for further studies to corroborate these health benefits of Tribulus terrestris.

Habitat and cultivation

Puncture vine or goathead (botanical name Tribulus terrestris) can be found growing naturally in tropical as well as moderate climatic conditions in several parts of the world, including America, Europe, Australia, Africa and the southern regions of Asia.

The plant gets its name from its very sharp spines or thorns that grow on its seeds and resemble the horns of a goat. Tribulus is a Latin term, which when translated denotes a peaked weapon or 'caltrop'.

This species thrives well in wild as well as places that are uninhabited. It also grows well in damp sandy soils provided the place receives total sunlight. Bees forage excellently on this plant.

You need to be very cautious while cultivating Tribulus terrestris, because when grown in appropriate climatic conditions, this plant may soon turn out to be an invading and bothersome weed.

In the 1960s, the plant started growing and spreading uncontrollably in California and in order to curb its rapid growth, the farmers had to introduce a snout beetle from India with a view to feed on tribulus and stop its spread.


Chemical analysis of the tribulus fruits has revealed that they enclose several different natural compounds, counting glycosides, saponins (furostanol and protodioscin), alkaloids, flavonoids, tannins, resins, sterols as well as essential oil. Scientists have been successful in isolating two new saponins from the plant and named them terrestrininis A and B.

One of the substances contained by Tribulus terrestris that is mentioned very often is called protodioscin. According to some herbalists, protodioscin is among the active constituents of this herbaceous plant.

An analysis of dissimilar samples of this plant revealed considerable variation in the composition of the saponins contained by it. It was found that the difference in the composition of the saponins was mainly due to the different places of the plant's origin as well as the different parts of the plant that were used.

Just a single examination of products containing the herb demonstrated significant difference in the protodioscin content ranging from 0.17 per cent to 6.5 per cent.

Usual dosage

Generally, tribulus is used internally and taken in doses of anything between 85 mg and 250 mg thrice every day along with meals.

Side effects and cautions

Although Tribulus terrestris is said to offer several health benefits, it produces some adverse side effects too. This herb should especially not be used by women during pregnancy or nursing mothers.

In fact, it has been reported that when a young male weight trainer took an herbal tablet enclosing tribulus, he developed gynaecomastia (a condition wherein there is an increase in the size of the breast).

It is advisable that people suffering from health conditions that are dependent on hormones, for instance prostate cancer or breast cancer, should avoid using this herb.

In addition to the above mentioned adverse effects, this herb is also toxic to sheep. It has been reported that when sheep consume Tribulus terrestris, they develop a persistent, progressive and irreversible health problem in their nigrostriatal complex's dopamine circuits inside the brain. This leads to impaired functioning of the muscles as well as debility in their hindquarters resulting in their eventual death.

How it works in the body

It is likely that Tribulus terrestris acts by means of unwinding the smooth muscles as well as by augmenting the blood circulation to the corpus cavernosa (a pair of spongy areas of the erectile tissue that encloses nearly all the blood inside the penis during penile erection).

The relaxant action of this herb is possibly owing to enhanced nitric oxide release from the endothelium as well as the nerve endings. As tribulus works to relax the smooth muscles, its use may benefit those suffering from abdominal colic.

It is necessary to further evaluate the effect of tribulus on the production or secretion of the male sex hormone testosterone prior to making any confident statement on this particular effect of the herb. Generally, majority of the people using the herb observe its benefits either on the third or the fourth day of using it.

Scientists investigated the relaxing effects as well as the modus operandi of an extract of this herb on the corpus cavernosum of rabbit in an organ bath.

They calculated the intracavernous pressure or the ICP following administering the extract orally for about one month with a view to assess whether or not the relaxant reaction of the corpus cavernosum observed in the organ bath of rabbit also took place in vivo.

In addition, the scientists also calculated the cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) and cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) in corpus cavernosum by employing immunoassay.

The extract of tribulus terrestris brought about a relaxation of the corpus cavernosum in an organ bath that was found to be related to concentration.

The modus operandi of Tribulus terrestris extract comprised a response that involves the nitric oxide synthase path as well as the endothelium of the corpus cavernosum.

In addition, during a vivo study, the extract of the herb demonstrated a considerable augmentation in ICP that was dependent on concentration again. Therefore, it is believed that the extract obtained from Tribulus terrestris may possibly help in enhancing penile erection and the performance of this male sex organ.

Collection and harvesting

The fruits of tribulus have therapeutic use and are used to prepare various herbal remedies. The fruits are collected immediately when they ripen and dried up and stored for use when necessary. Generally, the dried tribulus fruits are used to prepare a decoction.

On the other hand, the tender leaves and shoots of the plant are edible. You just need to boil them and consume them in the form of a vegetable.


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