Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Tribulus

This is my favorite herb. I use other herbs, like ginger and Ashwaganda, much more frequently but I love this herb. Good quality Tribulus is quite expensive and much of what is available, especially in the US, is ineffective. However, when used properly, this herb can correct hormonal imbalances quickly and completely.

The herb Tribulus terrestis should be made from the aerial parts (leaves and stems). It contains steroidal saponins, mainly furostanol glycosides (including protodioscin and protogracillin) and small qualities of sprirostanol glycosides, sterols and other compounds. Quality extracts are standardized by the furostanol glycoside content.

While that seems very technical (spell check hated most of that last paragraph), these are the chemical compounds that make this herb work. Tribulus terrestris is endogenous to many different geographical zones – the Mediterranean, India, China, 
South Africa and Australia. Research indicates the phytochemical profile of the herb depends on the geographical origin and the part of the plant utilized. Only Tribulus terrestis sourced from the central region of Bulgaria and Slovakia have been shown to contain protodioscin, an important indicator of efficacy and quality.

Medi-Herb, the company I use for a vast majority of my herbs, is based on Australia. They purchase the raw herb from Bulgaria, test the marker compounds, including protodioscin prior to extraction then standardize the final product. The Bulgarians are able to charge a high price for this export; as a result Tribulus is the most expensive herb I use.

You can buy Tribulus on the internet and in health food stores from India or China that is very economical, it just doesn’t work.

All things being relative, it’s about a dollar a pill and the dosage runs from 2-4 pills per day. By comparison, the new medications for hepatitis C are $1000 per pill, but you only have to take one a day for 90 days.

Tribulus binds in the hypothalamus of the brain to any open hormonal binding sites. When hormonal binding sites are open, the level of that particular hormone, like testosterone, is low. The open site signals the brain to stimulate more testosterone production from the testicles. As the testosterone level in the blood rises, it binds to the open sites and the brain down regulates testosterone production. This is called a negative feedback loop and is a common communication pathway between the endocrine and nervous systems.

When Tribulus binds to an open binding site it has the reverse effect. It stimulates more production rather than less. The exciting aspect to this process is that Tribulus will stimulate the increase of any low hormone in the body and only hormones that are already low and have open binding sites. A common misconception about Tribulus is that it increases testosterone and has been duped the term “herbal Viagra”. While it can and commonly does increase testosterone production, it will only do so if the level is low.

I have successfully treated several cases of hypogonadism (small testicles) with Tribulus. It generally takes 3 to 6 months to restore normal testosterone production, and then the herb can be discontinued. We use the maximum dose of 4 tablets per day in these cases.

More commonly I use Tribulus for elite athletes. By taking 2 tablets per day for a month, stopping for a month, then repeating the dose athletes can develop more endurance, muscle mass and improve athletic performance. We schedule this rotating dosage so they are taking the herb for 3-4 weeks just prior to and during their event. My wife and I have used this format in training for our annual bike ride from Miami to Key West for the past five years.

Tribulus is an excellent herb when you use a quality product properly. Infertility in both men and women frequently will respond to the rotating dosage I use for athletes. But avoid products that use the fruit or come from areas other than Bulgaria or Slovakia.

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