Those of us interested in getting or staying muscular and lean are always looking for ways to keep our testosterone levels high – natural testosterone enhancers can help!
Whilst drugs designed to improve men’s natural testosterone production such as Clomid, Nolvadex and Letrozole are popular and have proved effective for many bodybuilders, they often cause side effects and tend to be expensive.
On the other hand, certain natural testosterone enhancers are cheap, don’t tend to cause side effects and can be surprisingly effective at raising testosterone levels; others, however, simply don’t work!
Natural Testosterone Enhancers Reviewed
2) Stinging nettle
4) Tribulus Terrestris
5) Tongkat Ali
7) D aspartic acid
It turns out that the highly effective muscle and strength building supplement Creatine is also one of the best natural testosterone enhancers. Creatine can raise your DHT levels by as much as 56 percent!(1)
According to a 2010 human study perfrmed on professional rugby players, creatine does not raise your total testosterone concentration but does significantly improve the conversion of free testosterone to the ‘active’ form of testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT):
‘After 7 days of creatine loading, or a further 14 days of creatine maintenance dose, serum T levels did not change. However, levels of DHT increased by 56% after 7 days of creatine loading and remained 40% above baseline after 14 days maintenance (P < 0.001).
The ratio of DHT:T also increased by 36% after 7 days creatine supplementation and remained elevated by 22% after the maintenance dose (P < 0.01).’
Whilst many claim that DHT is a ‘bad’ form of testosterone that causes male pattern balding and prostate problems, it has recently been shown that there has to be a combination of high DHT with high estrogen to promote these issues.
DHT may effectively treat prostate problems by competing with estrogen(2). It appears that taking steps to control estrogen rather than suppressing DHT is the best method for keeping your prostate healthy.
Free testosterone can be viewed as a prohormone and, in many respects, DHT is the active form of testosterone. DHT is responsible for the development and maintenance of male characteristics such as aggressiveness, confidence and interest in women – topical DHT gives many users an ‘alpha male’ feeling!
(If you’re interested in learning more about the relationship between free testosterone, DHT and oestrogen, I recommend you read the article, ‘DHT – Is It All Bad?’ by Patrick Arnold)
Besides being one of the best natural testosterone enhancers, low dose creatine supplementation may improve a number of aspects of health. The use of creatine as an antiaging, brain enhancing and energy promoting nutrient is currently being investigated.
Recommended dose The maintenance dose of creatine which increased the DHT:T ratio by 22 percent in the above study was 5 grams daily. I would recommend you take 3 to 5 grams per day of creatine for long term use.
The loading dose that was shown to elevate the DHT:T ratio by 56 percent was 25 grams per day. Such doses cause some poeple to experience gastrointestinal disturbance, diarrhea and other minor problems.
It appears that it is unnecessary to load creatine. Loading will increase muscle creatine levels quickly, but skipping the loading phase and taking a maintenance dose will deliver the same benefits once muscle creatine levels get high enough. Side effects are minimised if the loading phase is skipped.
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) is one of the less well known natural testosterone enhancers out of this list, but it does raise DHT levels.
Studies have found that lignans in nettle bind to sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), potentially leading to greater testosterone levels:
‘Secoisolariciresinol, a lignan in nettle root displayed a modest inhibitory effect on DHT binding to SHBG in vitro, theoretically resulting in greater concentrations of free DHT in serum and in local tissues.
The lignan 3,4-divanillyltetrahydrofuran, also present in nettle root was able to completely inhibit DHT from binding to SHBG, yet another indication that it can result in increased free (active) DHT available to tissues such as that in the scalp.
Planta Med. 1997 Dec;63(6):529-32.(3)
I’m not sure, however, that this is how stinging nettle improves DHT levels.
Stinging nettle is a mild but effective aromatase inhibitor that controls estrogen(4) and this is why I believe it causes free testosterone levels and subsequently DHT levels to rise.
After reading anabolic steroid expert Bill Robert’s take on the relationship between SHBG and total free testosterone levels, I no longer feel that high SHBG results in, or has a relationship to, lower free testosterone levels.
I’ve always had a problem with the idea that SHBG should be kept low to keep testosterone levels high because I knew that thyroid hormone increases SHBG levels.
Given that high thyroid function leads to improved sex drive, fertility rates and general well being, I struggled to believe that high thyroid function results in lowered testosterone levels.
Bill Roberts argues that SHBG levels are unrelated to total free testosterone levels and that SHBG is simply a ‘carrier or depot’ of testosterone. Google search ‘Bill Roberts SHBG’ to read his thoughts on the matter (they make a lot of sense to me).
Many trainers, including myself, have found that taking stinging nettle noticeably improves strength levels in the gym and that it improves muscular vascularity.
These observations suggest that stinging nettle, by whatever mechanism, does indeed control estrogen levels and raise levels of the anabolic hormone DHT.
One of the reasons I like and frequently recommend stinging nettle is that it is well documented as being very beneficial for the prostate (5)(6)(7).
As well as this, despite the negative assumption made at the end of the above study, anecdotal reports suggest that stinging nettle improves the condition of your skin and hair. This isn’t surprising given that stinging nettle is a traditional remedy for all kinds of skin issues.
Stinging nettle is unusual in the regard of improving skin and hair condition as other natural testosterone enhancers tend to cause acne and/ or hair loss in susceptible individuals.
Recommended dose 900 mg (three 300mg capsules) spread throughout the day. Alternatively drink about 4 cups of nettle tea a day.
For a powerful, combination natural testosterone enhancer based on stinging nettle, try ALPHA PLUS.
Ginger is one of the more unproven natural testosterone enhancers in this list.
Recent studies performed on rodents suggest that adding this delicious spice to your everyday diet could significantly improve your testosterone levels and improve your sperm quality.(8)
Whilst the results of rodent studies don’t always reflect what happens in humans, ginger has been reputed to be an aphrodisiac herb by a number of different cultures, so it’s definitely possible that ginger raises testosterone levels in humans.
Since reading these studies, I’ve started drinking ginger tea daily and, although I haven’t measured my testosterone levels in this period, I have felt slightly more energetic and aggressive.
Other factors could be involved of course, and there may be an element of the placebo effect going on, but I’m going to keep taking ginger!
Recommended dose The dose given to the rats was 100 mg/kg/day of powdered ginger – this would equate to 8 grams a day for an 80kg man. 5 to 10 grams would be a good dose to try – ginger is very safe even when taken in high dosages.
Apparently fresh ginger is more potent than dried ginger so you’d probably need less of this to achieve the same potential testosterone boosting effect.
Alternatively, drink ginger tea throughout the day. Ginger tea is great for digestion so try taking it after meals.
Tribulus is a very well known and popular bodybuilding supplement that is believed to be one of the most effective natural testosterone enhancers.
I’ve tried tribulus before and didn’t notice any benefits– it did break me out in a weird rash on my face, though!
Other guys, however, swear by tribulus, saying it improves their gym performance and makes them feel more energetic, alert and masculine!
The theory as to how tribulus raises testosterone levels is that it improves levels of luteneising hormone (LH) and this stimulates increased production of testosterone by the testes.
If you look on pubmed there are some studies showing the positive effects of tribulus supplementation on testosterone levels – however, the positive studies were performed on animals, and the majority of animal studies show no effect from tribulus.
There have been a number of well controlled human studies performed on tribulus but these have not found tribulus to raise total testosterone or luteinizing hormone (LH) levels(9).
Tribulus made no difference on the muscle strength or body composition of professional rugby players compared with the placebo group after 5 weeks(10) and it did not alter the testosterone levels in young men after having been administered for four weeks(11).
Side note: One interesting approach that I’ve recently seen on the internet for raising T levels is to cycle 7 different natural testosterone enhancers each week so that your body cannot develop a tolerance to any of them. (If you’re interested in reading about/ trying this approach I’ve included a link at the bottom of the page).
So maybe if you used tribulus less frequently i.e. once or twice a week it would improve T levels? Not according to one (recent) study where the hormone levels of two female trainers were tested after taking relatively high doses of tribulus for two days:
The study concluded: ‘The (13)C/(12)C ratio of ketosteroids was determined by GC/C/IRMS, the T/E ratio and DHEA concentrations were measured by GC/MS and LH concentrations by radioimmunoassay.
None of these parameters revealed a significant variation or increased above the WADA cut-off limits. Hence, the short-term treatment with T. terrestris showed no impact on the endogenous testosterone metabolism of the two subjects.'(12)
After reading all of the research available on tribulus I am pretty convinced it is one of the least effective natural testosterone enhancers.
Tribulus does, however, possess aphrodisiac properties and may improve some people’s energy levels – this may be why tribulus has long been thought of as one of the effective natural testosterone enhancers.
Recommended dose If you still want to try tribulus I would take 250mg three or four times a day.
Tongkat ali (Eurycoma longifolia Jack) is an aphrodisiac herb that has been shown in studies to improve sperm quality and sexual performance in male rats; it has also been shown to increase testosterone levels.
Tongkat ali may be capable of lowering estrogen levels by inhibiting the aromatase enzyme whilst, simultaneously, raising LH levels and total testosterone concentration – this would make tongkat ali one of the most effective natural testosterone enhancers available.
Like tribulus, Tongkat Ali is one of the most popular natural testosterone enhancers with bodybuilders. Lots of men claim that tongkat ali sends their libido through the roof and that, whilst taking it, they burn fat and build muscle without changing their diet or training program.
Despite supplement companies claiming ‘Tongkat ali has been proven time and time again to boost levels of testosterone in both humans and lab rats’, I could not find a single human study performed to investigate Tongkat ali’s effects on testosterone.
There have, however, been a couple of pretty impressive studies on male rats performed recently:
Researchers conducting an experiment on male rats concluded: ‘the pro-androgenic effect as shown by this study further supported the traditional use of this plant (Tongkat ali) as an aphrodisiac.(13)
In another study conducted to determine, ‘the influence of Eurycoma longifolia Jack (Tongkat ali) on sexual behavior (including both motivation and copulatory performance) of sexually sluggish and impotent male rats’ the researchers concluded:
‘Eurycoma longifolia root improved sexual performance but not motivation in sluggish rats after acute or subacute administration. The effect could be mainly ascribed to increased testosterone levels.'(14)
Overall, judging on reports of improved body composition from athletes taking Tongkat ali and rodent studies showing that it does significantly alter hormone levels, it appears that this herb is likely one of the more effective natural testosterone enhancers.
Recommended dose It has come to my attention that the vast majority of Tongkat ali products available are very poor quality and as a result don’t work.
To learn more about high quality 1:200 strength tongkat ali root extract click here.
One of my favourite natural testosterone enhancers is maca, an adaptogenic herb that originates in South America which possesses aphrodisiac and hormonal improvement properties.
I frequently recommend maca to trainers who want to improve their energy and motivation levels and to men and women who want to boost their sex drive.
Maca works through a number of mechanisms to keep testosterone levels high:
Maca improves thyroid function which improves overall energy levels, enhances detoxification systems, raises levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine and controls levels of the nasty, testosterone lowering hormone prolactin. When dopamine levels are high the pituitary gland is instructed to raise LH and FSH levels which leads to more testosterone being produced.
Powdered Maca contains the indole phytochemical DIM ((Diindolylmethane) in a highly bioavailable form. DIM lowers estrogen levels by stimulating a more efficient estrogen metabolism by the liver theoretically resulting in free testosterone levels and DHT rising.Red maca prevents prostate enlargement in rats treated with testosterone enanthate(15)(16)(17), probably due to it acting as an antiestrogen, stopping the conversion of the extra testosterone to prostate damaging estrogen.
For information on the many health benefits of maca besides raising testosterone levels read my article, ‘The Benefits of Maca Root’.
For those of you looking to improve your sperm count and sexual desire, studies have found that ‘treatment with Maca resulted in increased seminal volume, sperm count per ejaculum, motile sperm count, and sperm motility.’(18)!
Recommended dose I’ve actually written in depth about what I feel is an appropraite maca dosage after seeing a number of nutritionists recommend people take as much as 4 tablespoons a day of maca – I feel this is ill advised for many people and a waste of money.
I generally recommend taking 1 teaspoon of maca powder every day, occasionally skipping a day, or taking 1 teaspoon every other day. More information in ‘The Optimum Maca Dosage’.
D Aspartic Acid
D aspartic acid is probably the most talked about natural testosterone enhancer on the market at the moment, and it will boost your testosterone levels!
Most of the noise around D aspartic acid comes as a result of one study where participants who were given 3.12 grams of d aspartic acid per day for 12 days experienced an on average total testosterone level increase of 42 percent! (19)
If you try d aspartic acid, you will PROBABLY experience positive initial benefits such as:
– an increase in libido/ sex drive
– an extra energy boost
– an improved motivation to train.
However, you MAY also experience the following initial side effects:
– painful bloating (from increased estrogen)
– anxiety/ nervous energy (from increased estrogen/ prolactin)
– It is unclear, however, whether the estrogen and prolactin rise from d aspartic acid will be a problem or not. Estrogen should rise in proportion to testosterone, which is healthy, and prolactin may not rise to the levels that cause issues.
Some men experience a greater prolactin rise from D aspartic acid than others; if you start noticing signs of gyno, stop this natural testosterone enhancer and begin taking an anti estrogenic supplement such as ‘Myomin’ or ‘Erase’ along with a prescription dopamine agonist such as cabergoline or a natural prolactin inhibitor such as p5p or mucuna pruriens.
Long term, controlled studies on d aspartic acid are yet to be performed, however. Whilst this natural testosterone enhancer is found naturally in the body, it is an excitatory amino acid could theoretically act as a neurotoxin.
Most users report improved mood whilst on d aspartic acid, but some report foggy thinking, headaches and confusion after using it for a period of time. This may be from a prolactin increase and calcium influx caused by d aspartic acid. If you experience these negative effects, stop using the supplement and take the anti-estrogenic and anti-prolactin supplements listed above.
Whilst the increases in testosterone from taking D aspartic acid are impressive, bear in mind that you can experience similar increases in testosterone without fear of potential long term side effects by using natural testosterone enhancers such as 1:200 strength tongkat ali root extract or the new male hormone optimizer, ALPHA PLUS.
Recommended Dose All you need is 3.5 grams of this one of the natural testosterone enhancers once in the morning to boost your testosterone levels, there is no reason to use more.
Typical cycles range from 12 days and then a break to 8 weeks and then a couple of weeks off – experiment and see what works for you. I recommend you take regular breaks from all supplements, including d aspartic acid.
Some people experience diarrhoea when using d aspartic acid. If you suffer this side effect, mix your dose of d aspartic acid with a little baking soda in water to neutralise the ph before drinking – this helped me to avoid stomach upset when first trying out d aspartic acid.
Ed Clements is a fitness and health writer who offers advice to men and women explaining how to optimise hormone balance through diet, training, lifestyle improvement and through intelligent supplementation.
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References and Footnotes
(18)Lepidium meyenii ( Maca root ) improved semen parameters in adult men. Asian J Androl. 2001 Dec;3(4):301-3
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