Testosterone is one of the key hormones for optimal men’s health.
In fact, it’s often called the success hormone. A glimpse into the function of testosterone shows that it maintains lean muscle mass, bone density, and sex drive (1).
Unfortunately, testosterone levels in men today are at historic lows (2). This also means that testosterone boosting supplements are rapidly swelling in popularity to combat hypogonadism, or “low T”.
While there are scores of testosterone boosters out on the market some of them offer benefits but many can have dangerous side effects. Read below to discover the benefits and side effects of using testosterone boosters.
1D-Aspartic acid increases testosterone levels. According to the research D-aspartic acid works by increasing your natural levels of follicle-stimulating hormone as well as luteinizing hormone (3).
The reason this is effective because luteinizing hormone upregulates testosterone productive from the Leydig cells in the testes.
Studies, in both animals and humans, illustrate that D-aspartic acid can increase luteinizing hormone and levels of testosterone throughout the body in as few as 12 days (4).
2D-aspartic acid increases sperm production. One study had men supplement with D-aspartic acid over 90 days. The men, who started with impaired sperm production, had, on average, their sperm count double (rising from 8.2 million sperm per ml to 16.5 million sperm per ml) (5).
For men with healthy testosterone levels following a resistance training routine D-aspartic acid was not seen to increase testosterone levels (6).
As a result, D-aspartic acid seems to only benefit those men with low testosterone or impaired sexual function.
3Vitamin D, improves sperm quality (7). Specifically, research has uncovered a close direct correlation between low testosterone and vitamin D deficiency. The study continued to show that when subjects increased their time in the sun to increase their vitamin D levels their testosterone levels went up accordingly (8).
To provide more evidence, a year-long study was conducted with 65 men.
The men were split into two groups were one of the groups took 3,300 IU of vitamin D every day while the other group was the control. The group that supplemented with vitamin D doubled their serum level of vitamin D as well as boosted their testosterone levels by 20% (from 10.7 nmol/l to 13.4 nmol/l) (9).
Because vitamin D and testosterone levels are both low in the average man vitamin D supplementation may only improve testosterone levels when men are lacking in vitamin D as well. For example, research on men without a vitamin D deficiency shows that after taking vitamin D there is no increase in testosterone (10).
4Tribulus terrestris, is an herb used for improved libido for centuries. Tribulus terrestris is primarily studied in animals. That being said, the results illustrate improved sex drive and bolstered levels of testosterone.
In humans, a 90-day research study in men with erectile dysfunction showed that tribulus supplementation increased qualitative reports of sexual health, quantitatively testosterone was increased by 16% (11).
While there are significant results for increasing testosterone in men with below average testosterone, there doesn’t seem to be any benefit in healthy individuals with normal testosterone levels (12).
Like other test boosters, tribulus improves sexual dysfunction and low levels of testosterone but will not increase average testosterone levels to optimal testosterone levels.
5Fenugreek, increases testosterone indirectly by lowering the number of enzymes that convert testosterone into estrogen. The most comprehensive research on fenugreek compared two groups of college men during an eight-week trial.
All the subjects performed resistance training four times a week, however only the experimental group was supplementing with 500 mg of fenugreek per day.
The result was an increase in both free and total testosterone levels. In fact, the control group was seen to experience a minor dip in testosterone. Other effects of fenugreek supplementation in this study were increases in both fat loss and strength compared to the control group (13).
Further research explores how fenugreek affects sexual function. A total of 60 men between 25 and 60 years of age took either 600 mg of fenugreek or a placebo daily over the course of 6 weeks (14).
Because of supplementation, there was a self-reported increase in strength. The researchers also discovered an 81% increase in libido, 66% increase in sexual performance, 81% increase in energy, and 55% increase in general well-being (15).
6Ginger reduces inflammation, consequently increasing levels of testosterone (16). Research conducted in mice fed ginger show increases in both testosterone and sexual function. Specifically, one 30-day study of mice show that ginger significantly increased testosterone and luteinizing hormone (17).
Another study shows that ginger nearly doubled the testosterone levels in mice.
Building upon that study, researchers showed that doubling the amount of ginger given to the mice further increased levels of testosterone (18).
In humans, the research tells a similar tale. One study on 75 infertile men showed that after three months of daily ginger supplementation resulted in a 17% increase in testosterone levels plus levels of luteinizing hormone had nearly doubled (19).
In addition, the study noted several improvements in sperm health such as a 16% increase in sperm count (20).
7Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), is a naturally occurring hormone that can increase testosterone levels by up to 20%. DHEA is part of the anabolic pathway that creates testosterone from cholesterol and controls estrogen levels.
DHEA is unique because it is directly involved in producing testosterone and it has the most extensive research behind it out of all the testosterone boosters on the market.
Many studies show that daily DHEA supplementation increases testosterone 20% more than just a placebo (21, 22, 23). DHEA works so well that it is banned professional sports, so competitive athletes are unable to use DHEA (24).
For those not competing, DHEA supplementation benefits those with low DHEA or low testosterone levels the most.
8Zinc increases libido. Zinc levels are directly related with testosterone levels in the body, just like vitamin D (25).
Research supports this association finding that when you lower zinc intake in healthy men that levels of testosterone decrease as well (26).
Reversing this association, another study supplemented infertile men with lower or normal levels of testosterone with zinc. As a result, testosterone and sperm count significantly increased for the most part. The outlier was that men with normal levels of testosterone experience no benefit from zinc supplementation (27).
Further research shows that zinc supplementation can reverse testosterone lowering effects of certain environmental influences. Specifically, elite wrestlers were given a daily zinc supplement during a 4-week high intensity training routine to reduce the decline in testosterone levels from increased stress (28).
Thus, zinc can increase testosterone levels when you’re low in zinc or testosterone (29).
Plus, zinc can help increase recovery from high-intensity exercise (30).
9Ashwagandha improves your body’s ability to cope with stress and anxiety (31).
Recently, the effect of a daily 5-gram supplement regime of ashwagandha on sperm quality over three months. After three months testosterone increased by 10-22%. Not only did testosterone increase, but also 14% of the subject’s partners because pregnant (33).
Ashwagandha is much more than a testosterone booster.
Research shows that ashwagandha also increases exercise performance, strength and fat loss (34). Ashwagandha seems to work by boosting testosterone despite environmental stresses over time.
10Malaysian ginseng, better known as Tongkat ali, is a potent sexual enhancer.
Aside from being antimalarial, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, and fever-reducing ginseng, or Tongkat ali, is also seen to provide testosterone boosting benefits by increasing libido, enhancing sports performance, boosting weight loss, stimulating the production of androgen hormones (like testosterone), and reducing fatigue (35).
Specifically, research shows insights that tongkat ali can reduce the chance of osteoporosis (36).
It’s not clear if Tongkat ali works directly to improve bone health or if it promotes testosterone to improve bone health. Honestly, studies of tongkat ali on humans are limited with no standard dosage recommended.
11Pine bark extract helps with erectile dysfunction. Pine bark is seen to lower cholesterol, enhance cardiovascular health, improve blood flow, and possibly reduce symptoms of eretile dysfunction (37).
While there is little research on pine bark extract thus far, there is research of pine bark extract paired with L-arginine.
These studies illustrate positive effects on both testosterone and erectile dysfuncti,on, however more studies are needed (38).
12L-arginine increases overall blood flow to combat symptoms of low testosterone. L-arginine is used to increase blood flow by stimulating endothelial production of nitric oxide, which may help with erectile dysfunction(39). As a result, L-arginine doesn’t increase testosterone per say, but it does improve the symptoms of low testosterone, most notably erectile dysfunction (40).
13Garlic increases overall health and testosterone in animals. Specifically, garlic is seen to improve the symptoms of hardened arteries, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer prevention, and a weak immune system (41).
In animals, research shows that mice fed garlic cloves had higher levels of testosterone. Unfortunately, there are no human trials have been done on the effect of garlic and testosterone levels.
14Basella alba, popularly known as Indian spinach, increases testosterone levels. Unfortunately, there are no trials in humans thus far, but there are studies in animals. Research in mice show that both fresh and dry leaf basella alba extracts increase testosterone levels (42).
15Chrysin is a flavonoid extract that can improve sperm motility. Chrysin is available in both tea or supplement form, which may limit its effect in the body.
The limited research of chrysin in animals show increases in sperm motility, sperm concentration, and testosterone levels (43). However, because chrysin is not very well absorbed you may not experience the full benefit chrysin (44).
2Testosterone boosters can increase heart issues. Research suggests a connection between testosterone supplements and heart issues.
In The New England Journal of Medicine, a recent study showed that men over 65 years old saw an increase in heart problems when using testosterone gel (48). This correlation holds true for both men over 65 as well as younger men at risk for heart problems.
3Testosterone boosters may promote tumors. In 2014 one study was conducted on rats which illustrated that testosterone promoted tumors in the prostate of mice (49).
4Testosterone boosters can also induce sleep apnea, acne flares, enlarged breasts, and testicular shrinkage (50). Note that these complications are much more likely when testosterone supplements are taken for general aging and not for specific conditions (51).
The fruit, leaf, and root of Tribulus can be used to make teas, tablets, and capsules. There is no standard dose, however, doses under 1,500 mg are regarded as safe (52).
Tongkat ali is seen to be safe up to 600 milligrams, with no damage seen on organs or blood profiles (53).
D-Aspartic acid is effective and safe in doses of 2–3 grams for those who are deficient in testosterone (54).
The best source of Vitamin D is increased sun exposure. If sun exposure is not a viable option for you, you can consume 3,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily (55).
500 mg of fenugreek per day is both safe and effective to improve sexual function and boost testosterone (56).
The suggested dosage for pine bark extract is 200 to 300 mg (60).
The safe dosage for L-arginine has not been established. Research shows that doses between 400 and 6,000 mg are safe and effective (61). 5 grams of L-arginine daily for 6 weeks is seen to treat erectile dysfunction (62).
The recommended zinc dosage is 5 to 10 mg for maintenance levels of testosterone (63). Increase zinc levels to 25 to 45 mg if you suffer from low levels of testosterone.
Garlic can be taken in supplement form, with the odor neutralized, or taken fresh as 2 to 4 cloves.
Chrysin supplements range from 500 mg to 900 mg (64).
Do testosterone boosters really work? New studies are coming out every day that prove without a doubt, testosterone supplements with the right ingredients and dosages can in fact raise your testosterone levels naturally.
Is it safe to use testosterone boosters? As long as you buy the product from a trusted company and source, testosterone boosters are safe. They are all natural of course.
Can women take testosterone boosters? In theory yes, but it is not recommended. Some women with high testosterone levels develop frontal balding. Other possible effects include acne, an enlarged clitoris, increased muscle mass, and deepening of the voice.
Do testosterone boosters make your scrotum or penis bigger? As of right now, there is no science that proves this to be true. Testosterone boosters do not increase genitalia size.
Do testosterone boosters help with erectile dysfunction? If erectile dysfunction is the only symptom, natural testosterone boosters probably won’t help. ED is almost always caused by low blood flow to the penis. However, a nitric oxide supplement would do great in this case to help promote blood flow.
Do testosterone boosters cause cancer? There is no scientific evidence to prove that testosterone boosters cause cancer.
Do testosterone boosters make you hungry? Testosterone increases metabolism so an increase in appetite is normal. However, it’s often very minimal and temporary.
To be a healthy man, optimal testosterone levels are crucial to help you be lean, muscular, and perform your best.
Most of the test boosting supplements out there will only have noticeable effects only if you have fertility issues low levels of testosterone, or suffer from stress.
Many of these supplements do work for healthy men too, but there are limited studies in these populations.