What Are the Most Common Tribulus Side Effects?

Severe side effects can occur when consuming the fruit of a tribulus plant.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate tribulus or other dietary supplements.
Enlargement of the prostate gland is a possible side effect of tribulus.
An upset stomach and nausea are the most common side effects of tribulus.
Women taking tribulus may experience a change in the tone of their voice.
Nausea is a common side effect of tribulus.
Consult a physician before self-treating with tribulus or any other dietary supplement.
Article Details
  • Originally Written By: L. Roux
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
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  • Last Modified Date: 24 November 2015
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The most common tribulus side effects are mild nausea and stomach upset, though in most cases these dissipate within a few days of starting a supplementation regimen. More concerning side effects include hormonal imbalances. While not necessarily problematic in the short term, hormone shifts over time can cause some pretty profound changes. Men often develop an enlarged prostate, for instance, which can put them at risk of many other problems, and women sometimes notice a deepening of their voices. Some studies have also linked long-term tribulus use to the development of certain cancers, though this is perhaps more of a risk than a true side effect. People who consume the plant’s fruits are also thought to be at risk for lung damage, though it’s worth noting that most dietary supplements don’t include the fruits, and health experts don’t usually recommend eating this part, particularly not raw. Though the supplement is usually considered safe and the side effects, if they occur, tend to be mild, it still isn’t always safe for everyone. People who are thinking about adding this or other natural compounds to their diets are usually wise to check with a qualified medical practitioner first.


Supplement Basics

The dietary supplement known as “tribulus” is, in most cases, made entirely or at least mostly from extracts of the Tribulus terrestris plant. This plant is native to southern Italy and elsewhere in Mediterranean Europe, but has adapted to grow in almost all climates around the world. The dietary supplement is usually derived from the leaves and sometimes also the stems. Oils are usually contained in capsules, though sometimes the leaves are dried and crushed into a powder that can be blended into drinks or swallowed in pill form.

In holistic medicine, the supplement is used primarily for treating kidney problems and certain skin ailments. Its ability to stimulate cell growth and to boost natural levels of testosterone has also led to its popularity in the bodybuilding community. People hoping to quickly build muscle mass often take it daily, frequently in conjunction with other natural stimulants. Results can vary a lot from person to person, and in general health experts don’t recommend taking more in order to get better results. Excessive exposure often triggers side effects.

Nausea and Digestive Distress

One of the most common side effects is nausea. This may occur more often when taking a dose on an empty stomach or when using tribulus for the first time. Nausea is considered to be a very temporary side effect and should only occur at the beginning of a supplementation cycle. For many people, discomfort be corrected or avoided by consuming a meal when taking the supplement.

Hormonal Imbalance

Tribulus is widely thought to increase the amount of testosterone in the body, which is one of the reasons it’s so valuable to bodybuilders. Increased testosterone may also affect the levels of other hormones, and could over-stimulate the androgen receptors in the brain. These receptors regulate the DNA function in the body and play an important role in the regulation of gene expression. Some experts believe that changing hormone levels in this way could have serious and potentially even fatal results, although no research has proven this.

Gender-Specific Symptoms

Men who take this supplement for prolonged periods of time often develop an enlarged prostate. Whether there is any true connection between tribulus and prostate growth hasn’t been proved with any degree of certainty, though it’s thought by many in the field that the plant’s role in testosterone production likely causes enlargement. In addition to causing discomfort, enlarged prostates can also impact urination and sexual performance.

It has also been reported that some women who have taken this supplement experience a change in the tone of their voice. This is usually due to the change in hormones levels within the body, specifically testosterone. This is also one of the temporary tribulus side effects, and the voice usually returns to normal once the supplementation cycle has been discontinued.

Possible Link to Cancer

The potential risk of cancer is also important when supplementing with tribulus. Tribulus contains 5-Dehydroepiandrosterone, a steroid also known as 5-DHEA. This steroid may increase the risk of cancer in the body. It is not recommended to consume large dosages of this steroid due to the risk of cancer associated with it; by association, then, long-term use of tribulus isn’t usually recommended for the same reasons.

Lung Damage

In some rare cases, lung damage might occur as a tribulus side effect, although this is usually only seen when consuming the fruit of the Tribulus terrestris plant. Many experts advise that the fruit should never be eaten in raw form. The spiky fruit is the sources of the plants common names, including puncture vine and caltrop.

Common Precautions and Getting Help

Although tribulus is usually considered to be safe when used in moderation, it isn’t usually regulated by governmental authorities the way most prescription drugs are. Among other things, this means that not all compounds are identical, and also that they aren’t subjected to the same quality screening requirements. This may also explain why only a limited number of tribulus side effects have been documented. Anyone considering this supplement should usually consult a medical professional, and anyone experiencing side effects that don’t seem to be getting better or going away on their own after a few days should usually seek a medical evaluation, too.


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