Puncture vine, or Tribulis terrertis, is an herb that some people believe boosts testosterone levels in the body. It sometimes is used by people who want to enhance muscle growth or improve sexual function. These claims, however, have not been scientifically proven. The herb also has been used to reduce cholesterol and hypertension as well as to treat urinary disorders. Puncture vine typically is available in capsule form.
This herb has been extensively marketed as a dietary supplement that can enhance sexual performance. Limited research has found that men who were a part of infertile couples experienced positive effects on their testosterone levels after taking an extract of puncture vine. Some experts, however, have argued that such effects on testosterone levels in healthy men cannot be established, because of a lack of supporting data in other studies. Studies using rabbits, rats and primates have shown that administering puncture vine to these animals raises their levels of testosterone and related hormones, suggesting that the herb has aphrodisiac properties. Research conducted on young men, however, has found no such effects.
In the early 1970s, noted bodybuilder Jeffrey Petermann reported using puncture vine to raise testosterone levels and thus enhance muscle and strength-building. Controlled studies, however, have failed to document such testosterone increases. Despite this, many supplements containing puncture vine along with other herbs are available that claim to enhance muscle-building and sexual performance. After completing an anabolic steroid cycle, some bodybuilders use puncture vine as a part of post-cycle therapy, believing that it will help restore their natural testosterone levels.
Puncture vine also is used in traditional Chinese medicine, in which it is named bai ji li. An extract of the plant is found in some Indian ayurvedic tonics that refer to it by its Sanskrit name, gokshura. In the ayurvedic medical tradition, it is believed that this herb functions as an aphrodisiac and diuretic.
It is thought that the active chemical in puncture vine might be protodioscin, a close relative to dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a natural steroid. Research conducted on mice has shown that an extract of the plant can result in enhanced sexual activity and erections when compared with synthetic forms of testosterone. Some health officials have questioned this finding, however.
Side effects from using supplements containing puncture vine are very uncommon and usually are not serious. Some users have reported experiencing an upset stomach, but this can usually be alleviated by taking the supplement at meal times. A further rare side effect that has been reported is gynaecomastia, an enlargement of the mammary glands in males. Although this side effect might be alarming to users, it tends to support the claim that the herb can produce androgenic-anabolic effects.
The puncture vine plant is found in temperate and tropical regions around the world, including southern Europe and southern Asia as well as Africa and Australia. It has become naturalized in the Americas. In the United States, it is considered a noxious weed and an invasive species in many states. The plant thrives in poor soil and can withstand desert environments.
As with other weedy species, it is known by several common names around the world. These include bindii, burra gokharu, goathead, yellowvine, cathead and yellowvine. The plant produces spiky thorns that are notorious for puncturing bicycle tires — hence its name.