Saponins and flavonoids make the fruits and roots of tribulus (Tribulus terrestris) so healthy. The herb can lower your blood pressure by inhibiting ACE, an enzyme that narrows down the blood vessels. Thanks to the nitrates and potassium salts in it, tribulus can help your kidneys by increasing urine output and flushing out toxins. An adaptogen, this herb can also modulate your body’s response to stress by helping your dopamine levels stay up.
You don’t very often come across herbs that are particularly good for your kidneys. Voila! Tribulus, also known as gokshura, does that and more. You need to look to the fruits and roots of the plant to receive benefits.
Two group of compounds do all the hard work – saponins (foam when shaken with water) and flavonoids (color-giving pigments). The saponins called protodioscin and tribulosin are especially important.
Interestingly, the components of tribulus vary depending on where the plant is grown. The plants grown in Middle Eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Turkey, Macedonia) have more protodioscin, while those from Eastern Asia and Oceania have more tribulosin.
Why It’s So Great
1. Manages Blood Pressure
In the course of the day, your blood pressure fluctuates in response to your activities, emotions, and certain foods you eat. Tribulus could help your body in its regular process of bringing blood pressure down.
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) increases blood pressure by indirectly forcing blood vessels to constrict. Tribulus inhibits ACE and, thus, helps lower blood pressure.
The biggest advantage is that a very small amount of tribulus can do all of this. So, just a little of the herb every day can go a long way.
2. Supports the Kidneys
The kidneys have a say in which substances stay in your body and which leave. Each time you ask for a second serving of steak, order an extra round of drinks, reach out for the salt cellar, or pop another painkiller, your kidneys are working overtime.
Tribulus helps to make it easier on your bean-shaped filters.
- Increases overall urine volume: Tribulus increases urine volume by about 200 ml/day. The nitrates and potassium salts in its fruits and seeds manage to drag more sodium into the urine, which then pulls more water along with it. The consequence? The passage of more urine and more efficient flushing of toxins.
3. Increases Mental Resilience
Tribulus is an adaptogenic herb, which means it helps your body cope with and adjust to both physical and mental stress. Think along the lines of a bad day at work, a fallout with a friend, or a plain ol’ mood swing.
The herb targets the body chemicals that control how you perceive stress:
- Normalizes the HPA axis: The HPA axis is a three-step interaction between the brain and adrenal glands (sitting on the kidneys) that decides how you respond to stress. Tribulus helps regulate CRH (corticotropin-releasing hormone), a key hormone involved in the first step.
- Increases dopamine: Dopamine is a brain chemical associated with mental energy and motivation. The enzyme monoamine oxidase is out to destroy it. Harmine in tribulus inhibits this enzyme. With more dopamine around, you’re bound to be less moody.
For Men’s Health
Now to address the elephant in the room. You may have come across tribulus as a widely marketed supplement for muscle building and enhancing athletic performance in men. How effective is it?
The premise is that protodioscin promotes the conversion of the male hormone testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, which then:
- Drives red blood cell (RBC) production in the bone marrow, which means better blood circulation and greater stamina
- Encourages muscle development, which means more muscle mass.
But, frankly, not enough research has been done to prove this. The few supportive studies that have been carried out are on animals, while the even fewer on humans have seen no such effect. There are hints, however, that a mix of tribulus with other herbs may be able to build muscle and improve performance. But then again, it’s presumptive and premature to accredit tribulus for these benefits.
When it comes to tribulus, less is more. So restrict yourself to a maximum of a teaspoon of the tribulus root powder or half a teaspoon of the fruit powder a day.
Tribulus powder has an earthy, slightly adverse taste, so you might want to mix it with some milk or water first.