Withania somnifera, commonly known as ashwagandha, is an herb used in Ayurveda medicine. Ashwagandha means ‘Smell of Horse,’ which refers to the fresh root’s distinct horsey smell, and the traditional belief that ingesting the herb will confer the strength and virility of a horse.
Beyond reducing stress levels, ashwagandha can improve physical performance in both sedentary people and athletes, as well as reduce Low-density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Ashwagandha can improve the formation of memories, and may be able to treat Alzheimer’s disease, though more human evidence is needed before supplementation can be recommended specifically for Alzheimer’s.
Studies have revealed:
Untrained men were put on a periodized strength training program and given either placebo or 300 mg of ashwagandha root extract twice daily for 8 weeks. The ashwagandha group improved their 1RM of bench press by almost 20 kg over placebo and leg extension by almost 5 kg. Muscle size, serum testosterone, and muscle recovery as measured by plasma creatine kinase was also improved versus placebo. Participants that took Ashwagandha saw 45.05 kg vs. 26.42 kg improvements in 1RM bench press and 14.50 vs. 9.77 kg improvements in leg extension for ashwagandha vs. placebo, respectively. Intergroup comparisons were statistically significant.
Supplementation of 500mg of the water extract of ashawanghda has been noted to improve power output and velocity of sprints, as well as to improve VO2 max without affecting blood pressure.
Tribulus terrestris is a herb from Ayurveda that is mostly recommended for male health including virility and vitality, and specifically more catered towards cardiovascular and urogenital health. It is a common supplement for its libido enhancing properties and supposed testosterone boosting properties.
On the sexual side of things, tribulus does appear to be a relatively reliable and potent libido enhancer in rats and the lone human study assessing this has confirmed an increase in sexual well being and erectile function. While it is not exactly known how tribulus works, it is known to enhance androgen receptor density in the brain (muscle tissue not confirmed) which may enhance the libido enhancing properties of androgens.
A specific component, tribulosin, appears to be quite potently cardioprotective and is effective in the 1-10nM range. It has not yet been tested in living creatures, but remains a very promising option.
In animal research, the fruits of tribulus appears to protect the organs (mostly liver and kidneys) from oxidative damages at reasonably low dosages and also exert anti-stress effects; confirming the status of tribulus terrestris as an Adaptogen.
Long Jack (Tongkat Ali)
Eurycoma Longifolia Jack is the herb name for what is more commonly known as Tongkat Ali, Malaysian Ginseng, or Longjack.
The aphrodisiac effects of Eurycoma are quite reliable and appear to span a large variety of animal models, limited evidence in female rats but it appears to affect these to a similar extend as in males. It is difficult to do a comparative analysis between other herbal aphrodisiac to assess potency, but Eurycoma is anecdotally one of the better ones.
In addition to the aphrodisiac effects, Eurycoma can also increase sperm production and may directly act as a proerectile agent. At least one molecule in Eurycoma (9-hydroxycanthin-6-one) is associated with both a delay in ejaculation as well as pro-erectile properties.
Hormonally, Eurycoma appears to have remarkable anti-estrogenic effects in vitro and has a potency similar to Tamoxifen when the active ingredient is injected. On the testosterone side of things, the literature appears to be promising.
Studies have revealed:
A 46% increase in testosterone was seen in clinically hypogonadic men, with normal men not tested and no placebo control. 200mg water extract of Eurycoma was used for 1 months time.
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.”
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. 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.
Zinc is one of the 24 micronutrients needed for survival. It is found in meat, egg, and legume products. Oysters are particularly good sources of zinc.
Zinc is an aphrodisiac and Testosterone Booster. Zinc is also very important for the functioning of the enzyme, hormone, and immune systems.
Zinc can act as an aromatase inhibitor and reduce estrogen levels. It is also a potent antioxidant and can provide benefits for prostate issues. Zinc also plays a role in the repair of intestinal mucosa, when supplemented in high doses.
Zinc is lost through sweat, making supplementation very important for athletes that don’t get a lot of zinc through food.
Studies have revealed:
Supplemental zinc was able to increase circulating DHT in all subjects.
4 weeks supplementation of 3mg/kg zinc sulfate to elite wrestlers was able to preserve circulating testosterone and thyroid hormone concentrations, which declined in placebo due to the exhaustive workload.
Magnesium is an essential dietary mineral, and the second most prevalent electrolyte in the human body. Magnesium deficiencies are common in developed countries. A deficiency increases blood pressure, reduces glucose tolerance and causes neural excitation.
Magnesium deficiencies are common in the western diet because grains are poor sources of magnesium. Other prominent sources of magnesium, like nuts and leafy vegetables, are not eaten as often. It is possible to fix a magnesium deficiency through dietary changes. If magnesium is supplemented to attenuate a deficiency, it acts as a sedative, reducing blood pressure and improving insulin sensitivity.
Studies have revealed:
17mmol Magnesium Orotate daily for 4 weeks was associated with significant improvement on the time it took to complete triathalon-like testing.