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Insights into Supplements with Tribulus Terrestris used by Athletes

Abstract

Herbal and nutritional supplements are more and more popular in the western population. One of them is an extract of an exotic plant, named Tribulus terrestris (TT). TT is a component of several supplements that are available over-the-counter and widely recommended, generally as enhancers of human vitality. TT is touted as a testosterone booster and remedy for impaired erectile function; therefore, it is targeted at physically active men, including male athletes. Based on the scientific literature describing the results of clinical trials, this review attempted to verify information on marketing TT with particular reference to the needs of athletes. It was found that there are few reliable data on the usefulness of TT in competitive sport. In humans, a TT extract used alone without additional components does not improve androgenic status or physical performance among athletes. The results of a few studies have showed that the combination of TT with other pharmacological components increases testosterone levels, but it was not discovered which components of the mixture contributed to that effect. TT contains several organic compounds including alkaloids and steroidal glycosides, of which pharmacological action in humans is not completely explained. One anti-doping study reported an incident with a TT supplement contaminated by a banned steroid. Toxicological studies regarding TT have been carried out on animals only, however, one accidental poisoning of a man was described. The Australian Institute of Sport does not recommend athletes’ usage of TT. So far, the published data concerning TT do not provide strong evidence for either usefulness or safe usage in sport.

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