Can Testosterone Supplements Improve Your Sex Drive?

Written by The Healthline Editorial Team | Published on March 23, 2015
Medically Reviewed by Healthline Medical Team on March 23, 2015

What You Need to Know About Testosterone Therapy

Many men experience declining sex drive as they age — and physiology is a factor. Testosterone, the hormone that boosts sexual desire, sperm production, bone density, and muscle mass, peaks at about age thirty. Men might experience less interest in sex as the level declines, or not be able to sexually perform as well as they would like. A dip in sexual interest can cause depression and could damage important intimate relationships. It’s natural to want to do something about it. 

Take a look at the research if you’re wondering if using testosterone therapy can help improve your sex drive.

What Exactly Is Testosterone and What Does It Do?

Testosterone and estrogen are the main sex hormones. Both men and women produce testosterone, but men make more (just as women produce more estrogen than men). Testosterone makes male sex organs grow when boys are developing, and supports male physical attributes like facial hair growth, broader shoulders, and denser muscle development.

Sexual excitement is caused in part by a rise in testosterone, though other factors contribute. Testosterone levels rise and fall throughout the day. Some men notice they are more excitable when testosterone is high, which is usually in the mornings. 

Testosterone levels also fluctuate over your lifespan and start to decline after age 30. This could mean a man has less interest in sex later in life, and possibly less firm erections as well as softer muscle tone.

When Is Testosterone Supplementation a Good Idea?

According to the Mayo Clinic, testosterone therapy can help treat hypogonadism. This condition occurs when the body can’t produce enough testosterone on its own. However, it’s unclear whether supplements can help otherwise healthy men. A study published in Nature Reviews Endocrinology found no scientific reason to prescribe testosterone to men over 65 with normal or low-to-normal testosterone levels

Heart and Prostate Risks

In fact, testosterone supplements might cause more trouble than they solve. Studies have suggested a connection between supplements and heart problems. A 2010 study reported in The New England Journal of Medicine showed that some men over 65 had an increase in heart problems when they used testosterone gel. A later study of men younger than 65 at risk for heart problems and heart-healthy older men showed that both groups had a greater risk of heart attack when taking testosterone supplements.

A 2013 study in rats concluded testosterone supplementation was a “strong tumor promoter for the rate prostate.” Human studies are needed.

Review the Side Effects

Like other supplements and medication, testosterone therapy comes with risks and possible side effects. This is particularly true if you try to take it for normal aging rather than for treatment of a condition. In addition to the effects that these supplements may have on your heart and prostate, the Cleveland Clinic points out that testosterone therapy can lead to a number of potential troubles. Complications include:

  • sleep apnea
  • acne flares
  • enlarged breasts
  • testicular shrinkage

Talk About Your Sex Drive to Your Doctor — and Your Partner

There can be many reasons for a loss in sex drive, for both men and women. Decreasing testosterone levels could be the source for men, but so could life stresses or relationship problems. Testosterone supplements likely will boost sex drive in cases of very low testosterone and hypogonadism, but research suggests that’s about it. Ask a doctor for testosterone testing to determine if supplementation will help. And remember, your sex drive is only one aspect of masculinity.

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