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Testosterone is an important hormone for everyone. Even though it’s often associated with the libido of those assigned male at birth, testosterone occurs in all sexes from birth.
In those assigned female at birth, it plays a part in sexual drive, energy, and physical strength. In those assigned male at birth, it stimulates the beginning of sexual development and helps maintain their health throughout life.
The testosterone levels of those assigned male at birth peak in early adulthood. But the hormone continues to play an important role in:
- bone and muscle mass
- fat storage
- production of red blood cells
- sexual and physical health
Your testosterone levels will begin to naturally fall as you get older. Drastic drops or a stop in production can lead to symptoms of low testosterone (low T).
According to the American Urological Association, the overall prevalence of low T is about 2.1 percent. However, this increases with age, with low T impacting an estimated 50 percent of men ages 80 years and over.
Drastically decreasing testosterone levels can lead to:
- decreased libido
- erectile dysfunction (ED)
- increased body fat
- loss of muscle mass
- reduced bone density
- loss of body hair
- mood changes like irritability or depression
- difficulties with memory and concentration
- low red blood cell counts (anemia)
- problems with fertility
- swelling, including the breasts
A variety of factors can cause these unexpected changes, though. They can include:
- health conditions
- medication side effects
- excessive alcohol or drug use
Treating the underlying cause may also help to manage your symptoms.
Talk with your doctor if you’re concerned about low T. Read on to see which vitamins, herbs, and supplements may benefit testosterone production.
Traditional testosterone replacement therapies, such as injections, implants, and gels, work to add testosterone into your body. Herbs and supplements, on the other hand, may help your body make testosterone. Some herbs and supplements simply aim to ease your symptoms of low T.
While some alternative treatments are safe for people with low T, many of them haven’t been through rigorous testing in humans. Talk with your doctor before trying any herb or supplement. They’ll be able to let you know if they’re right for you, and if so, recommend the best dosage.
One 2010 study assessed ashwagandha supplementation in 75 men experiencing infertility. It was found that ashwagandha helped improve:
Vitamin D, also called cholecalciferol, helps your body:
- fight off bacteria and viruses
- protect bones against osteoporosis
- absorb calcium into your bones
It’s possible that vitamin D can also help increase testosterone levels. One
However, vitamin D supplements may only work for men who are severely deficient in this specific vitamin. In fact, a
A more recent study from 2017 also supported this finding. In the study, 98 healthy men without vitamin D deficiency received either a placebo or vitamin D supplement for 12 weeks. Compared to the placebo group, no significant increase in total testosterone was seen in the men receiving the vitamin D supplements.
The maximum daily allowance for vitamin D for most people is
Zinc is an essential micronutrient. It helps your body:
- fight off invading bacteria and viruses
- produce DNA and genetic material
- repair wounds
A zinc deficiency may be associated with low T. This is because zinc is involved in the production of testosterone. Additionally, zinc is important for maintaining sperm quality as well.
You can consume zinc, which is necessary to maintain healthy levels of this important micronutrient in your body, by eating:
- red meat
- dairy products
- fortified breakfast cereals
Too much zinc can lead to both short- and long-term side effects. Short-term effects include nausea, cramps, and headaches. Long-term effects include reduced immune function, copper deficiency, and more. Talk with a doctor about dosage amounts before taking zinc supplements.
Garlic may be used as a natural therapy for:
- hardened arteries, or atherosclerosis
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- cancer prevention
- a weak immune system
However, it’s important to point out that no human trials currently exist on garlic and testosterone levels.
Most garlic supplements are made from fresh, dried, or freeze-dried garlic. Some use garlic oil and aged garlic extracts. The dosage depends on the form of the garlic you’re using.
In some cases of low T, your body can’t make enough dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). This is a hormone that gets converted into estrogen and testosterone.
But the reviews on DHEA supplementation and testosterone are mixed. Most studies report insignificant changes or results that can’t be duplicated.
Overall, there isn’t enough proof about the safety or effectiveness of DHEA. The hormone may reduce HDL levels, or “good” cholesterol, and cause other hormone-related conditions to worsen. Make sure to check with your doctor before taking DHEA supplements.
Pine bark extract contains natural compounds called proanthocyanidins. The extract made from these compounds is commonly sold under the brand name Pycnogenol. Bark extract from P. pinaster may help to:
- lower cholesterol
- enhance cardiovascular health
- improve blood flow
- possibly reduce symptoms of ED
In some medical studies, pine bark extract is paired with a compound called L-arginine aspartate. These compounds together may have some effect on testosterone and ED. Overall, more studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of pine bark extract for ED or raising testosterone levels.
Avoid this supplement if you are taking:
Your dosage will depend on your health history, so talk with your doctor before using pine bark extract.
The human body produces the amino acid L-arginine naturally. Your body uses L-arginine to help increase blood flow, which may also help ED. L-arginine is also found in many foods, including:
- red meat
However, in humans L-arginine doesn’t seem to boost a person’s level of testosterone directly. Instead, it may help treat symptoms of low T, such as ED.
The dosage limit for L-arginine has not been established. If you’re interested in trying out L-arginine for low T symptoms like ED, talk with your doctor about the recommended dosage.
Chrysin is a flavonoid extract found in honey and in Passiflora incarnate, or blue passionflowers. You can take chrysin in the form of tea or supplements. A
However, an older
Results are mixed regarding saw palmetto’s effects on testosterone. It may help boost libido, increase sperm production, and improve symptoms of low T.
The definitive cause for BPH is unknown, though testosterone may play a role in causing the prostate to grow.
There’s no standard for the exact dosage that a person should take. Speak with your doctor for guidance before using Malaysian ginseng supplements.
Indian spinach may be used in traditional medicine used for fertility purposes. Alcohol extracts of this herb provide the most benefits.
Studies in rats
There are many different herbs, vitamins, and supplements that are believed to help improve low T or its symptoms. However, it’s important to remember that in most instances, research into the safety and effectiveness of these therapies in humans is still very limited.
While some alternative low T treatments hold promise, they can also pose risks. It’s possible that some herbs, vitamins, or supplements for low T may interact with other medications or supplements that you’re taking or have a negative effect on other underlying health conditions.
Because of this, always consult your doctor about potential treatment options for low T. They can help you decide what treatments are appropriate for your condition.