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What does testosterone do for your body?
Testosterone is an important hormone for both men and women. Even though it’s often associated with a man’s libido, testosterone occurs in both sexes from birth. In females, it plays a part in sexual drive, energy, and physical strength. In males, it stimulates the beginning of sexual development and helps maintain a man’s health throughout his life.
A man’s testosterone level peaks 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
In most cases, after the age of 30, your testosterone levels will begin to naturally fall. Drastic drops or a stop in production can lead to symptoms of low testosterone (low T). An estimated 5 million American men have low enough testosterone levels to cause symptoms, according to UCLA Health.
Drastically decreasing testosterone levels can lead to:
- difficulty achieving an erection
- increased body fat
- decreased muscle strength
- loss of body hair
- swelling and tenderness of the breasts
- sleep disturbances
These unexpected changes can be caused by a variety of factors, though. These can include health conditions, medication side effects, and excessive alcohol or drug use. Treating the underlying cause may also clear your symptoms.
Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned with 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, 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, not all of them have been through rigorous testing in humans. Talk to your doctor if you’re interested in a certain herb or supplement. They’ll be able to recommend the accurate dosage.
Manufacturers of dietary supplements don’t need approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA also doesn’t regulate the quality and safety of herbs, supplements, and vitamins. It’s possible for a product to be unsafe, ineffective, or both.
Always talk to your doctor before trying a new treatment. Some treatments may cause unintended side effects or interact negatively with medications you may be taking.
Traditional Indian medicine uses ashwagandha for many things, including sexual dysfunction and infertility. The plant’s roots and berries are used to make teas, extracts, and capsules.
One study looked at 46 infertile males and compared their sperm changes after taking ashwagandha or a placebo. Men who took ashwagandha saw:
- increased sperm concentrations
- enhanced volume of ejaculate
- increased serum testosterone levels
- improved sperm motility
Vitamin D, also called cholecalciferol, helps your body:
- fight off bacteria and viruses
- protect bones against osteoporosis
- absorb calcium into your bones
- increase testosterone levels
One study found that men who took 3,332 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily for one year significantly increased their testosterone levels. But vitamin D supplements may only work for men who are severely deficient in this specific vitamin. Another study found that men without a vitamin D deficiency had no increase in testosterone levels after taking vitamin D.
The recommended daily allowance is 4,000 IU per day. Getting 10 to 15 minutes of sunshine 3 times per week can help your body produce the vitamin D you need. Wearing sunscreen can decrease your absorption of Vitamin D, but it’s still recommended to protect you from skin cancer.
A zinc deficiency is often associated with low T. Zinc is an essential micronutrient. It helps your body:
- fight off invading bacteria and viruses
- produce DNA and genetic material
- repair the gastrointestinal tract
You need to consume it to maintain healthy zinc levels. You can consume zinc by eating:
- red meat
- dairy products
- fortified breakfast cereals
- zinc supplements
But zinc supplements only help boost testosterone levels for people with zinc deficiencies. The recommended zinc dosage is 5 to 10 mg for prevention or 25 to 45 mg for people with deficiencies. Many daily vitamins and supplements contain more than the daily value of zinc.
Excessive zinc intake 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 to a doctor about dosage amounts before taking zinc supplements.
Garlic is natural treatment for:
- hardened arteries
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- cancer prevention
- a weak immune system
One study saw increased testosterone levels in rats after they ate garlic cloves. However, 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. A typical dose of fresh garlic is 2 to 4 cloves.
Puncturevine is a tropical plant used in traditional folk medicine. Research results are mixed about its ability to increase testosterone levels.
One study found that men who took puncturevine for 60 days had improved sperm counts and increased testosterone levels. But the results didn’t prove to be significant. Puncturevine may only benefit people who are impotent.
The plant’s fruit, leaf, and root can be crushed to make teas, capsules, and tablets. It’s recommended to take no more than 1,500 mg per day, according to the AECOSAN Scientific Committee.
Also known as yohimbine, this herb may benefit people with low T and symptoms of low T.
A study found that yohimbe may be as effective as sildenafil (Viagra) for erectile dysfunction (ED) in rats. Both medications have similar effects on the brain, including increasing sexual arousal in males.
Yohimbe may also be prescribed to people taking selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a type of depression medication. Yohimbe can increase sexual excitement in men who take SSRIs or have general ED.
You can grind up yohimbe bark and make it into a tea, or you can purchase extracts in tablet or capsule form. Unlike most herbs and supplements, the FDA approved yohimbe as a prescription drug for ED.
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 supplements of DHEA and testosterone are mixed. Most studies report insignificant changes or results that can’t be duplicated.
In a review of 17 randomized, controlled trials, researchers found that taking DHEA can improve live birth rates in women. Men may also take this supplement for ED.
But there isn’t enough proof about the safety 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 can help:
- 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. More studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of pine bark extract for ED.
The suggested dosage for pine bark extract is 200 to 300 mg. But you should avoid this supplement if you are taking chemotherapy, anticoagulants, or immunosuppressive medications. Your dosage will depend on your health history, so talk with your doctor.
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
L-arginine doesn’t 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. Most recommendations range between 400 and 6,000 mg. To treat erectile dysfunction, 5 g of L-arginine per day for six weeks is possibly beneficial, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Chrysin is a flavonoid extract found in Passiflora incarnate, or blue passionflowers. You can take chrysin in the form of tea or supplements. Most chrysin supplements available today range in dosage strengths from 500 mg to 900 mg.
Studies in rats have shown that chrysin can increase sperm motility, sperm concentration, and testosterone levels. But the human body may not absorb chrysin very well, which could reduce this extract’s benefit.
Results are mixed regarding saw palmetto’s effects on testosterone. It may help boost libido, increase sperm production, and improve symptoms of low T.
A 2012 study found that taking saw palmetto can reduce the effects of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or an enlarged prostate, which affects your ability to urinate easily.
The definitive cause for BPH is unknown, though testosterone may play a role in causing the prostate to grow.
Malaysian ginseng is also known as Tongkat ali or E. longifolia. It’s a native Southeast Asian plant with properties that are:
As an herbal medicine, Malaysian ginseng can:
- increase libido
- enhance sports performance
- boost weight loss
- stimulate the production of androgen hormones, such as testosterone
- ease postpartum depression, high blood pressure, and fatigue
One study suggested this herb may help the body overcome other testosterone-related problems, including osteoporosis. It’s uncertain if Malaysian ginseng can increase testosterone or directly effect men’s bones.
Human clinical trials of Malaysian ginseng are limited. There’s no standard for the exact dosage that a person should take. One study had people take 600 milligrams (mg) of this extract and saw no negative effects on blood profiles and organ function.
Basella alba, also known as Indian spinach, is commonly used with hibiscus macranthus for fertility purposes.
Many alternative low T treatments hold promise, but they can be risky. Consult your doctor about treatment options for low T. They can help you decide what treatments are best for you and your condition.