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It’s natural to experience fluctuations in your libido, especially as you age.

Your lifestyle, current medications, and stress can all affect your sex drive. But testosterone — the hormone that boosts sexual desire, sperm production, bone density, and muscle mass — could also play a part (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

As a result of declining testosterone, you might have less interest in sex or notice changes in your sexual performance. Either of these effects may have an impact on your sexual relationships and overall mental and physical well-being.

If you’d like to address unwanted changes in your libido or sex life, you might consider ways to promote testosterone production, such as testosterone therapy or natural boosters and supplements (6).

Read on to learn more about potential causes of low testosterone and to get the details on testosterone boosters and how they might affect your sex drive.

Testosterone therapy vs. testosterone boosters

Healthcare professionals may treat low testosterone levels with testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). TRT, which involves using injections, oral medications, or topical creams that contain actual testosterone, is only available when prescribed by a doctor or another clinician.

You can also purchase over-the-counter (OTC) products marketed as testosterone supplements or boosters. These supplements don’t contain testosterone. They contain vitamins, minerals, and herbs intended to promote testosterone production.

In short, there’s a difference between supplementing with actual testosterone and taking supplements that contain vitamins and minerals intended to help boost testosterone production.

Testosterone and estrogen are your primary sex hormones. Everyone produces testosterone, but people assigned male at birth generally make more. People assigned female at birth tend to create more estrogen (7).

Testosterone is responsible for:

  • sperm production
  • the maturity of sex organs
  • increased body and facial hair
  • bigger muscles
  • deeper voices

Testosterone levels vary throughout the day, usually peaking early in the morning. Additionally, levels fluctuate over your life span and decline over the years, usually 1–2% per year after age 30 (8, 9, 10).

This could mean you have less interest in sex later in life and possibly fewer firm erections, as well as softer muscle tone.

Common symptoms of low testosterone include:

If you experience the above symptoms, it might be best to ask your doctor about testing for low testosterone.

Testosterone production naturally decreases over the course of your life. However, some other factors can also cause low testosterone levels (8, 9, 10, 11, 12).

Primary hypogonadism

Primary hypogonadism, in simple terms, means you have underactive testicles. Since your testicles produce testosterone, damage to them — such as through a physical injury or cancer treatment — can affect testosterone production.

Some conditions present at birth can also cause lower testosterone production. One example is Klinefelter syndrome, which causes a person to have three sex chromosomes: X, X, and Y. Another example is hemochromatosis, a condition that causes excess iron in the blood.

Undescended testicles can also cause low testosterone levels.

Secondary hypogonadism

Secondary hypogonadism means that low testosterone results from damage to the pituitary gland or the hypothalamus. These two parts of the brain regulate hormone production in the testes.

Secondary hypogonadism can happen naturally as a result of aging, but it can also have other causes (10, 11, 12), including:

  • pituitary disorders
  • Kallmann syndrome, a genetic condition connected to atypical hypothalamus function
  • inflammatory conditions such as sarcoidosis and tuberculosis, which can damage the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus
  • HIV, which can affect the pituitary gland, hypothalamus, and testes
  • obesity, which can affect hormone production and response
  • certain medications, including opioids and steroids
  • concurrent illness, including severe emotional or physical stress

You can have low testosterone levels as a result of primary hypogonadism, secondary hypogonadism, or mixed hypogonadism, which means you have damage to both your testes and your hormonal glands.

Testosterone boosters are OTC supplements, not medications prescribed by a healthcare professional.

These boosters commonly feature ingredients such as:

In general, high quality supplements containing the above ingredients are considered safe to use.

However, it’s always a good idea to discuss supplements with your doctor before taking them. It’s also important to make sure you follow the dosing guidelines on the label to avoid exceeding the recommended dosage of any vitamin or herbal supplement.

Keep in mind, too, that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t evaluate or regulate supplements in the same way as medications.

Check out our picks for the best testosterone-boosting supplements.

To date, little research has evaluated the effectiveness of testosterone supplements for improving sex drive.

In one study, researchers evaluated 50 different “T booster” supplements (13).

They found that, while 90% of these supplements claimed to increase testosterone production, only 24.8% of them actually had data to support their claims. What’s more, 10.1% of the supplements contained ingredients that appeared to negatively affect testosterone production.

Among the supplements evaluated, 13 products also contained vitamins and minerals in excess of the FDA’s Tolerable Upper Intake Level. In other words, taking a daily dose of some of these supplements may pose a risk to your health.

If you’d like to try to increase your testosterone by taking a vitamin supplement, these tips can help:

  • Ask your doctor for a recommendation.
  • Do some research before choosing a product. Read labels to make sure the supplement doesn’t contain any vitamin or mineral in excess of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA).
  • Opt for supplements that have undergone third-party testing.

Learn more about choosing high quality vitamins and supplements.

Testosterone supplements are often framed as boosters that can enhance your sex drive naturally — but they could still cause some side effects.

The specific side effects you might experience will depend on the type of booster and how much you take:

  • Zinc may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain (14).
  • Fenugreek is generally well tolerated, but it might cause nausea and diarrhea for some people (15).
  • Vitamin B6 can cause nausea and heartburn if you take too much. Consistently taking too much vitamin B6 can also cause you to have difficulty controlling body movement (16).
  • Tribulus terrestris seems to have minimal side effects, although it could lead to stomach cramps and reflux (17).
  • Magnesium is generally safe, but excessive amounts can lead to low blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, and muscle weakness (18).
  • Boron, in excessive amounts, can lead to headaches, kidney problems, vomiting, and diarrhea (19).
  • DIM can cause gas and headaches (20).

Taking only the recommended dosage and making sure not to exceed the RDA can help you avoid side effects.

Just remember, it’s always best to ask a healthcare professional about any supplement you’d like to try — including the kinds you can buy online, in supplement stores, or over the counter. They can provide information about any potential medication interactions and personalized guidance on the best supplement for your needs.

It’s essential to ask your doctor before taking supplements if you currently take any medications or have existing health conditions.

While low testosterone is one common cause of low sex drive in men, other factors can also contribute.

Emotional or mental health causes that might contribute to reduced libido include:

Physical causes that could lead to a decreased sex drive include having a chronic illness or taking certain medications, such as opioids, beta-blockers, or antidepressants.

A healthcare professional can help you narrow down possible causes of low libido. They may also recommend therapy if they believe psychological factors might play a part.

Not sure you want to try either testosterone therapy or supplements? You still have options for increasing testosterone production, including these natural remedies:

  • Exercise regularly: Certain types of exercise may help promote testosterone production. Aim for moderate to high intensity resistance exercise that involves multiple muscles (21).
  • Include enough fat in your diet: A low fat diet may lower testosterone levels, so it may be helpful to eat a balanced diet that includes sources of healthy fat such as avocado, cheese, nuts, and fatty fish (22).
  • Try to get enough sleep: Research has linked lack of quality sleep to lower testosterone levels. Aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night for optimal health as well as increased testosterone (23).
  • Look for healthy ways to manage your stress levels: Learning and practicing stress management techniques can help you better cope with stress in the moment so it has less of an impact on your overall well-being.

Your doctor can also offer more personalized recommendations for possible lifestyle changes specific to your situation.

Maybe you’ve noticed some signs of decreased testosterone production, including a drop in your sex drive, and natural remedies don’t make much of a difference.

A good next step is to connect with a doctor or another healthcare professional. They can check your testosterone levels and offer guidance on potential next steps.

If you’ve tried testosterone supplements and still have less of a sex drive than you’d like, they can also provide more information about other treatment options, including testosterone therapy and counseling.

Gender affirming testosterone therapy

If you’re seeking gender affirming hormone therapy, it’s important to work with a trusted healthcare professional who can prescribe testosterone. Natural testosterone boosters won’t have the same masculinizing effect.

Learn more about testosterone for gender affirming care.

Are testosterone supplements safe for everyone?

Most people can safely take high quality supplements that contain minerals and vitamins such as zinc and vitamin B6.

However, it’s important not to take more than the recommended dosage, as excessive amounts of certain vitamins and minerals can have side effects. Ask your doctor about the potential risks and benefits before taking testosterone supplements.

How long does it take to get results from testosterone supplements?

Testosterone supplements contain different ingredients in varying dosages, and existing research has yet to explore the effects these boosters have on sex drive.

In short, experts don’t have enough information to determine how long it takes testosterone supplements to work.

If you don’t notice results after a few weeks, you may want to connect with your doctor for more support.

What else can you do to increase testosterone levels?

If testosterone supplements are not right for you, you can increase your testosterone levels naturally by:

  • getting more sleep and exercise
  • finding healthy ways to manage stress or lower your stress levels
  • eating a balanced and nutritious diet

What are the side effects of testosterone supplements?

The side effects of a testosterone supplement will depend on the makeup of the specific product. For example, zinc supplements may cause nausea and vomiting in some people.

Similarly, potassium supplements are generally well tolerated, but taking too large of a dose could cause abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia).

A drop in sex drive could happen for a number of reasons. Decreasing testosterone levels may offer one explanation, but stress, trauma, and relationship issues can also factor in.

Testosterone supplements may have some benefit for increasing testosterone production, which could help boost your sex drive — if your drop in libido does, in fact, relate to low testosterone. Therapy can also be helpful, as can lifestyle habits such as getting more sleep and taking steps to reduce stress.

A healthcare professional can check your testosterone levels and help you determine the cause of your low sex drive. From there, you can discuss whether testosterone supplements are the best option for you.