- Puncture vine
- Ba ji li
For Patients & Caregivers
Tribulus has not been shown to treat or prevent cancer in humans.
Tribulus is an herb that grows in the subtropical regions of eastern and western Asia, southern Europe, and Africa. It is used in traditional medicine for chest pain, dizziness, skin and eye disorders, and to expel kidney stones. Tribulus is also marketed as a dietary supplement to improve sexual function and for body building due to the belief that it acts like testosterone in the body. However, this effect has not been confirmed. Studies done in lab and in animals show tribulus has medicinal effects against high blood pressure, diabetes, inflammation, infection, and cancer. However, there are no large scale studies conducted in humans.
Use of tribulus has been linked to adverse effects. Due to its potential hormonal activities, prostate cancer patients should avoid this herb until more is known about its safety.
- To treat cancer
Tribulus showed anticancer activities in lab studies. It has not been tested in humans as a cancer treatment.
- To lower blood pressure
Tribulus extract can relax blood vessels and may help to lower blood pressure.
- To enhance sexual function
Tribulus increases sperm production in animal models. However, studies of its effects on testosterone levels gave mixed results.
- To improve muscle strength and muscle mass
A clinical study did not find any significant changes in muscle strength or mass with use of tribulus.
- To treat infections
Tribulus has antifungal activities in lab studies. Human data are lacking.
- To reduce pain
Tribulus extract reduced inflammation in lab studies. But human studies have not been done.
- To treat kidney stones
Tribulus can promote urination and can stop the formation of calcium compounds that cause kidney stones. However, these effects have not been studied in humans.
- You are taking diruetics: Tribulus may increase the effects of diuretic drugs.
- You are taking antihypertensive drugs: Tribulus may have an additional blood pressure lowering effect.
- You are taking antidiabetics: Tribulus may have additive blood sugar lowering effects.
- You are taking clopidogrel: Tribulus may increase the risk of blood clots.
For Healthcare Professionals
Tribulus is a perennial herb that grows in the subtropical regions of eastern and western Asia, southern Europe, and Africa. It is used in traditional medicine for chest pain, dizziness, skin and eye disorders, and to expel kidney stones. Preliminary studies indicate that tribulus has analgesic (1), antihypertensive (2)(3), anti-inflammatory (4) antioxidant (5)(6), diuretic (7), hypoglycemic (8), antibacterial and antifungal (9)(10), and anticancer properties (11)(12).
Tribulus is marketed as a dietary supplement to enhance sexual function and for body building. It has been shown to increase sperm production in rats. (13) However, its effects on testosterone levels are mixed (14)(15)(16).
Due to its purported hormonal activities, prostate cancer patients should avoid this product.
A methanol extract of tribulus demonstrated COX-2 inhibition activity (4) suggesting this herb’s anti-inflammatory effects. Tribulus also exerts a protective effect in diabetic rats by inhibiting oxidative stress (6) and by lowering the levels of glycosylated hemoglobin and cholesterols (8). Consumption of tribulus causes motor neuron adverse effects in animals by affecting the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors (18). The methanolic and aqueous extracts of tribulus exert antihypertensive effects via relaxation of the arterial smooth muscle, through nitric oxide release and membrane hyperpolarization (3). The aqueous extract also has angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE)-inhibition activity (2) that can help lower blood pressure. Tribulus extract was shown to limit the formation of calcium oxalate and calcium hydrogen phosphate dihydrate crystal (21)(22), mineral compounds that can cause kidney stones.
Tribulus increases sperm production in rats (13) but does not alter testosterone levels in animals or humans (15)(16). In a study conducted in rats with ovarian cysts, tribulus extract showed a luteinizing effect related to gonadotropin-like activity (20).
Tribulus extracts induce apoptosis and suppresses cancer cell proliferation by activating caspase 3; dephosphorylating extracellular signal-related kinase (ERK) 1 and 2 (15); and by inhibiting Nuclear Factor (NF-kappa B) signaling (12). Saponins from tribulus inhibit Multiple-Drug Resistance (MDR) of cancer cells (11). In animal models, administration of oral tribulus resulted in a significant reduction in tumor incidence, tumor burden and cumulative number of papillomas (19).
- Diruetics: Tribulus may increase the effects of other diuretic drugs (7).
- Antihypertensive drugs: Tribulus has angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE)-inhibition activity and therefore, may have an additional hypotensive effect (2)(3).
- Antidiabetics: Tribulus may have additive hypoglycemic effects (8).
- Clopidogrel: May increase the risk of blood clots.
Stent thrombosis has been reported in patients following concurrent use of clopidogrel and an herbal formula containing tribulus (23).