8 Testosterone Enhancing Supplements (and 2 drugs) That Will Keep You From Turning Into A Girl
These eight testosterone enhancing supplements and two drugs might just be what you need to generate more vim and vigor (among other things). But, men, beware estradiol. And women, you need testosterone, too.
Men who suffer from low testosterone complain of fatigue, weakness, poor sleep, poor concentration, decreased strength, loss of muscle mass, and decreased libido. Now before you feel sorry for those poor lads, consider that you may be among them. Take a look at where your testosterone level is likely to be given your age:
Unless you’ve recently had your testosterone levels checked and have reason to think otherwise, assume that yours is right where the above graph shows given your age. As you’ll learn in a few beats, “free testosterone” is more important than “total testostesrone”, and that “SHBG” stands for Sexual Binding Globulin, which is bound testosterone not available for use in the body, and it goes up as testosterone declines.
So, things aren’t where they used to be, eh? I mean those testosterone numbers fall faster than a skydiver. Would nice to have a parachute, yes; one with little propellers to lift you back up to those robust numbers of your youth. The good news is that it’s possible. If you want to get your testosterone back up closer to youthful levels, experiment with various supplements that BOTH enhance testosterone AND reduce estrogen; specifically, estradiol.
And that’s just what I’m going show you, but first, let’s turn to the ladies. Yes, gals, even though your testosterone is about one-tenth that of guys, you need a certain amount of it to be healthy.
As with men, “normal” levels of testosterone vary from one woman to another, but according to the National Institutes of Health, the normal range of total testosterone is 30 to 95 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) for women (or 1 to 3.3 nmol/l). This compares to 300 to 1,200 ng/dL for men (or 10.4 to 40 nmol/l); again, about ten times more than women. (1)
(That said, there are so many variables that affect testosterone – age and progesterone among the most prominent – that these numbers aren’t particularly helpful, and is one good reason why if you’re serious about anything involving hormones, it’s wise to consult an endocrinologist.)
Menopausal women are often prone to low testosterone levels. Similarly to men, a forty-year-old woman has approximately half the testosterone of a twenty-year-old. On average, testosterone levels in females fall by as much as five percent per year beginning when they turn twenty. (2)
(Ladies, if you’re interested in Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy, you need to know about the estrodial/progesterone balance, the best way to take it, and how to test for hormone levels. So go read my article about that.)
Now that we’re clear that testosterone is important and that it inevitably declines as we age, let’s examine which supplements might improve things, begining first with a resource that can tell you what’s BS and what’s real.
Examine Your Supplements at Examine.com
Well, you can! In my humble opinion, Examine.com is a must-read website for anyone that consumes supplements for a very simple reason.
The simple reason: Supplement companies routinely exaggerate (to put it mildly) the benefits their products offer. What Examine does is to dig into the science and present in laymen terms what a particular supplement ingredient does and doesn’t do. (I wrote about Examine.com here and here.)
When it comes to boosting testosterone, for example, many people have been conditioned by supplement companies to think that supplements that increase libido do the same thing for testosterone, as if one irrevocably leads to the other. Not so, says Examine, and points out two such supplements that may indeed improve libido but not testosterone: Maca and Tribulus terrestris.
Examine publishes various “Stack Guides” that present a specific group of individual supplements (“Stacks”) that work together to help create a health benefit. They have 16 such Stacks; namely:
- Testosterone Enhancement
- Fat Loss
- Muscle Gain & Exercise Performance
- Mood and Depression
- Heart Health
- Sleep Quality
- Insulin Sensitivity
- Memory and Focus
- Skin and Hair Quality
- Libido and Sexual Enhancement
- Liver Health
- Allergies and Immunity
- Bone Health
- Joint Health
(Update: Just learned that a 17th guide has been added for 2016 that addresses the supplements helpful to deal with Anxiety. Learn about all the Guides here.)
When you purchase a stack you get lifetime updates, and in fact, such updates are being emailed to me now. The update on Testosterone instigated this article, and I want you to know that I’m an affiliate of Examine.com.
In each Stack Guide, Examine reveals the following insights:
- The Core supplements are most likely to help, while having little to no side effects. They tend to have more research backing than do the other supplements.
- The Primary options may provide substantial benefit, but only in the right context. A primary option is not for everyone, but if it meets your criteria, may be considered as additions to your Stack.
- The Secondary options offer another group of potentially beneficial supplements, but with less evidence for their effects. They could work or be a waste of money. Be mindful of them, but think twice before incorporating them into your Stack.
- The Inadvisable supplements have either been shown to be ineffective, marketing claims notwithstanding, or are considered too risky. Do not add them to your stack. At best, they will be a waste of money; at worst, they can cause you harm.
In addition to the above insights, Examine can add different dosage recommendations based on a person’s gender, age or other specifics. For instance, in their Testosterone Enhancement Stack, they suggest different amounts of their suggested testosterone boosting supplements for young and middle-aged men.
I can not in good conscious rip-off Examine and give you the contents of the various supplements and doses that their research shows are most efficacious for boosting testosterone, but I will admit that some of the supplements listed below are part of their Testosterone Stack.
The 8 Testosterone Enhancing Supplements + 2 Drugs
I’ll begin with Mike Mahler’s Aggressive Strength for two simple reasons: (1) Unless you’ve already read what I’ve previously written about it, chances are that this unique combination of Bulbine Natalensis, Stinging Nettles Root, Mucuna Pruriens and Ashwagandha is new to you; and (2) I have direct and positive experience using Aggressive Strength and personally know of two other men (friends of mine) who have used and benefited from it.
You’ll see that Stinging Nettles and Ashwagandha are described below, so I’ll only mention Bulbine Natalensis here. It’s a South African herb that reportedly can increase testosterone by 347% and reduce estrogen by 35% according to ProLensis, the manufacturer that Mike Mahler uses. (3) (4)
Learn more about Aggressive Strength here.
#2. Stinging Nettles
Might as well touch on Stinging Nettles next since it was just mentioned above. There are good reasons that Mike Mahler included this herb in his Aggressive Strength formula.
Our Stinging Nettles story begins in Exter, England with a 19-year old man-child with Mt. Everest high testosterone. Displeased with his libido –- which is the first I’ve ever heard about coming from a 19-year old male – the fella started using a supplement called Activate Xtreme, which in short order caused his testosterone level to climb to mountain heights. (5)
This happened due to an herb contained in Activate Xtreme called “3,4-divanillyltetrahydrofuran” (brand name, “Divanil”), which is an extract found in the roots of Stinging Nettles, and boosts the concentration of free testosterone.
Testosterone in the blood exists in three forms:
- SBGH – Sexual Binding Globulin (bound testosterone not available for use in the body).
- Estrogen – through a process called aromatization, the testosterone is changed to estradiol, the most potent of the estrogen hormones.
- Free Testosterone – testosterone that is free to be used by the body.
Free testosterone is the testosterone in the blood that’s available to bind to receptors in the brain, muscle, and other organs of the body, making it available to be used by the body, as needed — bioavailable. Free testosterone is the most important testosterone form, because it’s not bound up or being used.
Free testosterone plays a pivotal role in our teenager story. When endocrinologists in Exeter tested the young man, they found both high testosterone and estrogen. Testosterone can be changed through aromatization to estrogen, which is why many testosterone enhancing supplements contain anti-aromatizing compounds, like indole-3-carbinol, zinc, DIM (Diindoylmethane) and calcium-d-glucarate.
In the Exeter case, our erstwhile youngster took a supplement with several ingredients that boosted testosterone, but without those that could keep some of it from changing to estradiol.
All by itself, Stinging Nettles may be a useful supplement to enhance testosterone, but as Examine.com’s Testosterone Enhancement Stack reports, human studies are needed to support this contention.
Let’s stick with this “aromatization” subject and talk about Clomid, a fertility drug.
Naturally, you’d have to make a pretty good case to your doctor why you would want to take Clomid if making babies wasn’t your aim, but I wanted to add it to the list to again underscore the importance of enhancing testosterone without increasing estradiol as well.
In a Brazilian study, a small dose (25 mg) of the active ingredient in Clomid, clomiphene citrate, was given to a cohort of men from between three to six months. Their testosterone nearly doubled!
The reason this worked to increase testosterone is because clomiphene citrate is an anti-oestrogen that makes the brain think that there is too little steroid hormone circulating in the blood. As a result, higher levels of steering hormones are produced, which stimulate testosterone production in the testes.
(“Steering hormones” either release or inhibit hormones into the blood stream.)
Scientists at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Texas tested the herb Fenugreek on bodybuilders. What they found marks Fenugreek as another anti-oestrogen.
This Texas study is particularly interesting to me because bodybuilders are already moving heaven and earth to find anything that can help them build more muscle, so you’d think that any additional supplement would have a small net effect, if any.
And yet after giving 15 of the 30 bodybuilders in the study 500 mg of Fenugreek extract for eight weeks, and the others (the controls) a placebo, researchers found that those taking the herb increased their amount of bio-available testosterone by 26%. Importantly, the estradiol levels did not increase by this much, which as mentioned now ad nausem, tends to happen when testosterone increases via testosterone enhancing supplementation. (6)
My final contestant on the anti-oestrogen stage is a drug called Letrozole. If you’re a fat man, listen up.
Obese men have lower testosterone levels, mainly because fat mass produces aromatase. Fat may be unsightly but perhaps more importantly, men who are very overweight tend to have problems with reduced libido and depression, in addition to a host of other physical problems. The good news is that endocrinologists at the Rijnstate Hospital in Arnhem, the Netherlands, discovered that they could change this with surprisingly low doses of Letrozole.
At only 2.5 mg per week, Letrozole turned out to be a very fine aromatase inhibitor, it would seem, because both free testosterone increased and free estradiol declined, but by what amounts the summary of the study did not say, and the graphs are too difficult to read. You can check it out here.
Ashwagandha is a favorite of mine, and, like Stinging Nettles, is also in Mahler’s Aggressive Strength formulae. I wrote about this Indian herb in an article called More Muscle, Testosterone and Calm with Ashwagandha, and as the title suggests, this Indian herb is an adaptogen that both moderates cortisol (which the adrenals pump out when you’re stressed) and can improve testosterone and muscle development.
As reported by ergo-log.com, a university study of 75 men who were having problems conceiving children took Ashwagandha resulting in these outcomes:
- Those infertile improved testosterone by 15%.
- Those with slow-moving sperm improved testosterone by 21%.
- Those with low sperm count improved testosterone by 40%.
#7. Pine pollen
Pine pollen is another testosterone enhancer that I’ve tried, a recent addition to my arsenal. I’d like to be able to tell you that it clearly boosted my testosterone, but it’s still too early to tell.
More important than my personal experience is what the science says. In the case of Pine Pollen, the stuff actually contains male hormones, says AnabolicMen.com. Here’s the breakdown for a Pine Pollen varietal called Pinus Sylverstis:
- 80 ng/g of testosterone,
- 110 ng/g of epitestosterone, and
- 590 ng/g androstenedione.
The main issue with taking Pine Pollen for boosting testosterone is that so much of the powder form of the stuff does not get past the gastrointestinal tract and into the bloodstream. The workaround is to buy (or make) a tincture.
I have yet to find a scientific study to support the contention that Pine Pollen will actually increase testosterone in men, but there’s a lot of anecdotal “evidence”. One I’d like to cite comes from health guru and all-around fitness buff Ben Greenfield who said this:
I started taking pine pollen tablets three times a day. My reasoning went like this “This product is probably just a natural health product that does very little, so let’s see what happens when I start off by taking the full dose… probably nothing.” And I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The next morning I woke up with a raging erection like someone had slipped Cialis into my mouth while I was asleep. The effects compounded over the next ten days as I continued the dosage at the full level. I told myself that I would give each phase of my T-boosting tests two weeks each (to really see if each phase made a difference), and the pine pollen phase was the only one that I had to cut short because it was too intense.
I could barely concentrate on anything. Every woman that walked by me looked amazing. Sex was on my mind constantly (and I have a relatively low sex drive normally so this was totally out of the ordinary for me). After ten days of the fourteen day test, I cut my dosage back to half of the recommend amount and I felt much more like a human being again (and less like an animal).
Well, Ben, that wasn’t my experience, but I’m probably 20 years older than you and didn’t take the Pine Pollen three times a day, but only once daily in powder form in my morning smoothie.
#8. Vitamin D
Did you know that Vitamin D is really not vitamin, but a hormone — one that regulates 3% of our genes?
Vitamin D has so many health benefits that I just had to list a bunch of them. Check out, 30 Reasons to Take Vitamin D, and watch renowned Vitamin D expert Dr. Michael Holick demystify this essential hormone.
From the perspective of testosterone enhancement, fifty years ago German sports scientists discovered that power athletes made better progression in the season when they had high vitamin D levels in their blood. The findings of a study conducted by the Medical University Graz in Austria may have learned why.
They found out that testosterone levels in men tends to fluctuate by season, and is higher during the summer when the sun’s out longer and shines stronger. As you probably know, sunshine makes the human body produce Vitamin D, so it makes sense that if Vitamin D has something to do with increasing testosterone, more of it will exist when we’re exposed to the sun.
What’s not clear is if the Austrian’s seasonal analysis was indicative of correlation rather than causation. To show causation, they needed to see if supplementing with Vitamin D caused testosterone to increase, controlling for all other potential influences. What they discovered is that it took 1,000 IUs or more of Vitamin D to increase testosterone in those tested. (7)
In its Testosterone Stack, Examine.com does what it does best – it makes an important distinction. This time, and relevant to Vitamin D, it reports that this hormones value to middle age men exceeds that for young men.
#9. Onion Juice
I saved the craziest for last. Yes, I know that onion juice is not a supplement per se, but you can supplement your diet with it. In this case, you’ll need a juicer or a mighty blender – not to mention a mightier stomach. Or you can buy a bottle on Amazon.com:
Perhaps you might also need to be a rat. If you are a rat and can get someone to force feed you onion juice, you, my friend, may be able to increase your testosterone level by 314%.
That’s what happened to a group of rats in an Iranian study. In Iran many men with fertility problems can’t afford to buy medicine. Iranian researchers, therefore, seek alternatives to medicines that can increase production of testosterone and sperm in the testes.
Apparently, onion juice has this amazing stimulating effect on testosterone due to its anti-oxidant prowess. The story starts with malondialdehyde, a mutagenic substance produced when free radicals damage the unsaturated fatty acids in cell membranes.
OK, here we need a time out to find out what these terms mean, cause right now I have no clue about two of them… OK given the magic of the Net:
- Malondialdehyde is a naturally occurring reactive oxygen species (which are chemically reactive molecules containing oxygen) that is a marker for oxidative stress (which occurs when a biological system can not detoxify or repair damage caused by the reactive oxygen species).
- A Mutagen is a physical or chemical agent that changes genetic material, and thus increases the frequency of mutations above the naturally occurring background level.
- Free radicals (this one I know) are molecules that have one unpaired electron on the oxygen atom. Once formed they can start a chain reaction, like dominoes, and damage important cellular components such as DNA, or the cell membrane, causing cellular dysfunction or death.
Thus, what’s likely happening here with the rats and the onion juice is that certain antioxidants in the onion juice (phenols such as quercetin and isorhamnetin) reduce the malondialdehyde concentrations (and thereby the mutagens) by neutralizing the free radicals in the testes. With the free radicals under control, nothing interferes with testosterone production and the rats get real masculine.
#10. Royal Jelly
After all that onion juice, you’re going to want something sweet.
Royal Jelly is a honeybee secretion that is used in the nutrition of bee larvae, as well as adult queens. Sounds disgusting but the stuff is tasty, just like honey.
Not only will Royal Jelly satisfy your sweet tooth, but also might boost your testosterone by 22%. Or by 20%. I dunno, the description of the study starts off at 22% but ends with 20%. (Either way, it’s a good excuse to mix globs of Royal Jelly in your tea… or your onion juice!)
Such is the findings of another mid-east study, this one done by the Thi-Qar College of Medicine in Iraq. And we’re not talking rats here, but good ole human peoples. The Royal Jelly amped up testosterone and got a bunch of dormant spermatozoa in 83 infertile men to become Olympian swimmers.
Let’s get some bullets going for you article scanners.
- Testosterone is very important to maintain or improve the health of both men and women.
- It inevitably declines as we age.
- We don’t have to accept this decline, but can enhance testosterone levels by supplements, and it sure helps to get seven-plus hours of restful sleep and do regular weight-bearing exercise to build/maintain muscle. (Yeah, I didn’t get into those last two, but go here and read to your heart’s content.)
- Men, make sure your supplements (or drugs for that matter) help reduce or maintain your estradiol levels (if already low).
- Women, recognize that your level of progesterone is connected to testosterone, and that you’re simply more complicated beings from a hormonal perspective, so get checked by an endocrinologist, and read my article, Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy Is Simple — Just Follow Mother Nature’s Recipe.
Over and out.