For those of you that don’t know by now, truth is hard to come by in this industry. Sadly, it is clouded and hidden by hype, lies and myths. Because companies and the people that run them are enslaved to the “almighty dollar”, integrity is tossed to the wind and replaced by pure and simple dishonesty. This unfortunate situation pervades nearly every aspect of sports nutrition and fitness. From advertisements to articles to the magazines themselves, our industry has fallen and it can’t seem to get up! What is the answer you say? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but their just isn’t any simple solution. That doesn’t mean though that there is nothing we can do. For my part, I have committed to always write and speak the truth even when the information may not be popular or financially rewarding. Your part must consist of critically evaluating everything you hear and read in this industry. Take the advice of an old, wise man I once knew. He said, “Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.” If you heed this warning in regards to this industry you should fair quite well. When you come across hype and lies, my recommendation is to ignore the information and refuse to buy the product. This is greatest power you can wield as a consumer. You might be wondering how this has anything to do with Tribulus—and rightly so—but our good friend Tribulus has experienced a terrible injustice due exactly to what I have described above. In this article, I will elucidate the truth about Tribulus and, in so doing, will expose a whole new beautiful realm…the realm of furostanolic saponins.

About a year ago, I received 22 letters in a two-month time span regarding the efficacy of the herb Tribulus (Terrestris) as an ergogenic substance. Tribulus, also known as puncture vine, has been sold in the sports nutrition industry for several years as a means of raising testosterone levels. Until a year ago, this herb never really interested me, as I didn’t really believe it to be all that effective. Strangely enough, the 22 letters sparked my interest. Some people experienced no results whatsoever; while others swore that it helped them to some extent in their pursuit of physical fitness. To gain a better understanding, I started vigorously researching this humble herb. The first thing I pursued was the pharmacologically active component or components of our friend Tribulus. Without knowing this crucial information, there could be no way of effectively standardizing this herb. One batch might have high concentrations of the critical compounds and another might have little or none…how would you know? After a little research, I found that the important substances in Tribulus Terrestris are what are known as furostanolic saponins. With this information, I had a starting point to understand and uncover the truth about our herbal friend.

The first thing that I accomplished with my newfound knowledge was to examine the various products on the market to see what quantities of these saponins they contained. What I discovered literally shocked me! I didn’t find one product that actually standardized the Tribulus to furostanolic saponins. A few products claimed that they contained 40% furostanolic saponins but, upon testing, they were shown to have only negligible amounts of these active ingredients. From all of my research and talking to various manufacturers of Tribulus extract, I found that none of them standardized their product for furostanolic saponins. At best, they standardized the Tribulus simply for saponins. The problem is that Tribulus contains a fairly large proportion of spirostanolic saponins. An even further problem is that many products actually contained 40% saponins but had less than 5% furostanolic saponins. The only two explanations for this phenomenon are that the Tribulus was of extremely poor quality or that the manufacturer simply spiked the product with extremely CHEAP saponins like those found in soy. Why would they do this you say? Well, these manufacturers aren’t idiots and they know that it is extremely difficult to accurately test for furostanolic saponins. Furthermore, they know that most U.S. testing labs only test for total saponins via a simple, crude testing method. It is therefore highly probable that many Tribulus Terrestris products currently on the market are nothing more than garbage for their intended purpose. Furostanolic saponins have specific biological properties while other saponins including the spirostanolic type have not been shown to exhibit the same potent effects.

Because the manufacturers of Tribulus extract produce such poor quality products, it is no wonder that nearly all of the Tribulus products on the market are extremely under dosed and ineffective. When Tribulus does happen to be effective for someone, it is most likely attributable to an unusually high amount of furostanolic saponins in that particular bottle combined with an unusually sensitive person. The reason I say that the person must be quite sensitive to these furostanolic saponins is that from my research I have not found one product on the market which has enough furostanolic saponins in it to work even marginally effective in a majority of people. Available research demonstrates that a person should consume between 500mg and 1000mg of these special saponins in order to consistently elicit the proper response. To demonstrate the sorry state of affairs regarding this product, let me use the example of one product on the market called Tribex 500 produced by Biotest. The fellows at Biotest claim that they have the most potent Tribulus extract on the market and that their product is the only one that is truly effective. What is interesting is that according to their published information, their Tribex 500 contains only 20mg of furostanolic saponins. You do the math--you would have to take 25 capsules per day to get the required effect. What is interesting is that in another report on their site, they allude to the fact that you need high dosages of these saponins for a true effect. What is going on? Again, the problem is a dearth of quality extracts. Because these supplement companies are only interested in the almighty dollar, they throw their research into the wind and develop a product that they know is under dosed. Because of all of these problems, I must recommend against buying ANY Tribulus product on the market right now. I am hoping that printing truthful information like this, though, will eventually transform this industry for the better!

Are there any solutions to this dilemma? If indeed furostanolic saponins are efficacious compounds, it is a shame that a quality product cannot be easily obtained. Well, good news is forthcoming! I have been working on solving this issue for the last year and have a solution is that is quite amazing. If we are fortunate, there should be several companies that actually produce quality furostanolic saponin products in the near future. I attempted to solve our dilemma with a two-pronged approach. Firstly, I worked with the best extract manufacturers in the world to develop a Tribulus Terrestris product that is standardized for a minimum of 40% furostanolic saponins. Secondly, I researched all of the available literature to see if there were any other plants that contained high amounts of these saponins. Not only did I find two other plants, which contained these saponins in high quantities (much higher than in Tribulus), but also I discovered a wealth of research relating to the biological activity of the specific furostanolic saponins in these plants.

The first plant that I discovered which is quite interesting is Fenugreek. This herb is rather common and has been used in many cultures for its health-promoting benefits. A marvelous fact is that nearly all of the saponins in this herb are of the furostanolic type. I contacted a few extract manufacturers and was able to quickly develop a product that contained over 75% furostanolic saponins. Now, remember that Biotest claims to have the most potent Tribulus extract and according to their published results it only contains, at most, 20% furostanolic saponins! With a 75% standardized extract, it would be considerably easier to obtain the required 500mg to 1000mg per day of furostanolic saponins. While Tribulus has been studied as a method for increasing testosterone, fenugreek has been conclusively shown to have potent appetite-increasing effects. Although different effects have been studied and noted for Tribulus and Fenugreek, I have to wonder if there would truly be any real-world differences in the actions of their furostanolic saponins. Research on the saponins of each plant shows some chemical differences but they appear to be mostly similar in their chemical makeup.

Another plant that I stumbled upon in my literature review was a common plant called Dioscorea deltodea. Believe it or not, this plant is actually cultivated for its high concentration of furostanolic saponins. These saponins are extracted and then hydrolyzed into what is known as Diosgenin. You might recognize this compound as the starting material for many steroids. Once I knew that it contained the required compounds, I then began searching for research as to it biological properties. What I found is truly amazing. Russia has not only studied the furostanolic saponins from this plant but has also developed a drug. The specific indications for this drug are as an immunomodulator, an ovulation stimulator, and as an ANABOLIC agent. In one study, the anabolic effects were as strong as a very high dosage of testosterone propionate! Again, I am not convinced that this effect is exclusive to just Dioscorea saponins since the predominant saponins are the same as those contained in Fenugreek and Tribulus. As with the studies done on Tribulus and Fenugreek, the effective dosage of these saponins was on the order of 500mg to 1000mg per day. Fortunately, like Fenugreek, I was able to find a manufacturer that could consistently produce a standardized minimum of 75% furostanolic Dioscorea saponins.

Hopefully, this article has given you hope that all is not lost concerning Tribulus. It is truly a crime when dishonest and careless companies and individuals malign the reputation of a truly beneficial product like this. Fortunately, a new era is about to unfold which will not only redeem the reputation of Tribulus but also bring Fenugreek and Dioscorea into their proper glory. Again, never buy a product that will not allow you to obtain at least 500mg of furostanolic saponins per day. As long as you take this minimal amount, you can expect to have some fairly rewarding results—increased testosterone production, increased appetite and increased anabolic potential!