In writing this article, I set out to accomplish a bold task: to write a be-all end-all testosterone booster review, comparing all of the popular supplements used to promote male hormone levels and to find out what is the best testosterone booster out there.
Testosterone is the most prominent male hormone. It controls the development of masculine properties, muscle growth and bone formation. In addition, testosterone affects our energy levels, happiness, sense of well-being, and the way we react to our surroundings.
Low testosterone levels, on the other hand, reduce self-confidence, make men feel like shit, and increase the risk of various health problems.
This supplement comparison is a modified version of the supplement chapter from the eBook: Natural Testosterone Enhancement.
Although supplements are not a primary method for boosting testosterone production, making use of them is tempting due to their ease of use. Testosterone booster supplements sell like hotcakes even though many of the See products do not really have any effects on male hormone production.
In the table and chapters below I have reviewed and rated 16 of the most common supplements used and advertised to increase the production of male hormones. The ratings are based on scientific evidence, safety, and my personal experiences with the supplements.
And the Best Testosterone Boosters Are
|Horny goat weed|
|Deer Antler Velvet|
|A commonly used and studied nutrient that is safe for most people|
|Not enough data on the long-term health effects of the nutrient|
|Although not useful for testosterone boosting efforts, maca and tribulus have gained a second paler star for their ability to increase libido|
Vitamin D is a hormone precursor, which is synthesized in the skin when exposed to sunlight. In addition to multiple major health risks, vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to impaired testosterone production in men.
Ensuring sufficient vitamin D intake is one of the easiest ways to boost testosterone production:
1. Vitamin D deficiency lowers testosterone levels (1)
2. In cold and dark seasons, vitamin D is not synthesized in the skin because of clothes covering the skin and the fact that the sun shines from an unfavorable angle
3. Studies have found that vitamin D as a supplement increases testosterone (2)
4. Researchers have also observed that testosterone production rises until vitamin D blood levels reach the so-called sweet spot: 80 nmol/l (or 32 ng/ml) (3)
During a sunny summer, you can get enough vitamin D just by being outside. However during winters in places like the north of America, Canada, Europe and northern Asia, it is simply not possible to get enough vitamin D from the sun. In the winter months, 50 micrograms (2000 IU) of vitamin D is enough to keep vitamin D blood levels in the healthy range for most people.
The efficacy of vitamin D supplementation is personal. The best way to ensure adequate vitamin D status is to have your vitamin D blood levels measured. In my opinion, vitamin d is one of the best, if not the best testosterone booster, because it is a relatively safe supplement, and correcting any deficiencies of it also produces tons of other health benefits.
Creatine – The Best Testosterone Booster?
Creatine came into public view in 1992, after the Barcelona Olympics when newspapers reported that Linford Christie, the winner of 100 meters gold, along with other British athletes, had used creatine supplements in preparation for the games.
Generally speaking, half of the creatine in our bodies is synthesized from amino acids in the liver, pancreas and kidneys. The other half is derived from foods eaten.
In studies, creatine has been discovered to
- Increase power levels (1, 2, 3)
- Promote muscle growth (4, 5, 6)
- Increase endurance (7, 8, 9)
- Increase testosterone levels (10, 11, 12)
Creatine is involved in building one of the most important energy sources in our bodies, adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Throughout the human body, cells use ATP as an intermediary of energy. For example, when lifting weights, the improved ATP function achieved with creatine allows us to lift heavier weights and to do more repetitions.
Besides being very effective, creatine is also a rather cheap supplement. The most common and cheapest form creatine monohydrate is extremely effective. You will not get any added benefits from the more expensive creatine variants.
A loading period is often recommended, during which approximately 20g of creatine is taken per day for the first week. After the loading period, 5g per day per day is taken during the maintenance period. A 4-week break follows a 6-week maintenance period. The loading period can be skipped in order to avoid stress on the kidneys.
In studies, creatine has not been seen to cause any major risks for health. (13) The absorption of creatine can be improved by taking it with carbohydrates. Water consumption should also be increased while using creatine.
Creatine is perhaps the most researched sports supplement and it is safe to say it is one of the best testosterone boosters available.
Ashwagandha is a respected medicine used in the traditional Indian healthcare practice Ayurveda. Ashwagandha is thought to be one of the most potent adaptogens, thus meaning that it has a ability to stabilize hormonal functions and discharge stress from the body.
More often than not, everything stated above would be a bunch of baloney. However, controlled studies have shown that ashwagandha reduces the levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increases testosterone levels.
What do the studies say about ashwagandha?
a) 300mg of concentrated ashwagandha root extract, as well as 5g of ashwagandha root powder, decreased cortisol levels in study participants across two separate studies. The supplements were taken daily and the studies lasted for 2 and 3 months respectively. (1, 2)
b) In a recent double-blind placebo-controlled Indian study, 300 mg of ashwagandha twice a day for 8 weeks led to a 15 % increase in testosterone levels in healthy young men. During the study, strength levels and muscle mass grew even more significantly in men taking ashwagandha when compared to the control group. (3)
c) Multiple studies have examined ashwagandha’s effects on men suffering from infertility. Testosterone levels have been observed to increase by 16 – 40% in men who have low testosterone and poor sperm quality. In a study from 2013, the number of sperm cells rose 2.5-fold and sperm volume increased by 50% with ashwagandha use. (4, 5, 6, 7)
In some of these studies, the levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) were also measured. LH regulates testosterone production and FSH controls sperm production in the testicles. It was discovered that both LH and FSH levels increase with ashwagandha. This further validates ashwagandha’s reputation as an adaptogen, as it seems to be able to support and stabilize hormonal functions. (8, 9)
Ashwagandha is probably the best testosterone booster amongst herbal male hormone boosters, followed closely by tongkat ali and mucuna pruriens.
Zinc is similar to vitamin D in regards test levels: deficiency of the nutrient harms testosterone production. Previously I have written a more extensive post about zinc and testosterone.
In a study conducted in 1996, the researchers found that zinc deficiency is connected to poor testosterone production. They also observed that zinc supplementation was effective in fixing the deficiencies and normalizing testosterone levels. (1)
Stress and physical exertion increase zinc depletion in our bodies. A Turkish study found that intense physical exercise reduces testosterone and thyroid hormone levels both in high-level athletes (wrestlers) and in sedentary men. It was also noted that using zinc during the 4-week training period prevented a drop in testosterone and thyroid hormone levels. (2, 3)
The therapeutic potential of zinc supplementation has also been studied in relation to infertility treatment. During a 5-year-long study, 9 of 22 previously infertile couples were able to get pregnant with the help of zinc. It was discovered that the men who had low testosterone levels prior to the study benefited most from the zinc supplementation. (4)
Zinc is a safe and widely used supplement. However, with high dosages used for months or years, there is a risk of copper deficiency. This is because zinc and copper compete for absorption from the intestines. 15 – 30mg is considered to be a safe zinc dosage for most people.
It has been found that zinc picolinate is the best absorbing form of zinc. (5) Apart from stress and exercise, the risk of zinc deficiency also grows as we age. Vegan diets, intestinal diseases, and certain medications may also cause zinc deficiency.
Magnesium, like zinc, is an essential mineral acquired from nutrition. Magnesium is a building block for more than 300 enzymes and is important for, among other things, healthy cardiovascular function and muscle formation.
We could not produce energy without magnesium. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the key energy source for our cells. Magnesium takes part in building all of the enzymes involved in ATP synthesis.
Thus far, only a few studies have focused on the connection between magnesium and testosterone levels. However, all of these studies have been quite promising with regard to men’s hormonal health.
What has been discovered about magnesium and testosterone?
a) It was discovered in a Turkish study from 2011 that 800mg of magnesium daily for 4 weeks increased the levels of testosterone and free testosterone both in athletes and in sedentary men. (1)
b) The outcome of an experiment from 1992 was that supplementing with magnesium significantly increased the strength levels of American weightlifters during a 7-week training program. The lifters were compared to a placebo group. Testosterone levels were not examined in this study. (2)
c) In an Italian study, the association between anabolic hormone levels and blood magnesium levels was surveyed in 399 men over 65 years of age. The researchers discovered that the men who had high amounts of magnesium in their blood also had increased levels of testosterone and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). (3)
Magnesium is also a safe supplement for most people. A common harmless side effect of magnesium is that it may be laxative for some people. Muscle soreness, cramps, anxiety and insomnia are other possible symptoms of magnesium deficiency.
Studies have found that magnesium citrate is a better absorbing form of magnesium than the more common and cheaper magnesium oxide. (4) Glycinate is also an effective form of magnesium.
Mucuna pruriens, also known as velvet bean, is a tropical climbing plant native to parts of Africa and Asia. The seeds, beans and roots of mucuna have been used in traditional medicine across multiple continents as an aphrodisiac and to calm and regulate the nervous system. Mucuna has also been used to treat Parkinson’s disease. (1)
Mucuna is the richest plant source of the amino acid L-dopa (~4%). In human bodies, L-dopa is a precursor to multiple neurotransmitters such as dopamine, adrenaline and non-adrenaline. (2)
- In the first study, 5g of mucuna seed powder taken for 90 days increased sperm volume by 688% in men suffering from infertility and by 32% in healthy men. It was also observed that cortisol levels decreased in both groups. (5)
- In the second study, the same mucuna dosage was found to increase testosterone levels by 27% in healthy men and 38 % in infertile men. Sperm quality rose again in both groups and the levels of luteinizing hormone went up 41% in infertile men and 23% in the control group. (6)
- In the third study, mucuna seed powder was given to 180 men suffering from infertility. The testosterone levels of the subjects increased by 38% during the study. (7)
Mucuna pruriens seems to be a powerful fertility and testosterone boosting supplement for men with low sperm quality. In healthy men, only one study has thus far provided evidence of mucuna’s ability to enhance testosterone production.
D-Aspartic acid (DAA)
D-Aspartic acid (DAA) is one of the 20 most common amino acids in nature.
DAA works as a neurotransmitter in the brain, and thus can have an effect during the early stages of the testosterone production cycle. It also takes part in testosterone synthesis in the testicles. In theory, DAA could boost testosterone production both through the regulatory system in the brain and during the hormone production phase which takes place in the manly parts. (1, 2)
DAA is a rather recent addition to the shelves of supplement stores and to the gym bags of body builders. During the last 10 – 15 years it has become a mainstay in the top 10 most sold testosterone boosters.
So, what have the studies found out about DAA?
a) In an Italian study, 23 men were given 2660mg of DAA daily for 12 days. The levels of testosterone rose by a staggering 42% when compared to a placebo group. 3 days after the supplementation period had ended, the testosterone levels of the DAA group were 22% higher than the placebo group. (3)
b) The aforementioned study was followed by another experiment, where 2660mg of DAA was given daily for 90 days to a group of men suffering from infertility. Again the supplement induced a 30 – 60% rise in the testosterone levels of the study subjects. Moreover, sperm quality improved for the infertile men and 27% of them succeeded in getting pregnant with their partners during the study. (4)
c) Back in 2013, a study conducted in The United States put the brakes on for the DAA enthusiasm that had been derived from previous studies. 28 young body builders were given 3g of DAA every day for 28 days. The testosterone levels of the study subjects rose only minimally. (5)
After this negative study, it was theorized that DAA is perhaps not efficient when it comes to promoting testosterone levels in young healthy men who already have high levels of testosterone. However, it could perhaps be beneficial for men suffering from low testosterone levels.
The long-term safety of DAA usage has not been studied. Serum blood levels were measured to gauge the safety of DAA following the 90-day DAA study with the infertile men. No abnormalities were found in basic blood levels, liver enzymes, electrolytes, urea or creatinine.
Eurycoma longifolia is a flowering plant native to Indonesia and Malaysia. As a testosterone booster, it is better known as Tongkat ali or Longifolia Jack.
In South East Asia, Tongkat ali has long been used in traditional healing practices. Nowadays, Tongkat ali is a common additive in foods, beverages, and supplements.
What do the studies say about Tongkat ali?
a) A Malaysian study from 2012 revealed that, during a 6-month trial, Tongkat ali increased sperm mobility by 44% and volume by 12% when compared to a control group. Moreover, libido and erectile function were reported to have improved in the group of men taking Tongkat ali. (1)
b) In another promising study concerning male hormones, 63 study subjects suffering from stress were given Tongkat ali for 4 weeks. Following the supplementation period, the sense of stress was reduced by 16%, while levels of the stress hormone cortisol were reduced by 16% and testosterone levels rose by 37%. (2)
c) Once again in a Malaysian study, 200 mg of Tongkat ali was administered daily for a month to men who had developed hypogonadism in their adult years. Over 80% of the men in this trial who suffered from low testosterone had their T-levels increased to normal healthy levels. This study did not have a control group and it does not give an indication of how Tongkat ali would have performed in men whose testosterone levels are normal to begin with. (3)
d) In addition to these studies, one in vitro experiment showed Tongkat ali to be very anti-estrogenic. As this is a test tube study, it does not necessarily correspond well to mechanisms taking place in human bodies. (4)
The usage and safety of Tongkat ali
The usage of any supplement should be considered carefully. It can be assumed that many commonly used and studied supplements, such as vitamin D, zinc or magnesium are fairly safe. More criticism and deliberation should be exercised when dealing with more rare and exotic supplements like Tongkat ali.
Some years ago, I experimented with a supplement regimen whereby I cycled different testosterone boosting herbs every day of the week. Tongkat ali felt like the most powerful supplement at the time for me. At wrestling practices, I was irritated when the training hours ended, and wanted to continue. I had a lot of energy all the time and my girlfriend claimed that I smelled of testosterone – whatever that means.
After a month of this herbal cycling, I noticed that my skin had started to turn frighteningly yellowish, from the hands most notably. After that, I stopped taking most of the testosterone boosters, including Tongkat ali. I’m not certain if the yellowish skin was caused by Tongkat ali, but I haven’t taken this herb since. The yellow hue cleared off from the skin in a few days and hasn’t returned since.
The typically dosage for Tongkat ali is: 100 – 200mg, with 100:1 extract. In a rat study, a dosage which would be equivalent to 1200mg for humans, caused liver diseases in rodents. (5)
In addition to over 100 million neurons, more than 75% of our immune systems lies in our guts. Digestive health has a great impact on our overall health and perhaps a notable effect on testosterone production too.
So far, only preliminary mice studies have been done assessing the effects of probiotics to testosterone levels, but the findings in these studies have been quite intriguing.
It was found in a study from 2011, that in stressful situations a probiotic with Lactobacillus rhamnosus bacterial strains significantly reduced the amounts of cortisol, the arch nemesis of testosterone. (1)
In another interesting experiment from 2014, aging mice were fed Lactobacillus reuteri strain probiotics. The scientists discovered that when compared to the control group of mice, the probiotic caused:
- increased testosterone production
- higher levels of luteinizing and follicle stimulating hormone
- increased amount of sperm with better mobility
- larger testicle sizes (2)
Yes, the probiotics both inhibited the age-related shrinking of testicles for the mice, which happens in humans too, and outright made the mice balls grow in size.
Probiotics are beneficial living microorganisms, usually the same bacteria that can be normally found in human guts. Antibiotics, bad dietary habits, and modern day stressors may easily disturb the levels of healthy gut bacteria.
Foods that contain a lot of probiotics are for example yogurt, sauerkraut, and kombucha. Probiotic intake can be reinforced by taking probiotic supplements.
This probiotic powder contains both of the bacterial strains used in the above-mentioned studies.
ZMA (Zinc Monomethionine Aspartate) is one of the all-time most sold supplements claiming to boost testosterone levels in men.
ZMA was developed by Victor Conte who was also a founder of the BALCO sports medicine center in California. Many well-known American athletes such as Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery, and Barry Bonds were caught using a steroid called “The Clear” which was developed by BALCO.
Victor Conte ended up in jail after the scandal, from where he has been freed since. So, is ZMA related to doping and steroids? No. It isn’t. ZMA is a supplement consisted of 15 – 30 mg of zinc monomethionine, zinc aspartate, 350 – 500 mg of magnesium aspartate and 10 – 20 mg of vitamin B6.
As we went over in previous chapters, zinc and magnesium might have positive effects on testosterone production. Vitamin B6 hasn’t seen to affect the production of androgen hormones in the body.
Could magnesium, zinc, and vitamin B6 synergetically support testosterone production?
The first ZMA study was done at Western Washington University in 1998. Victor Conte was part of the research team, and he was also funding the experiment. The study concluded that during an 8-week training program, ZMA taken at bedtime increased the strength levels of football players 11.6 percent in comparison to 4.6 percent improvement in the placebo group. (1)
Since then two not so flattering studies have been done with ZMA. In another American study from 2004, no significant changes in anabolic hormone levels or strength development were observed with the use of ZMA. A German study from 2006 did not find ZMA having any effects on testosterone levels either. (2, 3)
B6 vitamin does not directly have testosterone boosting properties. In one study B6 was noted to increase the production of human growth hormone and decreasing prolactin levels, which could be favorable for men. (4)
Maca is a nutritious root vegetable natively growing in the high Andes of Peru. Maca has been used as an aphrodisiac for thousands of years in South America. Now it’s also sold as a testosterone booster around the world.
I’m thinking about writing a post on nutrients that are proven to help with libido and sexual well-being in the future. In that article, maca and tribulus may do well. But this is a testosterone booster review, so the herbs are pretty low on the list.
Tribulus terrestris is an herbal plant growing widely around the world. In Ayurveda, the traditional Indian healthcare practice, tribulus is used as a male virility and general vitality enhancer.
In rat studies and in one human study surveying sexual function, tribulus has been found to promote libido and sexual well-being. Tribulus also seemed to improve erectile function, according to the Indian study. (1)
American bodybuilding champion Jeffrey Petermann popularized Tribulus in western countries in the beginning of 1970s. Ever since the herbal extract has been a widely top-selling testosterone booster.
But science has shown that despite its popularity, tribulus really isn’t the best testosterone booster out there. In multiple studies, tribulus has not been able to affect the testosterone levels of male study subjects. (2, 3, 4)
Among the users of anabolic steroids, tribulus has also been used in intention to kick-start the body’s internal androgen production after hormonal cycles. Though tribulus hasn’t affected the secretion of LH hormones either in study settings. (5)
Similar to ZMA, also the users of tribulus have widely reported the supplement being able to give rise to vivid and extraordinary sexual dreams.
Yohimbe is a plant species native to central and western Africa. The bark of yohimbe trees has been used as an aphrodisiac and a booster of male Fitness. The main active ingredient of yohimbe supplements is yohimbine which is a stimulatory substance. Yohimbine is used in veterinary healthcare as a reverse sedation drug.
Studies have indicated that yohimbine may increase blood pressure and heart rate. Yohimbe has also been found to increase cortisol levels and cause anxiety in some people. According to the only study regarding male hormones, yohimbine did not affect testosterone levels. (1, 2)
Nettle root is another herbal extract that is marketed as a testosterone booster and aphrodisiac. Nettle is claimed to bind to the SHB globulin instead of testosterone and thus promoting the levels of free testosterone.
In vitro studies (test tube studies) have reported this sort of outcome where nettle molecules bind to SHBG. But in the only human study performed on the subject, nettle didn’t have effects on testosterone levels. (1)
However, nettle root extracts do seem to ease the symptoms arising from benign prostate growth. (2)
Horny goat weed
Horny goat weed, or more officially a herb called Epimedium is a flowering plant native to China. The herb got named as horny goat weed when sheep and goats were observed to act more frisky and virile when they ate the herb.
Horny goat weed and its main active ingredient icarin are touted to boost testosterone and virility in men and studies have been done to assess if icarin would promote erectile function. In one rat study icarin dosage of 80mg’s/kg was able to significantly increase testosterone levels in the rodents. (1). Horny goat weed’s ability to increase testosterone levels in humans has not been studied.
Deer Antler Velvet
No… It just doesn’t work.
Deer antler velvet
- does not increase testosterone. And neither does elk antler (1, 2)
- does not increase the levels of LH or FSH (3)
- does not increase growth hormone levels (4)
- does not have an effect on sexual desires or erectile function (5)