Natural Testosterone Boosters: How Do They Work?

Testosterone is the sex hormone that gives men the traits that are unique to males. It affects many aspects of male health, such as sperm production, muscle and bone mass, and sex drive.

Women also have testosterone, though at lower levels than men. In women, it has a major impact on their bodies. The hormone affects bone strength, ovarian function, and sexual behavior.

Testosterone levels drop slowly with age in both sexes. The result can cause fatigue, low sex drive, and loss of muscle mass. Having normal levels can often reverse some of these problems.

Natural testosterone boosters use nutrients to protect and boost your levels. Many options provide different results.

This article explores the use, benefits, and effects of natural testosterone boosters. It also discusses when you should see your doctor about symptoms.

testosterone supplements

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The Role of Testosterone

Testosterone is a hormone that affects sexual development and reproduction. It is primarily produced by the gonads (the testes in men and the ovaries in women). The adrenal glands in both sexes also produce a very small amount of it.

While often considered the "male hormone," testosterone is important to both sexes.

Testosterone in the Body

Your pituitary gland works to maintain normal levels of testosterone within the following ranges to get its benefits:

  • 280 to 1,100 ng/dL for men
  • 15 to 70 ng/dL for women

In addition to its role in supporting the reproductive system, testosterone also promotes the following processes in both men and women:

Testosterone in Men

Testosterone contributes to the development of primary sexual characteristics in men. These include the parts of the body required for reproduction. In men, they are the penis, testicles, and scrotum.

Testosterone also regulates the development of secondary male traits. These characteristics are unique to men, but not needed for reproduction. They include:

  • Hair growth on the face, chest, and pubic areas
  • Voice deepening
  • Growth spurts in puberty
  • Upper body muscular build

Testosterone levels in men usually decrease by 1% annually every year after age 30. However, even in advanced age, the levels don't become completely depleted.

Natural Testosterone Boosters

Testosterone levels can decline as a result of age, injury, disease, or medication side effects. The effects can include:

Natural testosterone boosters are supplementary herbs and nutrients that can help your body increase testosterone levels. Since there are so many formulas, it can take some time to achieve the results you desire.

When effective, restoring testosterone levels can help improve the effects of low testosterone levels.

Natural Testosterone Boosters vs. Testosterone Replacement Therapy

Don't confuse testosterone boosters with testosterone replacement therapy.

Natural testosterone boosters are supplements that contain nutrients and herbs. They are distributed as over-the-counter products.

Testosterone replacement therapy is a medical treatment that uses testosterone prescribed and managed by a healthcare provider.

Ashwagandha and Testosterone

Ashwagandha (Indian ginseng) is a nontoxic herb that has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. It is classified as an adaptogen, a substance used in herbal medicine to help the body deal with physical and emotional stresses.

How It Works

Ashwagandha is thought to promote an increase in the production of luteinizing hormone, which is produced in the pituitary gland. It supports the reproductive system and triggers testosterone production. Its stress-relieving properties may also improve libido and sperm quality.

May Also Treat

Ashwagandha may also treat the following conditions:

Safety and Side Effects

Ashwagandha is considered generally safe, without major side effects. In large doses, it may cause diarrhea, gastrointestinal upset, nausea, and vomiting. In rare cases, it has been linked to liver injury. It's important to let your healthcare provider know your interest in the supplement or that you are already taking it to ensure it is done safely.

Vitamin D and Testosterone

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient that you obtain from food, supplements, or exposure to sunlight. It assists in calcium absorption. Vitamin D also supports your muscle, nerve, and immune systems.

How It Works

Vitamin D has an impact on improving semen quality, which can decrease with low testosterone levels. It is associated with sperm motility, a key factor in infertility.

May Also Treat

Vitamin D may also be used to treat:

  • Calcium absorption
  • Bone and muscle health
  • Weak immune system

Safety and Side Effects

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin D is between 400 and 800 IU/day. The dosage varies by age and pregnancy status.

Consuming too much vitamin D can cause a dangerously high level of calcium in your blood. Over time, the problem can damage your kidneys, soft tissues, and bones.

DHEA and Testosterone

DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a hormone naturally produced by the liver and adrenal glands. It also contributes to the production of testosterone.

How It Works

DHEA is naturally produced in your body, then turned into male and female sex hormones. DHEA supplements replace the natural levels that slowly decrease as you age.

May Also Treat

DHEA may also treat the following conditions:

Safety and Side Effects

DHEA is likely safe to use for up to two years in doses of 50 mg daily. Mild side effects can include acne and stomach upset.

Doses higher than 50-100 mg daily can be dangerous and increase your risk of cancer. It may also interact with some prescription medications.

DHEA should not be used by people with the following conditions:

Side effects linked to DHEA use include:

Fenugreek and Testosterone

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is a spice used in herbal medicine. It also is used as a supplement or in extract form.

How It Works

Some reports link fenugreek with androgenic effects and increases in total serum testosterone levels. It also has androgenic (related to muscle mass) benefits.

May Also Treat

Fenugreek may also be used to treat the following conditions:

Safety and Side Effects

Fenugreek is considered safe in the amounts used as a spice in foods. Three isn't enough evidence to confirm its safety in larger doses.

Possible side effects of fenugreek include:

Ginger and Testosterone

Ginger is a plant that is used as an herb, food, and medicine. It is often used to treat common health problems like nausea and pain.

How It Works

Research links ginger to the support of enhanced testosterone production in males. However, the effect of ginger on testosterone is not confirmed in human males.

Studies indicate ginger may promote testosterone production by mechanisms that include the following:

  • Promoting the production of luteinizing hormone
  • Increasing the cholesterol levels in the testes
  • Enhancing the activity of the antioxidant enzymes
  • Normalizing blood glucose
  • Increasing blood flow in the testes
  • Boosting testicular weight

May Also Treat

Ginger may also be used to treat the following problems:

Safety and Side Effects

Ginger is considered safe when taken by mouth or used as a topical on the skin.

Side effects of consuming large amounts of ginger can include:

  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Heartburn
  • Diarrhea
  • Throat and mouth irritation

Magnesium and Testosterone

Magnesium is an essential nutrient involved in many key physiological functions. It is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions and biological processes.

How It Works

Research indicates that magnesium supplements have a positive effect on male gonads. The results included an increase in serum testosterone level, with more significant results in those treated for longer periods.

The results support a review of findings that identify magnesium as promoting a positive influence on anabolic hormones, including testosterone, in men.

May Also Treat

Magnesium may also be used to treat the following conditions:

Safety and Side Effects

Magnesium can be taken safely in the doses prescribed. People with kidney problems or a heart block should avoid supplements with magnesium.

Taking more than the recommended dosage of magnesium can cause the following side effects:

Protein and Testosterone

Protein is key to cell function. It helps regulate the body's organs and tissues.

How It Works

Protein contributes to the normal production of testosterone when diets include protein of no more than 31% protein. Low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets that include protein levels of 35% or more are linked to lower levels of testosterone.

May Also Treat

Protein can also be used to treat the following conditions:

Safety and Side Effects

Protein can be consumed safely when it's part of a balanced diet. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 g protein/kg body weight/day for adults.

Exceeding this level of protein with a high-protein diet for long periods can result in the following side effects:

Tribulus Terrestris and Testosterone

Tribulus terrestris is an herb commonly used in Africa, Asia, and southern Europe,

How It Works

Tribulus terrestris contains saponins, an antioxidant that strengthens capillaries in the skin.

Research indicates that Tribulus terrestris has a positive effect on increasing testosterone levels and improving the sexual function and satisfaction of patients with erectile dysfunction (ED).

May Also Treat

Tribulus terrestris is used to treat ED and enhance sexual function. It may also help female sexual dysfunction.

It may also be used to treat the following conditions:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Inflammation
  • Cancer
  • Infections

Safety and Side Effects

Tribulus terrestris has been linked to adverse side effects, including gastrointestinal problems and nephrotoxicity.

Because this herb has potential hormonal effects, patients undergoing treatment for prostate cancer should seek medical advice before using it.

Zinc and Testosterone

Zinc is the second most abundant trace element in humans. However, it can't be stored, so you must consume the recommended dose daily to get its benefits.

How It Works

Zinc is important to preserving prostate health, sexual health, and testosterone levels in men. A recommended zinc dosage of 25-50 micrograms daily can help maintain healthy testosterone levels.

May Also Treat

Zinc may also treat the following conditions:

Safety and Side Effects

When consumed at a dose of 40 mg per day or less, zinc is usually safe. Taking a higher dose for long periods may cause stomach pain, vomiting, and other problems. The results can be fatal if you consume 10-30 grams of zinc in a single dose.

Other Natural Ways to Boost Testosterone

You can also help increase your testosterone levels with lifestyle changes. These strategies can help improve your testosterone levels with or without natural testosterone boosters.

Exercise

Follow an exercise regimen of aerobic and resistance training. This combination of exercises has proven to increase testosterone levels.

Maintain a Healthy Body Weight

Establish and maintain healthy body weight. An increase in belly fat has been linked to lower testosterone levels. Managing obesity may prevent these levels from declining.

Practice Sleep Hygiene

Getting adequate amounts of uninterrupted sleep can increase testosterone levels. Your body produces most of your testosterone during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, a period of deep sleep. Low levels have been linked to insufficient amounts of REM sleep.

Reduce Stress

Stress increases cortisol blood levels. High levels of this hormone can increase fat deposits, which can allow testosterone to convert to estrogen.

When to See a Doctor for Low Testosterone

Low testosterone levels can harm your physical and mental well-being. Symptoms of low testosterone can also mimic those of other conditions or diseases that require immediate care.

Contact your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms before you begin using natural testosterone boosters:

  • Low sex drive
  • Low sperm count
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Infertility
  • Changes in mood
  • Depression
  • Muscle or bone loss
  • Decreased strength
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Hair loss
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Inability to focus

Summary

Natural testosterone boosters help your body restore low hormone levels. These levels can fall as a result of age. They can also drop due to injury, disease, or a medicine's side effects.

Natural testosterone boosters work with your body's systems to restore normal levels. Symptoms often improve when they take effect.

These products are sold over-the-counter, but should not be treated lightly. Contact your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement. You can risk getting adverse effects if you have certain health problems or use some types of drugs.

A Word From Verywell

Having low testosterone levels can have physical and emotional effects. No matter the cause of your condition, it can bring feelings of sadness or depression. It can also make you feel irritable and moody.

Recognizing these changes and seeking answers are the first steps to restoring normal testosterone levels. Your healthcare provider can help you determine whether natural testosterone boosters are the right option for you.

For some men, lifestyle changes and/or testosterone replacement therapy may be more appropriate. Whatever course of action you decide, following your provider's instructions can help you achieve results more efficiently.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are testosterone boosters bad for you?

    The safety of any testosterone booster depends on your age, medical history, current condition, and medications. Most testosterone boosters are safe to use in recommended doses. Check with your healthcare provider to make sure the supplement you're using is safe for you.

  • Do male testosterone boosters work?

    There is evidence that some testosterone boosters can help increase hormone levels. However, results can vary by individual, based on your personal traits and current condition. Starting with the boosters that have proven results can increase your chances of seeing a change.

  • Does masturbating reduce testosterone?

    There is no evidence that masturbating reduces testosterone. Testosterone levels decrease with age. They can also lessen due to injury, disease, or interaction with certain medications.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Anna Giorgi
Anna Zernone Giorgi is a writer who specializes in health and lifestyle topics. Her experience includes over 25 years of writing on health and wellness-related subjects for consumers and medical professionals, in addition to holding positions in healthcare communications.