Historically, tribulus terrestris was used by the cultures of India and Greece as a rejuvenation tonic. It was also used as a therapy for a variety of health conditions affecting the liver, kidney, and cardiovascular and immune systems.
In early Europe, tribulus terrestris served as a fold medicine used to enhance muscle strength and sexual potency. More recently government-sponsored studies at the Chemical Pharmaceutical Research Institute in Sofia, Bulgaria have been conducted in an attempt to improve the physical and sexual performance of this herb. The most important result of these studies was the discovery that tribulus has the ability to enhance physical potency as exemplified by the Bulgarian weight lifting team in the Olympics.
Today, tribulus terrestris is taken in combination with a variety of herbal products used in connection with headaches, eye conditions such as itching, conjunctivitis and weak vision, and nervousness. This herb has also been used in connection with high blood pressure and rib pain.
Tribulus terrestris owes its health and medicinal effects to three groups of active phytochemicals:
- Dioscin, protodioscin, and diosgenin; these substances stimulate sexual performance and may be useful for a variety of sexual disorders. They help to regulate sexual energy levels and sexual strength by increasing the percentage of free available testosterone levels for men and they even affect pregnenolone, progesterone, and estrogen. The hormone balancing abilities of tribulus terrestris in the bodies of women make this herb possibly useful for premenstrual syndrome and menopausal syndrome.
- Sterols such as betasitosterols or stigma. These chemical compounds help to protect the prostate gland from swelling and in combination with the X steroidal saponins may help to protect the prostate from cancer.
- Proprietary steroidal saponins are currently referred to by medical researchers and physicians as X steroidal saponins. These X steroidal saponins have the ability to influence the entire immune system of the body. They have been shown to have anti-bacterial and anti-viral effects. Due to the effects of these substances, it is now believed that tribulus terrestris may be used both internally and externally in connection with herpes and viral infections such as influenza and the common cold.
While the popularity of tribulus terrestris is growing, especially among athletes, there is still only a small group of scientists, herbalists, and medical researchers trained in Oriental and Ayurvedic medicine that are knowledgeable about the plant. Relatively little research has been performed on tribulus terrestris to date.