- Testosterone supplements are the top choice of American men for the treatment of low testosterone.
- Unlike drugs, these dietary supplements are unregulated and scientifically dubious.
- Some may even hurt you by providing too much zinc and other ingredients.
- Many supplement users don’t even need to boost their T levels.
- Use an at-home testosterone test kit to see if your testosterone levels are normal.
Testosterone supplements and herbal concoctions claiming to boost this vital hormone are popular among men struggling with low testosterone. Do these supplements live up to their reputation? A new study takes a look at them through the lens of scientific analysis.
Why Testosterone Supplements are Popular
Fifty percent of American men use dietary supplements. And many of them do so hoping to reclaim their youthful testosterone levels.
Most men like to feel masculine. We go to the gym to build muscular physiques to intimidate competitors and impress the opposite sex. We like to think that we can perform magic between the sheets. We love to feel energetic and aggressively swing into action to solve problems and protect our loved ones.
Since testosterone makes all of this possible, we love our T.
The problem is that, with age, our testosterone levels decline, taking with them many of our beloved masculine traits and abilities. And we don’t have to grow old to begin losing this beloved hormone. The testosterone decline begins around 30. Though we can adapt our lifestyle to slow the loss of T, we can’t stop or reverse it.
But that doesn’t stop us from trying. To many men, supplements seem the only solution. But is it?
The Science of Testosterone Supplements is Shaky
In addition to claiming the “natural” high ground, testosterone supplement makers try to build a scientific case for their products. They include ingredients in their pills and capsules that have some scientifically proven T-boosting effects.
According to a comprehensive 2020 study published in the World Journal of Men’s Health (WJMH), the most popular hype ingredients used in testosterone supplements are:
- FenugreekVitamin B6
- Eurycoma longifolia
The construct bleeds from many wounds, however.
Quality and Regulatory Problems
In the U.S., the regulation of dietary supplements is notoriously lax. The FDA doesn’t require supplement producers to list exact ingredient quantities in supplements they deem proprietary blends.
Producers use this legal loophole to advertise ingredients that may only be present in trace amounts. They may secretly lace their pills with proven and approved substances like sildenafil or tadalafil to elicit noticeable effects and build hype.
And because they’re not required to list ingredient quantities, there’s nothing to stop manufacturers from reducing the quantities of helpful ingredients at any time.
Testosterone supplements make many beneficial claims in contradiction to the FDA’s guidelines, which state that only drugs — not supplements — should claim to cure, prevent, or treat diseases and conditions.
The most frequent claims made by testosterone supplements manufacturers include:
- Boosting testosterone or free testosterone
- Building muscle
- Increasing sex drive
- Increasing strength
- Improving energy
- Burning fat
The Science Doesn’t Add Up
The WJMH study evaluated 50 “testosterone boosters” and conducted PubMed searches to learn how many were backed by scientific evidence. The researchers found that only 24.8 percent of the products evaluated have any scientific data supporting their claims.
Worse, 10.1 percent of the supplements may decrease testosterone levels further instead of boosting them.
The study concludes that more effort should go into informing patients that the testosterone supplements on which they pin their hopes of T-level recovery most likely do not work.
Testosterone: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You
As the WJMH study has shown, 10.1 percent of testosterone supplements may hurt testosterone instead of boosting it. The last thing someone suffering from low testosterone needs is to further reduce his T levels.
The potential ill effects of testosterone-boosting supplements do not end there.
Lack of Research on Efficacy and Toxicity
Not only do we not know much about how the ingredients of testosterone supplements work or whether they work, but we also have no idea if they can hurt the user. And there is some evidence that some of these ingredients may be toxic.
A 2017 case study reports an instance when an herbal testosterone supplement caused a pulmonary embolism in a user.
The FDA cautioned in 2014 that testosterone-boosting products may cause blood clots and heart attacks.
Red clover, another herbal compound used in T-boosting supplements, may cause liver disease.
Exceeding Recommended Daily Allowance and Upper Tolerable Intake Levels
While some of the hype ingredients of testosterone supplements may be present in trace amounts only, others are more abundant.
The WJMH review discovered that, on average, T supplements contained the equivalent of 1,291 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin B12.
They also contained:
- 807.6 percent of the RDA for vitamin B6
- 272 percent of the RDA for zinc
- 200 percent of the RDA for vitamin B5
- 187.5 percent of the RDA for vitamin B3
Thirteen of the reviewed products contained more zinc, vitamin B5, and magnesium than the upper tolerable intake levels (UL).
Can overdosing on these ingredients cause problems?
Zinc levels that slightly exceed the RDA can be toxic and may affect the immune system.
The risks of using herbal testosterone supplements outweigh the benefits these products may or may not deliver.
Many U.S. men turn to unregulated testosterone-boosting supplements instead of TRT because they are poorly informed. How producers advertise these supplements and the claims they make contribute to these poor choices.
Testosterone Supplements vs. Testosterone Replacement Therapy
While testosterone supplements are notoriously unreliable, testosterone replacement therapy is the scientifically proven way to treat low testosterone (hypogonadism). TRT can achieve great results for people with low T.
Yet, 87.8 percent of men with low testosterone do not turn to TRT, despite the treatment being easily available.
TRT, with its stern name and scientifically backed effects, may be intimidating to many. There is nothing natural about adding synthetic hormones to your body.
Testosterone supplements, on the other hand, promise a “natural” alternative. Herbal remedies have been around for thousands of years, and “herbal” has such a harmless and healthful ring to it.
It is unclear what proportion of the 87.8 percent of low T sufferers choose testosterone supplements over TRT. But it’s safe to assume that some of these men forgo a proven, solid treatment option for an unregulated, unproven, and potentially harmful supplement.
Do You Need to Boost Your Testosterone?
What’s even worse is that many men who use these supplements don’t even need to boost their T levels.
Boosting your T above adequate levels offers no advantages, and it may even hurt you. Perform a testosterone test before you commit to boosting your T levels.
Use an At-home Testosterone Test Kit
You don’t have to go to a doctor to find out if your testosterone levels are normal. You can test your T at home by ordering an at-home testosterone test kit online, collecting a sample, and mailing it in.
eDrugstore Carries At-home Testosterone Test Kits
Our mail-in kits allow you to take your sample in five minutes, are pain-free, and give you your results in two-to-five days.
Order a testosterone home test, and we will include a free consultation with a doctor if your results are abnormal.
James spent the better part of the last decade studying and writing about the physiology of sleep and its correlations with dreams. He studied various drugs, natural substances, and hallucinogens that can impact the intensity and frequency of dreams.
For two years, he busted dietary supplement scams, analyzing various performance-enhancing compounds, nootropics, etc.