Do Over-the-Counter Testosterone Supplements Work?
Testosterone Powders: Why Over-the-Counter Vitality Cures Could Be a Waste of Time
Testosterone has benefits – but over-the-counter supplements might not deliver
Testosterone is the hormone that makes men, well, men. As the principal male sex hormone, it allows men to properly develop muscle, bone strength, red blood cells, and, of course, a healthy sex drive.
But as men age, testosterone levels decline – and that can lead to symptoms like sexual dysfunction, trouble sleeping, muscle loss, and emotional problems.
To combat this, many men decide to take a testosterone-enhancement supplement and, at face value, that may sound like a good idea.
There are just two problems: supplements with real testosterone are illegal without a prescription and unsafe if not administered properly, and supplements without testosterone that simply claim to boost the hormone may not do anything at all.
The difference between actual testosterone supplements and OTC testosterone boosters
Legally, all supplements that contain actual testosterone must be prescribed by a doctor. That’s because, if administered or dosed incorrectly, bioidentical testosterone could cause side effects. However, this is much less likely to happen when the process is monitored by a medical professional.
More worrisome to patients may be over-the-counter testosterone powders: non-testosterone-based supplements that claim to help increase the natural production of testosterone.
Often, these contain mixtures of herbs and other proprietary formulas – and there’s limited or mixed evidence that these products have an effect on natural testosterone production.
Common ingredients in OTC testosterone boosters include Tribulus terrestris, DHEA, HMB, L-arginine, and more
When it comes to OTC testosterone boosters, ingredients can vary widely. But a few of them are more common than others:
- Tribulus terrestris, otherwise known as puncture vine, has long been thought by some to increase testosterone and even improve female fertility. However, a 2013 research review published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements determined that only 3 out of the 11 studies analyzed showed any increase in testosterone after Tribulus terrestris
- Another popular OTC ingredient is DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), a hormone which is naturally produced by the human body. While one study did find that DHEA may produce some positive results when it comes to increasing testosterone production, it can also cause side effects like high blood pressure, stomach issues, and hair loss.
- HMB (hydroxy methylbutyrate), which is also produced naturally by the body, is another common ingredient in testosterone boosters. While a study did find that 12 weeks of HMB supplementation had a positive effect on strength and muscle mass, it was also found to increase cortisol, the body’s stress hormone.
- L-arginine is yet another ingredient purported to increase testosterone production, as well as human growth hormone (HGF) in sufficient amounts. As a vasodilator, it helps widen blood vessels – which some believe make it a supplement to treat ED. However, research on L-arginine as an effective ED treatment is very limited, with The Mayo Clinic giving it “a C grade when it comes to scientific evidence of successful ED treatment.” Experts also caution that side effects could include low blood pressure and blood sugar, bleeding problems, and artificially elevated blood potassium levels.
- While somewhat less common, some supplement companies promote deer antler velvet as a way to increase testosterone and treat ED. Deer antler velvet, which covers the bone and cartilage of deer antlers as they grow, has long been used to ostensibly treat everything from high cholesterol and blood pressure issues to ulcers and bladder problems. But deer antler velvet contains the female sex hormones estrone and estradiol, meaning it might actually act like estrogen in the body – and that could make things worse for a man suffering from sexual dysfunction.
Instead of taking a chance on a risky OTC supplement, consult a doctor to learn the most effective ways to improve your sex life
While over-the-counter testosterone boosters might seem like a fast and inexpensive way to beat ED or spice things up in the bedroom, they could end up being a waste of time and money.
Worse, you could encounter side effects – all which could be avoided by simply consulting with a doctor first. The FDA does not review dietary supplements, which means that you have no assurance whether what the company says is in your supplement is actually what you’re taking.
If you’re looking for an effective, innovative, and doctor-approved way to address ED or improve sexual function, consider GAINSWave® therapy. It uses low-intensity soundwaves to break up plaque in blood vessels and stimulate the creation of new ones, increasing blood flow to the penis. Shockwave therapy has no known side effects and it’s a quick and easy procedure that can be performed right in the doctor’s office.
Meet With an Erectile Dysfunction Specialist in Redding, CA
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