- Testosterone replacement therapy is often prescribed for men with low levels of testosterone, however certain supplements also claim to boost T levels.
- Some studies suggest ashwagandha extract, fenugreek, and shilajit may increase testosterone.
- Talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of low testosterone or a blood test like Hone’s at-home assessment has shown that you have low T, you’ll often be prescribed testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) to help get you to healthy testosterone levels. But if you’re interested in taking a more natural route, there are various ways to raise testosterone levels with supplements, herbs, and vitamins, either directly, or by preventing the body from converting testosterone to estrogen.
If you opt for this route, there are a few things to keep in mind. For starters, supplements and herbs aren’t proven as effective as TRT for increasing testosterone. Also: “Supplements, in general, are not well studied,” says urologist Joshua Calvert, M.D. Nor are they regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
Still, as long as your doctor gives you the green light (because you should always discuss any pills you want to take with your M.D.), here are seven supplements that may help increase testosterone levels, plus a handful of vitamins that may also boost T.
KNOW YOUR T
What to Look for on Testosterone Boosting Supplement Labels
Look for products containing researched ingredients, including those below, as well as natural testosterone boosters where possible.
Choose products that contain ingredients in the doses suggested below, which are safe.
Find dietary supplements that have been third-party tested or clinically studied. Bonus points if the bottle features a United States Pharmacopeial (USP) seal of approval, which indicates that the supplement contains the ingredients listed on the label, in the declared potency and amounts. This is important because these products are not FDA-regulated and there is a possibility of having side effects. You should consult a healthcare professional before taking any new supplement.
The Best Supplements to Increase Testosterone
Ashwagandha, an Indian herb commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine, may boost testosterone levels in a few ways, says integrative physician Erich Acebedo, M.D. The plant has been shown to help manage stress and several hormone-related conditions (1).
Acebedo typically uses ashwagandha extract as first-line therapy for stress. “It’s a modulator for cortisol, the stress hormone,” he explains. And with stress being a big contributor to low T, Acebedo says the herb could be a preventative treatment.
Research has also found it to have a direct impact on testosterone. A 2021 meta-analysis of four studies published in Advances in Nutrition found that supplementing with ashwagandha root or leaf extract for at least eight weeks effectively raised participants’ testosterone levels better than a placebo (2).
Acebedo says the ashwagandha may also boost free T levels by blocking 5-alpha reductase, the enzyme that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a more potent male sex hormone.
If you’re feeling extra stressed and struggling with low T, Acebedo recommends a daily dose of 800 milligrams.
In one 2016 study, men who took 600 mg of fenugreek extract daily for 12 weeks experienced a significant increase in testosterone levels, along with improvements in sexual function compared to a placebo (3).
Another study found that taking 500 mg of fenugreek extract daily for 12 weeks increased free testosterone levels by up to 46% in 90% of study participants (4).
What’s the link? Testosterone is metabolized through two different processes, Acebdo explains. There’s the aforementioned conversion to DHT. Estradiol, the main form of estrogen in men, is also converted into testosterone by way of an enzyme called aromatase.
Acebedo says that fenugreek may block both of those processes, therefore increasing free testosterone levels. Fenugreek may also improve free testosterone levels by blocking sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), a protein that binds to testosterone to help it penetrate tissue, Acebedo adds. By decreasing the body’s amount of protein-bound T, more free T becomes available.
A fenugreek bonus: The plant may also imbue some muscle-building properties. “Some very small studies have shown that it also works for lean muscle mass improvement compared to placebo,” says Calvert.
If you’re interested in trying it, Dr. Acebedo typically prescribes 600 daily milligrams.
Shilajit is a natural substance found mainly in the Himalayas, formed from centuries of decomposition of certain plants. Several multi-vitamins marketed as testosterone boosters contain it as a main ingredient—so you don’t have to worry if it’s made with natural ingredients, because it is the natural ingredient.
In one small randomized 2015 study, half of participants were given 250 milligrams and showed a statistically significant increase in total testosterone levels compared to the other half, who were given a placebo (5).
4. Tongkat Ali
Tongkat ali is an herbal supplement that comes from the roots of the Eurycoma longifolia plant that has historically been used to treat multiple maladies, including male infertility and erectile dysfunction (6).
It’s also been well-documented to increase testosterone levels, possibly by aiding in testosterone synthesis. One study found that 90% of men who took 200 mg of tongkat ali extract per day had significantly higher T levels (7).
5. Fadogia Agrestis
This supplement has shown promise in animal studies. In one study, rats that were given 100 mg/kg of body weight of fadogia agrestis experienced a 6-fold increase (600% increase) in serum testosterone levels (8).
We typically don’t get very excited about animal studies because, well, humans aren’t rats. However, when neuroscientist Andrew Huberman, Ph.D. revealed on his podcast that he takes fadogia agrestis with tongkat ali, it piqued our interest.
Researchers suspect that fadogia agrestis increases the release of luteinizing hormone (LH), which binds to Leydig cells in the testes to increase the release of testosterone.
While we wait for human research on this supplement, it’s worth noting Huberman’s caveat: He cycles with fadogia eight to 12 weeks at a time since one animal study found that high doses of the supplement disrupted kidney and liver enzymes (9).
6. Saw Palmetto
Put this one on the “maybe” list, because research is mixed on this supplement’s ability to boost T just yet.
Saw palmetto is a shrub-like plant that may increase testosterone levels by blocking the activity of an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase (5α-R), which is responsible for converting testosterone into a byproduct called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which has been linked to male pattern baldness and prostate gland enlargement.
In one study, men who took saw palmetto with an antioxidant called astaxanthin for two weeks had higher testosterone levels than men who took a placebo, though the researchers noted that the increase wasn’t statistically significant (10).
Some research suggests this powerful antioxidant may increase testosterone levels.
There haven’t been enough studies in humans for researchers to be sure why ginger might increase T levels but researchers suspect it has something to do with LH. In one study from 2012, 75 men who took a ginger supplement for three months experienced a 17% increase in testosterone levels—and their levels of luteinizing hormone nearly doubled (11).
Vitamins to Boost Testosterone
Increasing vitamin levels is an even easier way to raise testosterone levels, because they’re more readily available. Walk into any pharmacy, and you’ll find shelves lined with vitamins, which isn’t always the case for supplements and herbs like fenugreek and ashwagandha, which you may only find at a specialty store.
Two vitamins in particular—vitamin D and zinc—have been shown to increase T levels in deficient patients. “There’s some limited data showing that if you are deficient in zinc and/or vitamin D you will have lower testosterone levels, so supplementation may help increase your T levels,” says Jack Jeng, M.D., Chief Medical Officer at Hone Health. “But if your levels are normal, then supplementation probably won’t make much of a difference,” he adds. There are, however, few downsides to taking these vitamins in the recommended doses, so it’s worth a shot.
Vitamin D is a hormone that helps the body absorb and retain both calcium and phosphorus, which are critical for building bone and maintaining bone strength. We get vitamin D supplementation from eating certain foods that naturally contain the nutrient (salmon, mackerel, herring, mushrooms, butter, cream, egg yolks) or are fortified with Vitamin D (like cereal, orange juice, and milk). We also get vitamin D from ultraviolet (UVB) rays, which upon hitting our skin can trigger the production of vitamin D.
How much vitamin D do you need? Physicians recommend getting between 1,000 IU –10,000 IU of Vitamin D per day, from dietary sources, sun exposure, and supplements (if your doctor recommends them).
Vitamin D and Low T
According to the American Urological Association, there is a significant link between Vitamin D and testosterone, the male sex hormone that fuels sex drive, in 2015.
Testosterone is produced in the testes, and scientists suspect that Vitamin D might influence how the testes work. When your liver converts Vitamin D into calcidiol, the hormone is sent to various organs and systems, carrying messages that are necessary for proper function. One of calcidiol’s targets is the testes and the message it delivers involves how to make and convert testosterone into free testosterone, which is the unbound testosterone used for cell replication in the bones and muscles and for creating facial hair.
Some symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency are also sneakily similar to symptoms of low testosterone, including:
- Feeling foggy-brained or unable to concentrate
- Mood changes (Some research has linked low levels of Vitamin D to depression, though researchers are still studying the connection.)
- Erectile dysfunction
Zinc is a nutrient responsible in part for helping your immune system and metabolic function. Most people typically get enough zinc through their diet (think foods like chicken, red meat, nuts, yogurt, and fortified cereals) but some people can become deficient in zinc.
Zinc and Low T
Severe and moderate deficiency of zinc is associated with hypogonadism (low T) in men (12). While supplementing with the vitamin is common for an immune boost, it can also help raise free T levels. However, as Jeng mentioned, if you’re not deficient, loading up on zinc won’t help to raise your T levels significantly.
Zinc is important to both the male reproductive system (it plays a key role in sperm quality and production) and the endocrine system, which regulates hormones, one being testosterone. As such, it plays an important role in testosterone production, the function of the prostate, and prostate gland health. You can see why being deficient in zinc could have implications on testosterone levels.
But how much zinc do you need to supplement with? It’s not much—just 11 milligrams is the recommended amount for men over the age of 19.
You, BUT BETTER
Other Natural Ways to Boost Testosterone
TRT and supplements can do some heavy lifting for your hormone levels, but implementing these simple lifestyle changes can also help.
Athletic or physical performance is the easiest and probably best way to boost testosterone levels. “Exercise increases testosterone levels, especially immediately after high intensity interval training (HIIT),” explains Acebedo, who recommends breaking a sweat at least two to three times a week.
This is particularly crucial if you’re overweight or have high body fat, because the more fat cells you have, “the more your free testosterone is being converted to estradiol,” explains Calvert. “You need estrogen, but too much of it is not a good thing. Researchers have found time and time again that weight loss is associated with increased testosterone levels” (13).
Bisphenol A, a chemical used to make plastics that humans are exposed to mainly through food packaging like bottled water, has been found to interact with estrogen receptors (14) in men, which inhibits testosterone production. “They are endocrine disrupting chemicals that tend to lower our hormones,” says Acebedo.
Eat a Balanced Diet
In the same way that working out to maintain a healthy weight can increase testosterone, eating well can, too. A 2018 study that tracked the dietary patterns of 125 adult men confirmed this, discovering that those who ate more bread, pastries, dairy products, desserts, and takeout than homemade foods, noodles, and dark green vegetables had overall low testosterone levels (15).
Get Better Sleep
Research shows that testosterone production and restorative sleep are inextricably linked. More specifically, testosterone levels peak during REM sleep. So, if you’re not sleeping long enough to linger into deep stages, your body won’t experience that spike.
To further explore the power sleep has over testosterone, one 2015 study documented the sleep patterns of 10 healthy young men over an 18 day period. In transitioning from eight hours of nightly sleep to an average of four hours and 48 minutes, participants’ daytime testosterone levels decreased by 10 to 15 percent (16).
The ideal quantity of restorative sleep varies slightly from person to person, but seven to nine nightly hours is a good target to aim for, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
The Bottom Line
Several supplements, including shilajit, fenugreek, and ashwagandha, tongkat ali, fadogia agrestis, saw palmetto, and ginger claim to boost testosterone. If you are interested in trying one to increase your T levels, discuss it with your doctor or a related healthcare professional and get their sign-off, because they aren’t FDA-regulated and can affect everyone differently.