(Hey, it's me. I'm the pharmacist.)
Right off the bat, I want to start by saying: there are TONS of products out there claiming to be the cure for your testosterone-related ailments. I’m not going to make those claims here, because the vast majority of evidence does not support that.
I firmly believe that if you truly have low testosterone (diagnosed accurately), or symptoms of low testosterone, the best way to restore your levels to their natural and normal range is going to be exogenous testosterone replacement therapy, plain and simple.
While we do our best to provide you with high-quality options for supplementation, herbal supplements are not subjected to the same rigorous quality control standards as prescription grade products.
Does that mean that there is no merit to the supplements I’m going to discuss today? No.
But you’ll see articles scattered online claiming that Testo-This and Testo-That are the only pills you need to reach your maximum genetic potential and squeeze all the testosterone benefits out of your body, and I think these claims are largely B.S.
I’ll stop ranting now. Let’s talk about the data out there, and what may work. First, some background information.
Testosterone is the primary male hormone that gives us male sex characteristics, including libido (sex drive), bone strength, muscle size, sperm development, and during puberty provides voice deepening and hair growth, as well as penis/testes enlargement.
There are basically two ways of looking at testosterone: total (this is the total amount in your blood) and free (this is the amount that’s biologically active; most testosterone is bound to proteins called Sex Hormone Binding Globulins and is only able to exert its activity when free).
Testosterone levels naturally decline with age, and men often begin to experience a decrease in testicular size, a drop in sex drive, lower bone density, muscle mass reduction, and increased fat production.
Age-related decline in anabolic hormones, which includes testosterone, is a strong predictor of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and mortality in older men. Male testosterone typically peaks at around age 25-30 and drops 1-2% every year after that point. To stave off these negative health consequences, we should stabilize our testosterone levels and work against this decline.
To put this in a different perspective, over an almost 12 year period, men with the lowest testosterone had 40% greater likelihood of dying (even after controlling for age, body mass index (BMI), smoking, and poor general health)
That said, there are certain men who should consider the risks of testosterone boosting therapy. These include:
As always, you’ll want to discuss your options with your health-care provider, regardless of whether you fall under one of these categories.
As mentioned, men age and naturally lose testosterone production over time. Testosterone boosting therapy can not only improve sexual function and libido in men, but has been shown to improve sexual desire, erectile function, and overall energy.
As men age, the risk of bone fractures also increases as our bone density decreases, which contributes to the deteriorating quality of life for the older men among us. Testosterone plays a key role in supporting bone strength in men, making testosterone boosting therapies and testosterone replacement a useful method for managing these age-related ailments.
Testosterone levels have also been linked to increased muscle mass by increasing muscle protein synthesis. With this also comes improved lean body mass, a smaller waist circumference, and less total body fat. But the benefits aren’t limited to body composition and libido improvements.
In large placebo-controlled trials, this hormone has been shown to play a crucial role in maintaining a balanced mood and perceived quality of life in men of any age. It’s clear that this hormone is key for our everyday lives, so optimizing our levels is of great benefit.
With testosterone replacement therapy, or with testosterone boosting supplements, our goal is to bring blood testosterone back to normal levels.
There are many supplements and products on the market today that have some evidence of testosterone boosting, aside from taking exogenous prescription testosterone. Here are the 9 best testosterone-boosting ingredients on the market. Every product we mention is third-party tested.
*Note: We do have affiliate links throughout this article, which means we receive a commission if you purchase from any of our links. This supports our mission to bring complicated health and fitness info in an entertaining package. And it keeps us from putting up annoying things like banner ads. Those suck.
The most common, and most effective treatments will require you to see a doctor or nurse practitioner. However, there are telemedicine options to get these shipped right to you after consulting with a medical professional.
Testosterone replacement therapy is the most common treatment for properly diagnosed low testosterone. It directly replaces the testosterone in your body and is most common in men who are diagnosed with low testosterone. By bringing your levels back up to their normal range, you can help reduce your risk of deteriorating muscle mass, bone strength, and sexual function, as well as the other benefits listed above.
There are many different options for those who are looking to start testosterone, including oral capsules, gels that are applied to the body, and intramuscular injections.
These options have pros and cons – depending on which formulation you select, and how you take it. If this is the route you want to pursue, talk to your doctor, or visit Strut Health and speak with a specialist there to try testosterone for free.
In Canada, looking for virtual care? Try RocketDoctor.
Boron is a trace mineral that has been shown to play an important role in metabolism, bone health, wound healing, and our body’s use of hormones including testosterone.
A 2015 review showed that taking just 6mg of Boron per day significantly improved free testosterone by roughly 25%, significantly reduced estradiol (a form of estrogen), and reduced inflammatory markers.
Another study found that 10mg of boron supplementation daily was able to double testosterone, supporting the claim that it plays a key role in testosterone utilization.
That said, there is conflicting information, and not all studies show a significant improvement in testosterone levels with boron supplementation. However, given that there is an absence of studies showing harm, and many studies showing benefits, 3mg daily of boron is a reasonable dose for anyone whose diet lacks this mineral, or who may be at risk of bone-related issues (osteoporosis, osteoarthritis).
There is some speculation about using higher doses of boron (up to 12mg/day) but these studies also seemed to show an increase in estrogen after several weeks, leading some to use “cycles” of boron – there is no direct research at the moment to support this, though. The prevailing sentiment seems to be a low daily dose is best for most people.
NOW Foods has Boron 3mg capsules in packs of 250 (that’s 8 months worth). It’s a very inexpensive and simple supplement.
For more boron options, check out our article on the best boron supplements.
Magnesium is a necessary element for the functioning of more than 300 human enzymes, including cell integrity, mitochondrial energy production (yes, the powerhouse), DNA, RNA, and protein synthesis. Additionally, in a cohort of older men, it was shown that magnesium levels were strongly positively correlated with anabolic hormones, including testosterone. Even after adjustment for multiple factors, magnesium levels were still positively associated with an increase in total testosterone.
One other interesting study looked at Tae Kwon Do athletes and magnesium supplementation. It showed that those who exercised and took magnesium (10mg/kg body weight) had higher testosterone levels than those who only took magnesium but led a sedentary lifestyle. Their testosterone was also higher than those who only exercised but did not take magnesium. It is worth noting that the effect of magnesium on testosterone was greater in those who exercised than those who didn’t. Thus, men with impaired magnesium status and testosterone deficiency could benefit from magnesium supplementation (and physical activity).
A reasonable dose of magnesium is 200mg daily, and is typically taken at nighttime, though you can take one capsule twice daily as well.
Magnesium bisglycinate seems to have the greatest absorption and is the magnesium salt that we recommend. Some magnesium also causes a slight laxative effect – this dosage form reduces that drastically. You can get 240 capsules of Magnesium bisglycinate from California Gold Nutrition for $20.
Zinc is another trace mineral that we require not only for immune system function, but also wound healing, proper growth and development, and proper hormonal regulation. Low levels of zinc have been associated with male infertility, low sperm count, lack of sperm motility, low ejaculation volume, and low serum testosterone. Mild zinc deficiency is probably common throughout North America.
Several studies have shown a positive correlation between zinc concentrations in cells and serum testosterone levels. There is also evidence that regular zinc supplementation can promote a significant increase in testosterone, suggesting that this mineral plays a key role in regulating testosterone secretion.
A reasonable regimen to supplement your zinc stores would be 50 mg elemental zinc (220mg zinc sulfate) twice daily to increase serum testosterone and improve sperm count, but you could also start with one 50 mg dose a day.
Zinc picolinate has data suggesting that it has improved absorption, so our suggestion is the California Gold Nutrition Zinc Picolinate, at 50mg taken once to twice daily. At $9 for a 2–4-month supply (depending on if you take 1 or 2 a day) this is a great bargain from a reputable company. California Gold products are produced in a 3rd Party Audited cGMP Registered (Certified) Facility, giving you peace of mind when you purchase, and which is why you’ll see their products in this article multiple times.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is Ayurvedic herb with historical uses in general health. In a 16-week, randomized, placebo-controlled study, improvements in sexual and psychological well-being were demonstrated (though not statistically significant). However, it gave an almost 15% increase in testosterone compared to the placebo (this was statistically significant). This was a relatively small study of roughly 50 individuals, though.
Another similar study gave 300mg of Ashwagandha root extract twice a day to participants. The result of this was also a significant increase in testosterone levels, and participants also subjectively described their sexual well-being as improved.
Ashwagandha appears to have a positive impact on testosterone and is a reasonable dietary addition. Jarrow Formulas, for just $17.26, offers you a 2-month supply of Ashwagandha capsules.
For more on Ashwagandha, you can check out our article on the best ashwagandha supplements.
Fenugreek seeds have been historically used by athletes to improve performance, and has been suggested to improve testosterone levels, lower estrogen levels, and enhance libido
In one study treating strength-training individuals with fenugreek for 8 weeks, there was a statistically significant increase in testosterone (absolute difference of almost 50% vs. placebo). This benefit is represented across different extract types of fenugreek, suggesting that it was a significant effect on total serum testosterone levels in men. However, not all studies have shown a significant improvement in testosterone – 4/6 studies surveyed showed positive benefit, but the other 2 showed no significant difference.
It is also well tolerated, with few adverse effects (limited to headaches, nausea, and dizziness). Due to its strong safety profile, and the majority of studies showing a positive impact, we’ve listed it here as one of our recommended supplements. Most studies used two 300mg doses daily, however it is reasonable to take one 600mg dose daily.
Nature’s Way offers 610mg capsules, which can be taken once daily, for $10.84.
A relationship exists between vitamin D status and androgens, which makes sense – there is significant expression of vitamin D receptors in the male reproductive tract. Several studies have demonstrated a positive relationship between vitamin D levels and total and free testosterone. In these studies, men with sufficient vitamin D levels had higher total testosterone levels.
Further, in overweight men with deficient vitamin D, there was a significant increase in testosterone after 1 year of vitamin D supplementation. Though the data is not conclusive, nor is there a true causal relationship, vitamin D may increase T levels. Vitamin D is safe for most individuals, and one of the cheapest vitamins you can buy. Even if you’re not looking to boost your testosterone, most North Americans are deficient in vitamin D, so it’s a great overall health vitamin to start taking.
Studies have shown that doses of 4000 IU/d are safe, and may even be safe up to 10,000 IU/d. The minimum dose daily should be at least 800 IU/d, and doses up to at least 2000 IU/d are also typically recommended.
California Gold Nutrition sells a 3-month supply of vitamin D3 for just $4, making this possibly the best deal in this article.
Natural honey has some evidence that it may increase serum level of testosterone. Not only is it rich in natural antioxidants, but it also contains a substance called Chrysin, a flavonoid present in high levels in honey, which has been recognized as a potent aromatase inhibitor. Aromatase inhibitors are enzymes that convert testosterone to estradiol – by inhibiting this, we maximize our body’s exposure to testosterone. Evidence suggests that Chrysin has the potential for use as a T-boosting agent. Though there is still a need for further human study, some evidence suggests that 20g of honey per day, over a period of 3-12 weeks, has the potential to increase testosterone levels. This is a safe option for most people, but there is a lack of human studies showing its T-boosting capabilities, so that’s why it’s ranked lower than previous products.
I recommend locating your local raw honey shop – I’m in Toronto, so I’d opt for BeeLocal416. I typically put about 20g of honey on my morning sandwich: sourdough bread, a sliced-up banana, and coated in honey. It’s my go-to pre-morning run meal. Give it a try 1 hour before a workout and tell me how you feel.
Eurycoma longifolia Jack, also known as tongkat ali (TA), is a traditional herbal medicine, native to southeast Asia. TA is ubiquitous in folk medicines as an aphrodisiac, treatment for intermittent fever, as well as an indigestion aid. There are studies showing that TA can significantly increase testosterone levels (both total, and free levels) in aging men, at doses of 400mg TA extract per day. The mechanism is thought to be due the significant decrease in sex hormone-binding globulin concentrations – this is the protein largely responsible for binding testosterone in the blood.
However, there is conflicting data – some studies, using the same doses, showed no significant difference between treatment and placebo.
Tambi et al. Produced data that suggests the most benefit is to those who experience late-onset hypogonadism (when the testes fail to produce adequate hormone levels).
In general, men who took TA had their stress hormone profile significantly improved (less cortisol, less inflammatory markers), and they also increased their testosterone by nearly 40%. It also seems to support increased muscle size and strength, improved overall wellbeing, reduced stress, less symptoms of fatigue. TA has a very high safety profile, with no reported adverse events in human studies.
A typically recommended dose is 200-500mg per day, accomplished by taking one capsule (500mg) of Double Wood Supplements Tongkat Ali.
For a full range of TA supplement recommendations, check out our article on the best tongkat ali supplements.
I know we’ve talked a lot about supplements, and therapeutic options for boosting low testosterone levels. But that’s not the only way to increase your testosterone. Here are some alternatives:
Exercise can naturally increase your testosterone. I recommend lifting heavy weights, and following a strength-building program, to pack on some muscle. I also enjoy a ton of endurance training, mostly running, and find that it has benefited me greatly as well. A balance of both is my best recommendation, and the recommendation of basically every good trainer.
Weight management. Obesity and being overweight are directly related to low testosterone levels and managing your weight can help regulate your testosterone levels.
Sleep Hygiene. Consistent and quality sleep are crucial for regulating your testosterone production. Keeping your phone out of your room, keeping your room dark and cool (temperature-wise), and avoiding blue light before bedtime can all help improve your sleep.
Stress management. Cortisol, the stress hormone, has a negative impact on your testosterone. Sleep, weight management, and exercise are all great ways to manage stress.
Yes, we’ve ranked these products, but we also want you to make the best decisions for you, and that means understanding how we ranked them. They are ranked based on efficacy – that is, the products with the strongest data supporting their use are ranked higher than the rest. Further down the list, the data is likely a bit more sparse, but there are still some studies showing benefit, and for me to list it, the safety profile must make sense.
Strict Testing Standards, and Ingredient Sourcing
The supplement industry isn’t regulated by the FDA, so we try to choose products that were produced in GMP facilities to ensure you’re getting the best quality products possible.
All else equal, we chose high-quality products that are also affordable. The price of all the products listed are all quite similar, so that was somewhat a non-factor in this article.
What would be the ideal combination of testosterone-boosting supplements?
You can certainly combine the above therapies in different ways. A combination that I see commonly as a pharmacist (aside from its testosterone boosting capabilities) is boron, vitamin D3, zinc, and magnesium. These can all be taken together, at nighttime. I can’t recommend this for everyone, but I do see it often. Speak with your health-care provider first.
There are a few products out there that I see commonly quoted as testosterone-boosting agents, but there is little or no evidence for their use.
Tribulus terrestris (TT) is an herbal plant that has been extensively used in ancient medicine. Today, this plant extract is now commonly used by athletes to enhance testosterone levels. However, there is limited human evidence displaying testosterone improvement – most of these studies show benefit when it is combined with other supplements, with the majority of the studies showing statistically significant improvement being done in animals. The evidence is conflicting for this product, so for the time being, I don’t recommend it.
Lepidium meyenii, also known as Maca, is a Peruvian plant grown at high altitude, and traditionally used as a food supplement with indications of medical properties. However, the evidence is very sparse – it does not appear to influence testosterone levels to any appreciable degree. In one study, sexual desire was improved after taking Maca at various doses but was independent of testosterone levels. Another study showed similar results – the effect of Maca on sexual desire was not influenced by testosterone. This product may even interfere with testosterone lab measurements. The prevailing data suggests that Maca has not been shown to improve testosterone in men.
However, maca root may have other benefits which you can learn about in this article on the best maca root supplements.
Green tea extract (GTE) is found in many combinations of testosterone boosting formulas. However, studies (1, 2) have shown that GTE may actually inhibit testosterone production.
D-Aspartic Acid is a natural amino acid. A recent study found that it may increase levels of follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone. Both of these may stimulate the body to release more testosterone. However, a subsequent study showed that taking 3 grams of D-aspartic acid did not affect testosterone levels, while taking 6 grams actually reduced levels.