Testosterone is the primary sex hormone in males but also has important functions in females. Natural testosterone supplements and boosters include vitamin D, fenugreek, or ashwagandha. A person with a testosterone deficiency can also make lifestyle changes that may help increase their testosterone levels.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms, “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

Various supplements may help boost testosterone, such as:

A doctor may prescribe testosterone replacement therapy if testosterone levels are low due to a medical condition.

This article looks at testosterone in detail, including the role of testosterone in the body and how people can increase their testosterone levels.

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Testosterone is a key male sex hormone. During puberty in males, testosterone is responsible for the deepening of the voice, the growth of the male sexual organs, and the development of pubic hair. It also plays an important role in sperm production.

Regardless of a person’s sex, testosterone has several functions, involving:

  • sex drive
  • bone mass
  • fat distribution and storage
  • muscle growth
  • red blood cell production
  • sperm production

Testosterone levels can naturally fluctuate throughout a person’s life cycle. Overall, males tend to have higher testosterone levels than females, and females tend to have higher levels of estrogen.

Learn more about testosterone levels in males and females.

If a person is transitioning, they may increase their testosterone levels to make certain aspects of their body — those that society considers masculine — more apparent. In this situation, a person may consider testosterone therapy.

A person should always discuss hormone therapy’s potential benefits and risks with a doctor.

Testosterone supplements may also be useful for people with testosterone deficiency.

In males, a testosterone deficiency may cause:

  • reduced sex drive
  • erectile dysfunction
  • reduced ejaculate
  • reduced facial and body hair growth
  • loss of lean muscle mass
  • low bone density
  • fatigue and weakness
  • anxiety
  • anemia
  • increased sweating

In females, testosterone helps protect sexual, cognitive, and musculoskeletal health. It can also boost overall well-being.

The symptoms of low testosterone in females are nonspecific, but they can include a low sex drive.

A female with a testosterone deficiency may have:

  • fatigue
  • mood changes
  • difficulty sleeping

Taking testosterone supplements may help alleviate these symptoms. Doctors sometimes prescribe testosterone gels, creams, or implants to people around the time they enter menopause.

Before taking a testosterone supplement, it is best to discuss this with a doctor.

Learn more about low testosterone in women.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires testosterone therapy drugs to carry a warning that they may increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

This is not necessarily true for vitamins and supplements. Each product carries its own risk of side effects and interactions. For this reason, people should check first and follow instructions carefully.

The FDA does not regulate supplements, which means that these products have not been through clinical trials. As a result, there is not always evidence that a supplement works as advertised.

In addition, supplements do not undergo the same rigorous quality control checks as medications. It is important to ensure that products come from reputable sources. A person should always research a supplement and consult with a doctor before using it.

This section looks at supplements that may help increase testosterone levels.

For erectile function: Vitamin D

A 2020 study noted a link between vitamin D levels and testosterone. Males with a vitamin D deficiency had lower testosterone levels than those without a deficiency. This suggests that boosting vitamin D levels may help raise testosterone levels.

Vitamin D supplements could also help increase libido for some people. For example, one 2015 study showed that taking vitamin D improved sexual function and mood in females with a deficiency.

Furthermore, research shows that vitamin D plays a key role in male sexual function. Supplementation could help protect against deficiency, which may be associated with a higher risk of erectile dysfunction.

What are six of the best vitamin D supplements?

For physical fitness: Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is an evergreen shrub. Its roots and fruit have medicinal properties.

A 2019 study examined the effects of ashwagandha on hormone levels in males ages 40–70 years with overweight and mild fatigue. One group received a placebo while the others received ashwagandha. Among those taking ashwagandha, testosterone levels rose by 14.7% more than they did in the placebo group.

Additionally, a 2015 study also found that ashwagandha increased testosterone levels in males over an 8-week period. It also increased muscle mass and strength when paired with a training program.

Can ashwagandha help with erectile dysfunction?

For female sexual function: Fenugreek

Fenugreek is a plant in the Fabaceae family.

A 2020 review of trials concluded that a fenugreek extract supplement may significantly affect testosterone levels in males.

Research has found similar results in females. In a 2015 study, researchers gave 80 females ages 20–49 600 milligrams of fenugreek seed extract or a placebo every day for 8 weeks. The extract led to a significant increase in testosterone levels and sexual desire compared with the placebo.

Learn more about the benefits of fenugreek and where to find it.

For older adults: DHEA

The body produces this steroid hormone in the adrenal glands.

Some research has found that DHEA could increase testosterone levels and may be especially beneficial for females.

In fact, one 2021 study showed that DHEA supplementation significantly increased testosterone levels and improved body composition in older females.

Still, more research is necessary to explore the effects of DHEA on testosterone in humans, as other studies have turned up mixed results.

How could DHEA benefit your health?

Some people may prefer self-care strategies for boosting testosterone. A person might try these approaches on their own or in addition to supplements. Some tips for increasing testosterone naturally involve:

Sleep

According to a 2019 review, there may be a connection between low testosterone and a lack of sleep, especially in people with obstructive sleep apnea.

Severe disruption to sleep may affect testosterone levels, which could lead to issues with sexual function.

Weight loss

Males with obesity tend to have lower testosterone levels. Reaching and maintaining a moderate weight may help increase these levels.

Diet

Some research has found that males maintaining low fat diets have lower testosterone levels, regardless of their body mass index and physical activity levels.

However, obesity may also increase the likelihood of having low testosterone. Therefore, a person should speak with a doctor before adding significantly more fat to their diet.

Which fats to eat, and which to avoid?

Sunlight

Studies suggest that exposure to sunlight may help increase testosterone levels, as this is the source of most of the body’s vitamin D.

Learn more about boosting testosterone naturally.

A doctor may prescribe testosterone replacement therapy if a person has a diagnosis of low testosterone stemming from a medical condition.

Examples of brand-name versions of testosterone therapy include:

  • Testosterone patch (androderm)
  • Testosteon gel (fortesta)
  • Ingection of testosterone undecanoate (aveed)

A doctor may also prescribe testosterone therapy, sometimes called “T therapy,” for a person who is transitioning.

Learn more about T therapy and when it can start.

However, the FDA warns that these drugs may have adverse effects, including a higher risk of a heart attack. People should only use them as a doctor advises.

Several testosterone boosters, including prescription medications and over-the-counter products, have been studied for their ability to increase testosterone levels and improve symptoms of deficiency.

Testosterone levels

Though testosterone therapy prescribed by a doctor can increase testosterone levels, research on the effectiveness of over-the-counter supplements has turned up mixed results.

For example, one 2020 study evaluated the effectiveness of 50 supplements that claimed to boost testosterone levels, increase libido, and increase strength.

According to the study, less than 25% of supplements had any evidence to support their purported health benefits. Meanwhile, around 10% contained ingredients that could actually reduce testosterone levels.

Similarly, another study found that only 30% of people experienced an increase in testosterone levels after using five of the most popular over-the-counter testosterone boosters on the market.

Sexual function

Studies show that testosterone therapy can improve sexual function in people with testosterone deficiency.

It may also help enhance libido and ease issues like erectile dysfunction in males.

Though more research is needed, certain supplements may improve sexual function according to some studies, including fenugreek.

However, according to a 2019 review analyzing five of the top testosterone-boosting supplements, only around 17% of users reported experiencing an increase in libido.

Physical fitness

Decreased testosterone levels are often associated with reduced physical function, especially in older adults.

One study showed that while testosterone therapy did not affect muscle strength, it did significantly improve physical function in older males.

On the other hand, a 2021 study in males with obesity and low testosterone levels found that pairing testosterone therapy with resistance training did not improve physical function. However, it did help maintain muscle mass and bone density during weight loss.

Some studies suggest that supplements like ashwagandha could increase testosterone levels, improving muscle mass and strength when combined with resistance training.

However, further research is needed to evaluate the effects of other supplements on physical fitness and strength.

A person should consider their needs and preferences to determine which type of testosterone booster is right for them.

If a person has a testosterone deficiency related to a medical condition, a healthcare professional can help determine the cause and best course of treatment, which may include prescription medications or lifestyle changes.

Supplements may be a good option to help balance hormone levels as well. However, it is important to talk with a doctor before taking any supplements and note that not all supplements are equally safe or effective.

Generally, it is best to opt for third-party tested or certified supplements containing ingredients in doses that have been studied and proven effective.

Certain supplements and medications may be beneficial for transitioning individuals with a testosterone deficiency or anyone experiencing symptoms related to low testosterone levels, such as a decreased sex drive.

Many lifestyle factors — such as improving sleep quality, maintaining a moderate weight, and following a nutritious diet — can also support hormone balance and overall health.

However, a person should only take supplements or medications as a healthcare professional advises.

Not only can certain supplements interact with other medications that a person may be taking, but some products might also be associated with adverse effects on health, including an increased risk of a heart attack.

A person should speak with a doctor if they are experiencing any symptoms of low testosterone, including:

  • erectile dysfunction
  • decreased libido
  • hot flashes
  • fatigue

In addition to testing a person’s testosterone levels, a doctor can also determine whether any underlying conditions may be causing or contributing to symptoms and help develop a treatment plan.

It is also best to talk with a doctor before taking any supplements, especially if a person has any health conditions or is taking other medications.

Here are some questions that people often ask about supplements to boost testosterone.

What causes low testosterone?

People with a condition called hypogonadism have low testosterone levels. Other contributing factors include health conditions related to metabolic syndromes, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. The use of alcohol and some prescription and recreational drugs can also have an impact.

Will supplements help?

Some evidence supports the use of vitamin D, ashwagandha, DHEA, and other supplements. In most cases, however, research has not confirmed that supplements are safe or effective.

Can medication raise testosterone levels quickly?

Research suggests that after males start testosterone therapy, libido increases over 3–6 weeks and then levels off.

Changes in erection, ejaculation, or both may take up to 6 months, but improvements in the quality of life and mood should occur in 3–6 weeks.

Are supplements safe to use?

Vitamin D is likely safe for most people, but researchers have yet to establish the safety and effectiveness of most supplements. Always check with a healthcare professional before using a supplement, as some have adverse effects and can interact with medications.

Testosterone is a key male sex hormone and facilitates important functions in females.

Anyone with a testosterone deficiency might consider taking testosterone supplements. Others may prefer to increase their levels naturally by making lifestyle changes. Some tips include boosting vitamin D levels through safe exposure to sunlight and getting more sleep.

A doctor may prescribe testosterone replacement therapy if very low testosterone levels stem from a medical condition.