Testosterone is the primary sex hormone in males, but it also has important functions in females. If a person has a testosterone deficiency, they may wish to take testosterone supplements or make certain lifestyle changes.

Various supplements may help boost testosterone, such as:

If testosterone levels are low due to a medical condition, a doctor may prescribe testosterone replacement therapy.

Below, we look at testosterone in detail, including its roles and how people can increase their 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 a different sex hormone: estrogen.

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 discuss the potential benefits and risks of hormone therapy with a doctor.

Learn more about testosterone levels in males and females.

Testosterone supplements may be useful for people with a 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 that 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 make sure that products come from reputable sources and to check their contents before using them.

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

Vitamin D

A 2020 study noted a link between vitamin D levels and testosterone. Men 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 come as capsules and sprays.

What are six of the best vitamin D supplements?

Ashwagandha

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

A 2019 study examined the effects of ashwagandha on hormone levels in males aged 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.

Can ashwagandha help with erectile dysfunction?

D-aspartic acid

This amino acid plays a role in testosterone production and release.

In one small, 2009 study, researchers gave 23 men a daily dose of D-aspartate for 12 days, which led to an increase in their testosterone. More research is necessary to determine whether similar results occur in females.

However, another small study, published in 2017, concluded that D-aspartic acid did not increase testosterone or improve fitness in males who took the supplement for 3 months. The authors of a different 2017 review concluded that the effect on testosterone in humans is unclear and called for more research.

Overall, there is no conclusive evidence that D-aspartic acid boosts testosterone levels.

Can D-aspartic acid help manage erectile dysfunction?

Fenugreek

Fenugreek is a plant in the Fabaceae family.

A 2020 review of trials concluded that a fenugreek extract supplement may have a significant effect on testosterone levels in males.

Research has found similar results in females. In a 2015 study, researchers gave 80 females aged 20–49 years 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.

DHEA

The body produces this hormone in the adrenal glands.

A 2016 study examining the effect of DHEA and whole-body vibrations on mice found that the combination decreased testosterone levels. However, DHEA alone increased these levels.

More research is necessary to explore the effects of DHEA on testosterone in humans.

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

A 2014 study found links between low testosterone and a lack of sleep, especially in people with obstructive sleep apnea. Severe disruption to sleep may affect testosterone levels, the authors concluded.

Weight loss

Males with obesity tend to have lower testosterone levels. Losing weight in a healthy way may help increase these levels.

Diet

Some research suggests that males with low fat diets have lower testosterone levels, regardless of their body mass index scores and physical activity levels.

However, obesity may also increase the likelihood of having low testosterone. Speak with a doctor before adding significantly more fat to a diet.

Which fats to eat, and which to avoid?

Sunlight

Older research indicates 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.

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

Examples of brand name versions of testosterone therapy are:

  • Androderm
  • Fortesta
  • 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.

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

What causes low testosterone?

People with a condition known as “hypogonadism” have low testosterone levels. Other contributing factors include health conditions related to metabolic syndrome, 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?

There is some evidence to support 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 in about 3–6 weeks, then it stops increasing.

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, but it also 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.

If very low testosterone levels stem from a medical condition, a doctor may prescribe testosterone replacement therapy.