No herb can facilitate muscle growth without diet and exercise. However, several herbs may be viable complementary components of a body-building regimen. When combined with a low-fat diet and frequent exercise, some medicinal herbs can increase a person’s testosterone levels, leading to improved stamina and muscle mass. Adaptogenic herbs may also improve muscle growth by supporting the body’s stress response. Consult your health care provider before using any medicinal herb; some may be associated with side effects or drug interactions.
This low-growing, weedy herb has a reputation for improving muscle growth with few or no side effects. Herbalists have traditionally believed that this potent aphrodisiac worked by increasing a person’s testosterone levels, but modern studies have cast doubt upon this hypothesis. A study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology concluded that tribulus has little or no effect on the testosterone levels of young men.
Safed musli contains saponins that are chemically similar to testosterone. This key hormone governs dozens of functions within the male body, including sexual health and muscle strength. In Ayurveda, a traditional system of medicine originating in India, safed musli is viewed as a helpful herb for men suffering from chronic fatigue, sexual dysfunction or physical weakness.
Ginseng supports muscle synthesis by enabling the body to adapt to physical stress. Medline Plus, a service of the National Institutes of Health, notes that ginseng may improve a person’s energy levels, sense of well-being and heart health. Ginseng and other adaptogen herbs can help an aspiring body-builder cope with the stresses of daily exercise with fewer fluctuations in sleep, mood or appetite.
A tropical aphrodisiac originating in Malaysia, tongkat ali (E. longfolia jack) is steadily gaining popularity as a supplement for aspiring body-builders. Primarily published in the journal “Phytomedicine,” several animal studies using rats and mice have found that this herb reliably improves testosterone levels and sexual health. No human studies have investigated tongkat ali’s benefits for muscle growth, but it may help to complement an exercise regimen.