July 2017
Wenyi Zhu, Yijie Du, Hong Meng, Yinmao Dong & Li Li


Tribulus terrestris L. (TT) is an annual plant of the family Zygophyllaceae that has been used for generations to energize, vitalize, and improve sexual function and physical performance in men. The fruits and roots of TT have been used as a folk medicine for thousands of years in China, India, Sudan, and Pakistan. Numerous bioactive phytochemicals, such as saponins and flavonoids, have been isolated and identified from TT that are responsible alone or in combination for various pharmacological activities. This review provides a comprehensive overview of the traditional applications, phytochemistry, pharmacology and overuse of TT and provides evidence for better medicinal usage of TT.

TT is an annual plant of the family Zygophyllaceae, which is commonly known as Tribulus, Hard thorns, and goat head in China. It is mainly planted in the Mediterranean and in sub-tropical regions such as India, China, South America, Mexico, Spain, Bulgaria, and Pakistan. It is a small, prostrate, 10–60 cm high, hirsute or silky hairy shrub. The leaves are opposite, often unequal, paripinnate, pinnate from 5 to 8 pairs and elliptical or an oblong lanceolate. The fruits from the five mericarps are ax-shaped, 3–6 mm long, and arranged radially and have a diameter of 7–12 mm and a hard texture. The root is slender, fibrous, cylindrical and frequently branched, bears a number of small rootlets and is light brown in colour [1]. The fruits and roots of TT, as a folk medicine, have been used for thousands of years in China. Over the last several years, it has been certified for its pharmaceutical activities for improving sexual function and cardiac protection and providing anti-urolithic, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, antitumour and antioxidants effects.

In the current review, we present and analyse the ethnobotanical use and the phytochemical and pharmacological activities of TT. These up-to-date research observations will be helpful in understanding the characteristics and superiorities of this traditional Chinese medicine and will be applicable in developing new products and herbal medicines in the future.