Article Thumbnail

Inside the Frantic Search for the Testicle-Enhancing Wonder Shrub

Known for its supposed power as a testosterone, libido and ball-size enhancer, it sold out almost immediately after Joe Rogan named-dropped it on his podcast. But is its magic overblown?

Somewhere, deep in the cum-soaked annals of the internet, a young man scavenges for a supplement that could grow his testicles to godly proportions. He grinds his teeth, navigating from one Reddit thread to another, desperately clicking between sold-out vendors and email waitlists. Hours pass before he realizes his quest is futile. He hangs his head. He’ll never have giant nuts.

The elusive supplement in question is fadogia agrestis, an African dwarf shrub. Known simply as “fadogia” in biohacking and bodybuilding circles, the shrub produces an extract known for its alleged testosterone-boosting effects. If the Reddit forums are to be believed, fadogia is a miracle drug, turbo-charging sexual performance, increasing testosterone levels, and perhaps most notably, increasing the size of the user’s testicles. But despite fadogia’s buzzy reputation, the extract is unregulated, and its effects have only been tested on rodents. Still, the lack of regulation isn’t stopping the biohacking community from tracking down fadogia — but a product shortage may.

To explore the depths of the fadogia panic, I slithered into a corner of the internet known for near-constant testicular discussion: Reddit. There, I found men of all ages interested in trying fadogia to increase general vitality, ward off the effects of past head injuries and level up their fuck game. First, I talked to Adam (a pseudonym), who heard about fadogia on the Joe Rogan podcast (more on that later). The 36-year-old Oregonian describes himself as very active and healthy, typically exercising five-to-six days a week. He’s a happy, fit man in his prime, so why would he need fadogia? “I’m always interested in different supplements/nootropics, so this one seemed interesting with how it affects testosterone,” he tells me.

But, like many interested buyers, Adam can’t get his hands on the stuff — perhaps because of a surge in interest after the aforementioned Rogan podcast. In the meantime, Adam resorts to tongkat ali, another T-boosting alternative also mentioned on the episode. He’s not particularly worried about the fadogia shortage, either. “There is a potential toxicity to fadogia and not as many human studies as I would like, so I probably won’t follow through with it unless a reputable vendor can provide it,” he says.

There are, in fact, zero human studies analyzing the effects of fadogia on human men — again, at this point its reputation is just rodent-based conjecture. For more information, I reached out to Aaron Spitz, a urologist, male reproductive and sexual health expert and author of something called The Penis Book. “There doesn’t appear to be any meaningful research published on fadogia’s effects on humans,” he tells me. “Rats aren’t humans, so the effect on a rat cannot be assumed to be the effect on a man.” Spitz went on to cite one 2005 study in which rats were given “human-equivalent amounts” of fadogia over a five-day period. “They did demonstrate increased sexual activity, including more frequent episodes of sex (up to four times more) and each episode of sex lasted longer (up to three times as long) before the rat ejaculated.”

The affected rats’ testosterone levels also increased up to sixfold when compared to rats in the control group. But is that even healthy? Spitz says probably not. He directed me to another study that involved rats given different amounts of fadogia over the course of about a month. “Rat testicles measured larger; however, they may have been less healthy,” Spitz explains. “There were increases in certain enzymes and a reduction in proteins in the testicles that indicate possible toxic damage from the fadogia [which] might result in decreased fertility.” 

Spitz tells me that, based on those findings, he can’t recommend fadogia as a testosterone supplement. In that case, does the average dude even need to worry about boosting his testosterone? “For the majority of men, there is no benefit to boosting testosterone,” he says. “The majority of men have normal testosterone levels that fall well within the normal range, and as such, they wouldn’t derive any meaningful benefit from increasing their testosterone further.” Of course, this doesn’t apply to men who have truly low T levels, which can lead to symptoms like decreased sexual desire, erectile dysfunction, decreased stamina and depression. In those cases, Spitz recommends seeing a doctor for a safe, regulated testosterone supplement, noting that unregulated supplements like fadogia can contain toxic additives. “Some nutritional supplements are spiked with actual testosterone that will [create] a real effect, but will also result in real side effects they weren’t bargaining for,” he explains. 

Those side effects include sterility, prostate disease, thickening of the blood resulting in a risk of stroke, and in Spitz’s words, “excess conversion of testosterone to estrogen — resulting in man boobs.” Ultimately, he says, fadogia is unstudied, unregulated and potentially unsafe. “There are no published studies on the safety of fadogia at any dose, and using it carries risk and isn’t recommended by any medical authority including myself,” he says.

That last part isn’t exactly true, as there’s one medical authority who can’t stop talking about fadogia — Andrew D. Huberman, an American neuroscientist and professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Huberman’s the one who recommended fadogia on the Rogan podcast that redditors can’t stop citing. During the episode, which aired in July, Huberman recommended a few supplements to optimize testosterone levels, including tongkat ali and fadogia. “Fadogia will actually make the testes grow,” he says in the episode (around the 6:20 mark in this video recording). “Everybody wants that,” says Rogan, staring deadpan at the camera.

He’s got a point. There are entire Reddit threads devoted to the quest for fadogia, with countless links to sketchy supplement vendors and even Etsy stores. “I can’t find it anywhere? Any luck?” writes one frantic redditor. “Where can I buy — man, Rogan sold them out,” writes another. “Good thing I was early,” taunts a third, noting that he snagged one of the last bottles from a so-called “herbal elixirs” company. One commenter even recommends that interested users check out a vendor called Chaos and Pain, which is exactly the opposite of what I’m looking for in a nutritional resource.

That said, when guys do get their hands on the stuff, it seems to go over well. Myles, a 32-year-old Angeleno, says he turned to fadogia after finding that his testosterone levels were normal, but “closer to the low end” of the “normal” spectrum. “My testicles are certainly average as well,” he makes sure to point out. “Like most men, I just wanted more.” When we spoke, he was about two weeks into a fadogia-tongkat ali hybrid regimen. “Anecdotally, my ball sack does indeed have more heft to it, and my libido is borderline uncomfortably high for day-to-day life, which I kinda love,” he continues. “Visibly, my flaccid length hangs a little lower and my testicles look maybe five percent larger.”

Can we blame these men for clamoring after an extract that may or may not give them mega balls? It’s hard to say. More level-headed dudes like Adam are sketched out by fadogia’s lack of safety data; others, like Myles, are tempted by the potential for a slightly heftier sack, as well as a board-certified neurologist’s recommendation on Rogan’s podcast. For what it’s worth, this is far from the first time Rogan has hosted a physician making unsubstantiated claims; in 2020, he chatted with Dr. Pierre Kory, a critical care physician who erroneously recommended ivermectin, an antiparasitic medication, as a COVID-19 “wonder drug.”

Nevertheless, as the supplement industry remains unregulated, we’ll have more Hubermans, more fadogia shortages and more healthy men turning to potentially harmful substances in pursuit of Godzilla balls.