Tongkat Ali FAQs are here answered by Australian Medical Herbalist Benjamin Drewe, the world pioneer in researching and developing Tongkat Ali into modern herbal products since 1995.
Ben recommends that when buying Tongkat Ali avoid those products only sold online as these are not subject to any regulatory quality control. Always check for proof that their products are registered and sold in their own retail market before purchase.
Does Tongkat Ali really work, and if so, how?
Tongkat Ali is a very interesting and unique herb. It works on several mechanisms involved with hormonal and sexual function. In a nutshell, Tongkat Ali reduces the effects of ageing on the male reproductive system by increasing your body’s free testosterone bioavailability via 4 mechanisms.
- Stimulating the secretion of Luteinzing Hormones (LH) which in turn stimulates the Leydig cells of your testicles to produce testosterone.
- Reducing the conversion of Testosterone to Estrogen (aromatization),
- Decrease in sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG)
- Reduction in cortisol, the stress hormone that lowers testosterone
The net result of these 4 effects is an increase in available free testosterone.
With ageing testosterone becomes bound to serum globulin and is not available to the cell receptor sites where it is needed to initiate sex-stimulating centers in the brain. The component in the blood that renders free testosterone inactive is called sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). Excess estrogen can increase the production of SHBG and block testosterone-receptor sites. Estrogen levels of the average 54-year-old man are often higher than those of the average 59-year-old woman. While some estrogen is a necessary hormone for men, too much contributes to a wide range of health, weight gain and libido problems. Due to similarities in chemical structure, high serum levels of estrogen also trick the brain into thinking that enough testosterone is being produced, thereby slowing the natural production of testosterone. For testosterone to produce its positive health enhancing effects, it must be kept in the free form in the bloodstream. Bound testosterone is unable to be picked up by testosterone receptors on cell membranes. For aging men, it is desirable to suppress excess levels of SHBG and estrogen while boosting free testosterone to the level of a young man. Tongkat Ali is a natural way of boosting bioavailable testosterone while also reducing SHBG and estrogen levels in aging men.
In studies under the Malaysian National Biotechnology Directorate coordination between research teams from Malaysia and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the following actions of Tongkat Ali on male health have been stated from their research:
- Elevated free testosterone level
- Improved erectile strength without side effects
- Increase in male fertility, sperm quality, motility and quantity
- Natural energizer
- Safely and meaningfully boosts androgen levels
- Improves strength during exercise and has an anabolic effect on muscle growth
- Decrease in sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG)
- May promote weight loss
- May reduce conversion of testosterone to estrogen (anti-aromatase effect)
In summary, these combined effects position Tongkat Ali as perhaps the safest and most effective herbal testosterone enhancing medicinal plant available today. It is particularly suitable for slowing down or reversing the so called male andropause that occurs in middle-age and is of benefit for athletes and bodybuilders looking for a natural supplement without side-effects.
What dosage should I take to obtain the best results with Tongkat Ali?
While I cannot speak for other products, especially for products only sold online online and not approved by their Ministry of Health, I can offer advice based on 20 years experience with many thousands of patients and customers. We have products that may be taken on a daily basis (E-P Tongkat Ali Capsules and Tongkat Ali Plus Capsules) as well as our high strength TONEX Tongkat Ali Capsules that should be cycled over shorter periods when a stronger effect is required. Tongkat Ali should always be taken after meals. For more information on our individual Tongkat Ali product dosages please see the individual products.
Can I still take Tongkat Ali if I have high blood pressure?
Tongkat Ali will not aggravate high blood pressure as it has a mild anti-hypertensive vasodilatory effect. One of the reasons Tongkat Ali is beneficial for erectile dysfunction is because it assists vasodilation of penile circulation as confirmed in scientific research. This same effect been studied recently in Malaysia on reducing hypertension and the compound responsible was isolated and the researchers noted that “it is anticipated that this subfraction could be developed into an antihypertensive treatment that would be able to preserve or improve erectile function in hypertensive patients.”
What's your opinion about 100:1 and 200:1 Tongkat Ali extracts?
Tongkat Ali extract must be tested for it’s Eurycomanone content and not for the outdated “ratio method” that is completely unverifiable and unprofessional. Ask any phytochemist who has extracted Tongkat Ali and they will tell you that a 30:1 concentration extract is the maximum ratio of herb to extract that is obtainable from Tongkat Ali after which you would need to be selectively separating its individual components. It’s unfortunate but those claiming to have Tongkat Ali extraction ratios of 50:1, 100:1, and even the absurd 200:1 are false and make this erroneous claim to cheat you. One pure marketing company started this off several years ago and everyone else (except for Rainforest Herbs) has felt it was necessary to perpetuate the claim in order to be competitive. Amazingly, even Chinese extraction companies are selling Tongkat Ali 200:1 extract at such cheap prices that we in Malaysia could not even purchase the herb from our native suppliers at that price. These China companies are not using Tongkat Ali in their extracts. Anyone claiming to use a 200:1 Tongkat Ali extract reveal that they are not scientifically trained healthcare professionals or they would never make these assertions.
Conspicuously absent from all these companies is any mention of studies on the active ingredient marker in Tongkat Ali, Eurycomanone. Eurycomanone is the prominent bioactive quassinoid present in Tongkat Ali that is used as a marker and should be present in more than 1.5% at a minimum daily dosage of 600mgs. Thus both the concentration of the extract and daily dosage is necessary to be therapeutically effective.
Another issue is that the colour of an extract does not offer any clue to its quality, as a darker coloured extract may indeed be only “burnt” during excessive heating, especially by poor quality drying processes with subsequent loss of properties due to unregulated heat. Assay for glycosaponins is a standard in phytochemistry especially for products that elicit an effect on the male reproductive system. For example the majority of known active ingredients in Korean Ginseng are also glycosaponins.
Do not be dismayed by the quasi-scientific jargon given by some companies, with terms such as Eurypeptides etc. etc. as these are imaginative marketing speak for those who do not want you to have a standard that can be qualified or quantified independently. Finally, remember that when you purchase a product from a Company claiming a 200:1 extract then you are likely buying a China extract that may not contain any Tongkat Ali extract at all.
For more on info on Eurycomanone please click here
If Tongkat Ali increases my testosterone, won't that make me aggressive?
On the contrary, Tongkat Ali actually reduces aggressiveness and promotes a sense of calm and confidence. This anxiety relieving effect was also demonstrated in animal studies in that the test rats exhibited a reduced tendency to fight and performed better (improved motor skills) in tests designed to mimic stress and anxiety. Tongkat Ali does not contain any testosterone in itself as it acts only as a precursor to prompt the body to supply more of its own testosterone and this also includes improving the useable or free “good” testosterone withn physiological normal parameters. In this way we are still oursleves, just ourselves on a particularly more virile and heightened energy day especially suited to androgenic activities such as fitness and body building or sex.
Conversely certain body builders who inject large doses of synthetic testosterone hormone actually reduce their bodies own production and may experience increased aggression as well as hair loss, reduction in testicular size, outbreaks of acne and heart problems amongst others.
Does Tongkat Ali have any side effects?
Our Tongkat Ali products, taken at their recommended dosage are very well tolerated and free of toxicity. One may experience an increase in metabolic body heat (thermogenesis) after taking Tongkat Ali and it is recommended to increase water intake. For individuals with high blood pressure and or diabetes then our Rainforest Herbs Tongkat Ali Plus Capsules formulation has been specially prepared to support male hormonal and cardiovascular health and antioxidant protection from free radical damage.
In my experience each individual reacts slightly differently, so the product dosage that works for you may be different for another. High dosages may give more dramatic effects on libido within a shorter time frame of around 1-2 days, while lower dosages may take 1 week or more to notice the effect.
Can I just boil Tongkat Ali root and drink as a herbal tea?
Yes, but Tongkat Ali is very bitter so most people cannot drink it this way regularly. The bitter compounds in Tongkat Ali lowers blood sugar, making it supportive for diabetes regulation. This is why it’s always best consumed after meals.
What is Red and Black Tongkat Ali?
Yellow, Red and Black Tongkat Ali are all unrelated medicinal plants that share a similar common name in some regions of Malaysia. However, the name Tongkat Ali is most commonly in reference to yellow Tongkat Ali (yellow) or Eurycoma longifolia, of the family: Simaroubaceae. The other roots that share this name are:
- Red Tongkat Ali / Akar Haji Samat = Species: Jackia (Jackiaopsis) ornata, Family: Rubaceae. This is a rare herb that is also known as Malaysian Red Ginseng. The taste is acceptable with a mild Ginseng-like quality.
- Black Tongkat Ali = Species: Polyalthia bullata, Family: Annonaceae. This is the black root of a rare small shrub found growing alongside rivers in lowland forests of Peninsular Malaysia
Each of these herbs is used in Malaysian traditional medicine for energy and sexual dysfunction.
Can Tongkat Ali be taken by women?
Yes, I have observed that it is quite common that women in Borneo prepare Tongkat Ali when they require energy in times of convalescence. Scientific research on women consuming Tongkat Ali is now being conducted and the results have been encouraging, such as enhanced sports performance, libido and energy. Physiologically a woman’s libido is also dependent on the presence of testosterone and women are more sensitive to testosterone than men and even a slight increase can have marked improvements in sexual arousal and physical performance. Tongkat Ali is also suitable in menopausal women as it helps maintain progesterone production from the ovaries and adrenal glands. The ability of Tongkat Ali to enhance testosterone in both men and women is always within normal limits and thus it is increasingly being seen as a safe and natural performance supplement for sportspeople. Chinese sports scientists have found Tongkat Ali a benefit in professional athletes as the increase in testosterone is within natural physiological limits and therefore completely legal in competition.
Is Malaysian Tongkat Ali high in lead?
No, this is not true. Tongkat Ali contains no lead. Lead found in herbal products is the result of soil contamination on the herbs surface. Lead finds its way into the soil mainly as a result of leaded petrol exhaust contamination and heavy industry. Farms in industrialized areas have a higher lead contamination; areas far from industry such as the rain forest have negligible levels. All root herb or vegetables must be thoroughly cleansed of surface soil after collection. All batches of health products manufactured under GMP standards (Malaysia strictly enforces GMP) must undergo a heavy metal test (Atomic Absorption Spectrometry) to determine whether lead and other heavy metals are present. Generally, well-prepared extracts are a further protection from any soil borne lead or microbial contamination. The vegetables we consume on a daily basis from commercial farms are seldom, if ever, tested for heavy metals and the contamination may exceed the allowed limit for food products. Some marketing Companies from Indonesia are even saying not to buy Tongkat Ali from Malaysia because it is high in lead which is completely ridiculous for the reasons given above. Unsurprisingly, these are the same companies selling so-called 100:1 and 200:1 Tongkat Ali extracts (see info above).
Is Tongkat Ali prohibted from collection in Malaysia?
Definitely not, Malaysia is the only country that has controls on who may collect from the wild in an effort to protect the plant from indiscriminate collection. Only indigenous collectors are issued collection licenses by the Malaysian Forestry Department. Indonesia has no regulations or enforcement in place and thus Tongkat Ali is indiscriminately over-harvested in Indonesia. Only the Malaysian Government via it’s research centres and overseas research affiliates has invested many millions of dollars into scientific research on Tongkat Ali and the Malaysian Ministry of Health has been regulating the quality of its Tongkat Ali products for the past 20 years. No other country has done this.
Are there any differences between Malaysian and Indonesian Tongkat Ali?
The plant Eurycoma longifolia (Jack) is primarily found in Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo (comprising Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei) and the north of Sumatra, principally in Aceh. Tongkat Ali is not found in Java. As is natural, there are minor differences in plant chemistry for Tongkat Ali as a result of differences in soil composition, weather and so on. Thus plants collected from areas that are just a few kilometers away can have subtle differences when tested by HPLC. The roots of Tongkat Ali were used in Traditional Malay herbal medicine and until recently were seldom used in Indonesia. The knowledge and experience of using Tongkat Ali for male sexual function comes from centuries of experience from Malay herbalists. Multiple pharmacological studies on the phytochemical differences between Tongkat Ali plants have been performed in Malaysia and these studies have shown that the Eurycomanone content is relatively stable between all plants samples studied.
How can I maximize the effects of Tongkat Ali, is there anything else I can do?
Taking Tongkat Ali before regular exercise / workouts can improve the results and accelerate muscle growth and taking a zinc supplement may work synergistically with Tongkat Ali to quickly increase testosterone production and enhance libido.
Do you take Tongkat Ali yourself?
Definitely! I have been regularly taking Tongkat Ali for the past 22 years and I’m happy to say that at 50 years of age I still have the energy to do the same sports I have enjoyed from my youth, such as swimming, surfing and martial arts (silat). I guess the best proof is that Tongkat Ali has helped me maintain my muscle mass, waist size and minimal body fat all these years.