Much has changed in regards the scientific understanding of Tongkat Ali since we launched the worlds first capsules 20 years ago in Malaysian pharmacies. However, we still have a long way to go for Malaysians and the rest of the world to truly appreciate this most unique herb for supporting male vitality.
By Benjamin Drewe, Australian Medical Herbalist
Pioneering research amid great skepticism
Starting in 1994, my research team and I focused on testing this herb locally and abroad and developing a standardized product we could offer in Malaysian pharmacies for the very first time. After 4 years of R&D we launched Tongkat Ali Plus capsules nationwide in 1998 amid much skepticism and jokes. The belief of Malaysians at large was that "Ali's walking stick" was merely a traditional placebo that was out of place in a modern world that was just starting to see new potent drugs for erectile dysfunction, coinciding with the advent of Viagra the very same year in the USA.
As you can see from this local cartoon from the 1990's, the attitude was that Tongkat Ali was something from the past that the medical establishment could in no way accept as it ran counter to modern medicine and a scientific approach. I even had some pharmacists at the time telling me they did not want to sell our product in case "horny men start coming into the pharmacy!"
The shortcomings of modern ED drugs for sexual dysfunction
The enormous popularity of Viagra and other pharmaceutical erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs opened our eyes to the true frequency of male sexual problems as well as the great financial returns for the big pharma companies that develop these drugs. Despite their success, these drugs do nothing for the effects of ageing on sexual function, namely declining testosterone levels and an increase in "sex hormone binding globulin" or SHBG for short, a hormone that "neutralizes" available testosterone that increases with aging. With ageing comes a decline in our cardiovascular tone and these modern drugs known as phosphodiasterase 5 (PDE5) inhibitors, focus their effect on circulation alone by forcing systemic arterial dilation allowing for stronger penile blood flow and venous constriction that slows the removal of the penile blood flow, resulting in hardness of erection. The underlying hormonal and circulatory issues remain of course, and having a quick fix may lead men to negligence in improving lifestyle factors, exercise and diet.
Enter Tongkat Ali, getting to the root of the matter is serious!
A more current example of this lingering misunderstanding and relegation of Tongkat Ali to the stuff of jokes is the 2018 Malaysian comedy, Get Hard Tongkat Ali. Compare that with the mature development of the Ginseng market in China and Korea, where Government research and their traditional culture have worked hand in hand to develop the industry as a whole, not just for the benefit of a single Government linked company, as was the case in Malaysia. Despite great progress in the past 20 years in our understanding on the science behind how Tongkat Ali works, most of this is unknown to Malaysian's who still smirk and laugh whenever the herb is mentioned. The effects of Tongkat Ali in supporting hormonal health and a range of other potential health applications have been verified in more than 150 laboratory, animal studies and human clinical studies. Some of the problem arises because the nickname of "Malaysian Viagra" has given the wrong impression and expectations of how Tongkat Ali functions and then disappointment if it is not a 30 minute miracle herb! Rather than looking at Tongkat Ali as a natural Viagra substitute it needs be appreciated as a safe and natural support for ageing men to maintain a younger hormonal version of themselves. This includes all the advantages that having more bioavailable testosterone entails such as more confidence, an improved sex life, stronger bones and more energy to get off the sofa and get active!
The traditional uses of Tongkat Ali offers an insight the benefits of this herb and for this we are grateful to the lineage of traditional healers who have kept the knowledge of this herb alive to the present day. Now it is science that is showing the the full potential of this herb to achieve what no other herb on the planet can, namely support the full range of physiological areas involved with improving male hormonal health and the prevention of sexual and erectile dysfunction. The missing link is that the therapeutic dosage of the whole herb extract is not achieved in 99% of the products available. Sub standard low dosage products are the only setback standing in the way of this herb achieving its rightful place as the king of herbs.
The science, so far...
The main areas of research on Tongkat Ali to date have shown the following potential applications, just click HERE to visit the PubMed site for the full abstracts or click the categories below for more specific info:
- Improved sexual performance
- Natural alternative to testosterone replacement therapy
- Reduction of stress and stress related sexual anxiety
- Enhancing male fertility and sperm characteristics.
- Preventing age related bone loss
- Improved gut health due to Tongkat Ali's anti-microbial; antibacterial, antiprotozoal and antifungal effects
- Potential anti-cancer effects
- Potential anti inflammatory effects
- Supports blood sugar balance
- Prevents fat accumulation