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Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia) – The Unbiased Scientific Truth, Evidence-Based Health Benefits, Side Effects & More

Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia) – The Unbiased Scientific Truth, Evidence-Based Health Benefits, Side Effects & More

Learn more about Tongkat Ali, a medicinal plant that has been used for centuries for a variety of health benefits and more.

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Eurycoma longifolia Jack or Tongkat Ali, roots and powder (Image via Shutterstock)

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What is Tongkat Ali good for?

Tongkat Ali is a medicinal plant referring to Eurycoma longifolia jack, also known as “Ali’s Walking Stick” and “Malaysian ginseng.”

It has been used for centuries and is one of the most well-known herbal medicines in Southeast Asia.

The root of this plant contains compounds called quassinoids and alkaloids, which are phytochemicals that could provide health benefits.

This article reviews tongkat ali, including its benefits, possible side effects, and more.

 

Evidenced-Based Potential Health Benefits

    Tongkat Ali has recently been a topic of clinical studies and research for proposed health benefits. In addition to its ability to increase libido, it has also been found to be a possible remedy for illness ranging from post-partum depression to malaria[1].

    *NOTE: Most of the alleged health benefits of Tongkat ali are not well researched.

  • Low Sexual Desire, Low Testosterone & Fertility in Males

    Tongkat Ali has been most well-known for its aphrodisiacal effects. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study involving the participation of 109 men over a 12-week time period. The E. longifolia group was provided with 300 mg of water extract of E. longifolia (Physta). The E. longifolia group scored higher in sexual libido, Seminal Fluid Analysis, semen volume and erectile-function-domain[2].

    A systematic review of human clinical studies found a “promising efficacy” of Tongkat Ali to treat erectile dysfunction and infertility in males. The review suggests that Tongkat Ali improves male sexual well-being through its testosterone levels enhancing effects in males[3].

    A study completed in the Phytotherapy Research publication found that Tongkat Ali root extract supplementation increased total and free testosterone concentrations and muscular force in both men and women [4][8].

  • Intermittent Fever (Malaria)

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were 228 million cases of malaria across the globe in 2018. Most of these cases were found in sub-Saharan African regions[5].

    Studies show that the quassinoids found in Tongkat Ali are responsible for the potent antimalarial activity against Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest parasite that causes malaria [6].

    Another study found that Tongkat Ali suppressed parasite activity in combination with artemisinin, which is a popular drug used to treat malaria[7]. Tongkat Ali and artemisinin combination-treated malaria more effective than artemisinin treatment alone.

  • Improved Stress Management

    Most recent studies have found Tongkat Ali reduces anger, tension and reduces overall exposure to cortisol, the “fight or flight” steroid hormone.

    A study conducted by the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that subjects taking Tongkat Ali root extract reported a decrease in tension, anger, and confusion compared to the placebo group.

    The study also reviewed stress hormone profiles in participants and found that those taking Tongkat Ali had less salivary cortisol and more testosterone compared to the placebo group[1].

  • Increased Muscle Mass

    Research suggests that the quassinoids, or phytochemicals, in Tongkat Ali may act as an ergogenic aid in the human body.

    A study conducted on less than 20 male participants found that Tongkat Ali increases lean muscle mass.

    Participants took 100 mg Tongkat Ali root extract daily during a strength training program experienced greater lean muscle mass growth than the placebo group[9].

    Academic research involving older and active adults found that supplementation with Tongkat Ali increased muscular strength due to increased free testosterone [4].

 

Possible Side Effects and Risks

The studies completed on Tongkat Ali have not noted any adverse side effects [10]. There have been reports of restlessness, anxiety and insomnia in those taking Tongkat Ali, but dose is unclear.

Since Tongkat Ali affects testosterone levels, it is not recommended to be used with disease states that may be inauspiciously affected by high testosterone levels, like sleep apnea, sleep deprivation, heart disease or kidney disease[11].

CAUTION: It is not recommended that pregnant or nursing women, children, or those taking specific medications for blood pressure, blood clotting, diabetes, immunosuppressant medications or antiplatelet medications due to the possible interaction with Tongkat Ali.

Mercury contamination has been a concern with the use of Tongkat Ali. One study found that 26% of products containing Tongkat Ali contained more mercury than was allowed for traditional medicines in Malaysia [12].

  • Toxicity

    The toxicity of Tongkat Ali has been studied on mice, but not on humans. The oral lethal dose of the alcoholic extract of Tongkat Ali is 1500-2000 mg/kg body weight, while the water extract was over 3000 mg/kg body weight[10].

  • More studies need to be done on the side effects and safety of taking Tongkat Ali. If you are considering beginning Tongkat Ali, please consult with your primary care physician.

 

Dosage

A study published in the Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012 noted that taking 300 mg of tongkat ali extract daily was as safe as taking a placebo.

Other studies suggest that taking up to 1.2 grams of tongkat ali extract per day is safe for adults, but this amount has not been used in research.
 

Frequently Asked Question

Q: Can Tongkat Ali increase testosterone levels?

A: Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia; TA) is known to increase testosterone levels and alleviate aging males’ symptoms. The study affirms the ergogenic benefit of TA through enhanced muscle strength.

Q: Can females take tongkat ali?

A: Tongkat ali may be useful increasing the sensitivity of a woman’s by increasing libido-boosting qualities.
 

Where to Buy Tongkat Ali

Tongkat Ali (E. longifolia) was traditionally consumed as a water decoction from the root itself. In our modern times, is found in capsule form mixed with other herbs, or as an addictive mixed with teas[1].

Tongkat Ali can be found at your local supermarket, supplement store or online. It is suggested that you look for quality assurance labels like cGMP (Good Manufacturing Practice), meaning that the product has been tested for quality, purity, and safety.

Pure Science Supplements manufactures SD-200 Tongkat Ali Extract with cGMP labeling and high potency of 200:1.

Most supplements are found in capsule form, but HawaiiPharm produces Tongkat Ali in an alcohol-free liquid extract with high potency as well.

 

Conclusion

Although there is promising research on Tongkat Ali, larger and more thorough studies need to be conducted in order to provide solid supporting evidence for various health benefits, interactions with medications and other supplements, and overall safety.

Keep in mind that the modern supplementation form of Tongkat Ali may be different from Tongkat Ali found directly from the root of the plant historically consumed in Southeastern Asia.

It is best to consult your health care provider prior to consuming Tongkat Ali.

*NOTE: This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult your qualified healthcare provider before beginning any diet or program.

*If you buy something through a link on this page, we may earn a small commission. Learn more about our review process here.

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References

Health Insiders uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3669033/
2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23243445
3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1875536417300109
4. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ptr.5017
5. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/malaria
6. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/8906669_Cytotoxic_and_Antimalarial_Constituents_from_the_Roots_of_Eurycoma_longifolia
7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17568384
8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21671978
9. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/37/5/464
10. www.Mdpi.com/pdf
11. Edwards S, Rocha I, Williamson EM, Heinrich M. Phytopharmacy – an evidence-based guide to herbal medicines. Chichester: Wiley; 2015.">
12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16567029
13. Ismail SB et al. Randomized Clinical Trial on the Use of PHYSTA Freeze-Dried Water Extract of Eurycoma longifolia for the Improvement of Quality of Life and Sexual Well-Being in Men. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:429268.
14. Udani JK et al. Effects of a Proprietary Freeze-Dried Water Extract of Eurycoma longifolia (Physta) and Polygonum minus on Sexual Performance and Well-Being in Men: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:179529.
15. Han YM et al. Antiinflammatory and analgesic effects of Eurycoma longifolia extracts. Arch Pharm Res. 2016 Mar;39(3):421-8.
Author
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Melissa Bloom, MS, RD, LD

Melissa Bloom, M.S., R.D., L.D is a Registered & Licensed Dietitian in the state of Texas with a Master's degree in Nutrition....

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