Otherwise known as Longjack or by its scientific name Eurycoma longifolia, tongkat ali has been used for many years especially for its aphrodisiac and energy boosting qualities. It has qualities that can help both men and women – see the second part of the article for female specific benefits.
What is Tongkat Ali?
Tongkat ali is an herb which grows predominantly in the jungles of certain South East Asian countries including Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. It has several other local names including Pasak Bumi and Tung Saw and is also known by some people as herbal viagra because of its well-known abilities to improve sexual dysfunction.
Locals have long been using this root for its aphrodisiac abilities and also to enhance energy but it is now being used more and more around the world and extracts are readily available to purchase in various shops and online.
As men age, they tend to experience a condition related to reduced testosterone production called andropause which causes a number of serious problems. Conditions linked to andropause include lack of libido, reduced levels of energy, increased body fat and mental fatigue.
As a middle aged man, I am fully aware of the difficulties that these conditions can cause. It is not fun when you realize that you are not the man that you once were and that many of the things that you took for granted are now more of a struggle.
Testosterone replacement therapy is an option for many men but it is very expensive and also comes with the risk of side effects. This has led men to search for an alternative in nature and Tongkat ali is one of them. While tongkat ali is best known for its masculine benefits, it also has potential to treat several female issues which I will come to later on.
The Benefits of Tongkat Ali for Men
1. Tongkat ali and Testosterone
The root of tongkat ali has been used to increase testosterone levels for a very long time indeed. It contains chemical compounds that studies have repeatedly shown can increase testosterone levels. An increase in testosterone has many beneficial knock-on effects for sexual performance, muscle growth and semen production.
A Malaysian study published in 2012 took 76 men of whom only 35% had testosterone levels in the normal range. Following a month of treatment with Tongkat ali, this number rose dramatically to above 90%. (1)
2. Tongkat ali for Male Fertility
There is some evidence that as well as boosting testosterone levels, tongkat ali can also improve sperm quality and therefore help treat male fertility issues.
A study published in 2010 observed the changes in sperm quality in 75 men who were given 200mgs of tongkat ali each day for three months. Sperm quality improved significantly in these patients and 15% of participants reported spontaneous pregnancies following the treatment. (2)
3. Tongkat Ali for Increased Libido
Tongkat ali is probably best-known and most used for its aphrodisiac qualities. It has long been used in South East Asia to help deal with low levels of libido and more recently a number of predominantly animal studies have demonstrated that it does have libido enhancing potential.
One of these studies published in 2003 fed older rats and retired breeders with tongkat ali for a 10 day period. The rats given the extract demonstrated a significant increase in sexual activity and mounting frequency on female rats. (3)
There are plenty more studies involving animals that have elicited promising results but does tongkat ali have the same effect on humans?
There is no scientific evidence for the claims that tongkat ali proponents make so apart from the animal research we have to rely on anecdotal evidence and traditional usage.
Certainly many users have consistently reported that tongkat ali was an effective aphrodisiac and its ability to boost testosterone levels would indicate that it may be an effective option. Users have reported a much higher sex drive, longer lasting erections, stronger ejaculation and better sex in general.
4. Fat Loss and Muscle Gain
Tongkat ali is a popular natural supplement among weightlifters and body builders who are looking to change their muscle to fat ratio. However, you don’t need to be a serious athlete to benefit from the potential improvements in body composition that tongkat ali can provide.
Because of the increase in testosterone that tongkat ali gives you, it can also help you to lose fat and gain lean body mass. This will have an even greater effect if you are exercising regularly.
A promising Malaysian study published in 2002 demonstrated that tongkat ali had the potential to improve lean body mass. In this double blind study, 7 men were given 100 mgs of tongkat ali extract each day with the other 7 participants being given a placebo for a 5 week period.
The men in the tongkat ali group experienced a 5% increase in their lean body mass and a significant reduction in body fat. (4)
5. Bone Health
Low levels of testosterone can increase the chances of developing weak and brittle bones – a condition called osteoporosis. Many minerals such as calcium, magnesium and vitamin D help to reduce the risk of the disease.
Tongkat ali’s ability to increase testosterone levels means that it could be an important weapon in the fight against osteoporosis and help maintain bone strength and health.
Tongkat Ali Benefits for Women
While it is best-known for the way it can benefit men’s health, its potential uses for women should not be ignored. Traditionally tongkat ali has been used to treat hormonal imbalances in women and to deal with problems like fatigue and mental lethargy.
1. Emotional Support
Recent research has revealed that tongkat ali could reduce the body’s production of the stress hormone – cortisol. The study published in 2013 was conducted on 32 male and 31 female volunteers with moderate stress symptoms.
They found that those in the tongkat ali group experienced significant improvements in tension, confusion and anger and concluded that tongkat ali may be an effective remedy against modern day stress issues. (5)
Stress is a huge issue in the modern world and one which affects a growing number of people worldwide. The good news here is that tongkat ali is far less likely to cause the potential side effects and dependency associated with prescription medications so readily handed out for stress and anxiety.
2. Energy Boost
Ladies…are you feeling tired, drained and fatigued all day? Is it difficult for you to get everything you need done? If so…your body needs a boost from somewhere and tongkat ali may have the answer.
When your body is suffering from a hormonal imbalance and is producing insufficient hormones, it can result in fatigue and lethargy. Tongkat ali is believed to help balance the hormones with the ability to increase energy levels and metabolism.
The increase in energy that you get from this root can help you get through the busy day and may also help improve endurance and exercise performance. This may in turn help to control body weight and improve mood.
3. Weight Control
When your hormones are out of whack, your metabolism is likely to be less effective and this invariably results in weight gain. By balancing the body’s hormones and improving energy levels tongkat ali may help reverse the weight gain, keep you looking in shape and feeling better both physically and mentally.
It is also worth noting the study that showed it could improve lean body mass and body composition that was mentioned earlier in the article. Of course, simply taking tongkat ali or any other herb will have little or no effect unless it is done as part of a wider weight loss plan involving exercise and diet.
4. Libido Boost
It is not only men that can benefit from the aphrodisiac effects of tongkat ali. Regardless of gender, a shot of testosterone can help improve your sexual desire significantly. There is also some anecdotal evidence that tongkat ali can increase the sensitivity of the sexual organs in women.
Experts that have observed the libido enhancing ability of tongkat ali in rats believe the effects may be replicated in women.
How to Take It
- You should read the manufacturer’s dosage instructions very carefully and not exceed them. It is generally recommended that you start with a low dose to make sure that you respond properly and increase the dose gradually over a period of time.
- The standard traditional dose of the herb is 1200 to 2400 mg a day which is usually split into 2 to 4 daily doses of 300 to 500 mg.
- Cycling the dose is also recommended. Body builders typically supplement with tongkat ali for between 5 and 8 weeks before taking a break for several weeks. Shorter cycles are usually recommended for people taking the herb to improve sex drive.
- No severe effects have ever been reported and it is considered to be safe when taken for up to 9 months
- There is insufficient evidence regarding its safety for pregnant women or nursing mothers so it is best to stay safe and avoid it.
- Certain mild side effects are possible with insomnia being the most frequently cited.
- It is possible to protect against any unwanted side effects by starting with small doses of the herb and building up to larger doses gradually over time.
- Taking your supplement earlier during the day can also reduce the risk of trouble sleeping at night.
- There have also been reports from body builders that tongkat ali taken for the purpose of body building can cause increased aggression, restlessness and sexual desire all of which are linked rising levels of testosterone.
- People with certain preexisting conditions should always consult their doctor before taking any herb and tongkat ali is no exception.
- This includes people being treated for prostate or breast cancer, people with kidney, heart or liver disease and also people with sleep apnea.
- People with an impaired immune system and those taking immunosuppressants should also avoid taking tongkat ali unles they are given the all clear by their doctor.
- Because they affect blood glucose levels, people with diabetes should also exercise caution.