There has been a lot of buzz about Tongkat Ali on the internet lately. Over recent months, the compound, derived from the Southeast Asian Eurycoma longifolia plant, has soared in popularity for its supposed health and hormonal benefits. Still, a fair bit of suspicion has also made its way into the conversation. Tongkat Ali skeptics sight several concerns regarding its potential long-term health consequences and a shortage of scientific evidence supporting its safety and efficacy. With that said, it is time to take a closer look at Tongkat Ali and see what all the fuss is really about.
Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia) is a medium-sized slender shrub that is native to Indochina (Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam) and Indonesia (the islands of Borneo and Sumatra). It is also known as pasak bumi or longjack. The root of the plant has been used in folk medicine of the South East Asian region, and in modern times has common use as supplements.
What Is Tongkat Ali?
Tongkat Ali, also known as Longjack, is an herbal treatment derived from the roots of the Eurycoma longifolia plant of Southeast Asia. It has been used in several Southeast Asian countries (e.g., Indonesia, Vietnam, and Malaysia) for decades to treat a range of ailments, including infections, fevers, and impotence. However, since its meteoric rise in popularity amongst an increasingly Western demographic, most of the focus has shifted away from its medicinal benefits and towards its potential to boost testosterone, manage stress, enhance sexual function, and aid in building muscle. So what does ‘the science’ say?
Does it Work?
A handful of studies on humans and mice has shown moderate amounts of improvement in mood regulation, erectile function, libido, and most surprisingly of all, testosterone. For example, a 2013 study of 63 individuals (32 males and 31 females) found a 37% increase in testosterone status after only four weeks of use (Talbott et al., 2013). A similar study out of the world-renowned andrology journal, Andrologia, found that among a sample of thirty-two males in their mid-twenties, both testosterone and free testosterone levels dramatically increased by 15% and 34%, respectively (Chan et al., 2021). Studies show many other positive impacts from using Tongkat Ali, including stress reduction, mood improvements, increased energy levels, and libido enhancement (Tambi et al., 2018).
What Do The Doubters Think?
Despite an emerging body of research supporting the efficacy of Tongkat, a solid number of individuals are still lukewarm towards its supposed benefits. For starters, only a handful of Tongkat Ali studies use human respondents, while the rest were largely animal-based studies. Detractors often reference the scarce body of literature in humans as a reason to be concerned about the long-term side effects of supplementing with Tongkat Ali. Likewise, existing side effects associated with Tongkat Ali can include insomnia, restlessness, and, ironically enough, elevated anxiety levels despite its supposed stress reduction properties. Increases in testosterone could also worsen pre-existing conditions such as heart disease, hormone-sensitive cancers, and sleep disorders, so folks who suffer from any of these illnesses should be wary of supplements containing Tongkat Ali (Wong, 2021). Lastly, it is essential to remember that the FDA does not regulate nutritional supplements such as Tongkat Ali, meaning concerns over harmful ingredients and additives are common.
Some Final Thoughts
A modest body of scientific literature seems to support the efficacy of Tongkat Ali. But specific questions surrounding possible short-term and long-term side effects remain unanswered. And while you will undoubtedly find a ton of positive user reviews, YouTube testimonies, and health forum discussions online, it is up to you and your primary care physician to decide whether or not Tongkat Ali is right for you.
Chan, Kai Quin, et al. “The Effect of Eurycoma Longifolia on the Regulation of Reproductive Hormones in Young Males.” Andrologia, vol. 53, no. 4, 2021, p. E14001.Talbott, Shawn M., et al. “Effect of Tongkat Ali on Stress Hormones and Psychological Mood State in Moderately Stressed Subjects.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, vol. 10, 2013, p. 28. PubMed Central.Tambi, M. I. B. M., et al. “Standardised Water-Soluble Extract of Eurycoma Longifolia, Tongkat Ali, as Testosterone Booster for Managing Men with Late-Onset Hypogonadism?” Andrologia, vol. 44, 2012, pp. 226-30.Wong, Cathy. “What Do Tongkat Ali Supplements Do?” Verywell Fit, 2021. Accessed 16 January 2022.