Quick Info: What Is Tongkat Ali?

A herb from Southeast Asia with potential benefits including improved fertility, stress relief, and athletic performance.

Tongkat Ali: What Is It?

Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia) is an herb that is often used as a supplement. Also known by names such as longjack and Malaysian ginseng, this powerful herb has the potential to provide multiple excellent health benefits.

Studies have shown that it could help with libido and fertility, building muscle mass and athletic performance, stress relief, and bone health. Some studies have explored possible anti-inflammatory properties and have even looked at whether Tongkat Ali could help to fight cancer.

Other Names for Tongkat Ali

You might find that Tongkat Ali is referred to by a number of names. The scientific name is Eurycoma longifolia, but there are also multiple colloquial names you can come across.

Some of the alternative names you can see include:

  • Malaysian ginseng
  • Longjack
  • Longjax
  • Bidara laut (Indonesian)
  • Penawar pahit (Malaysian)
  • Cay Bah Bin (Vietnamese)

Even within one language, it often has several names. However, in English, you will most likely see it referred to as Tongkat Ali or longjack.

What Are the Benefits of Tongkat Ali?

Tongkat Ali helps with a variety of different areas of health and wellness, according to a range of studies. Research into exactly how effective it is for different purposes is still ongoing, but multiple studies have shown promising results. The herb has been a traditional remedy in Southeast Asia for a long time but scientists, medical professionals, and more around the world are taking notice of how it can benefit people in numerous ways.

Male Libido and Fertility

One of the main benefits of Tongkat Ali which has been well-studied and documented is its ability to increase testosterone. Low levels of testosterone are a common problem for many men, especially as they get older and the production of the hormone in the body begins to drop naturally. Low testosterone can lead to problems such as low libido, erectile dysfunction, and even infertility. But Tongkat Ali has been shown to help increase testosterone levels in several studies.

One small study showed that 90% of men who took 200mg of Tongkat Ali each day for a month had increased levels of testosterone. Further studies have been carried out on both animals and humans and have shown that Tongkat Ali can stimulate sexual arousal and might help with erectile dysfunction. A 12-week study of 109 men showed that participants taking 300mg of water extract of Tongkat Ali demonstrated higher improvements in erectile function, libido, sperm motility, and semen volume compared to the group taking a placebo.

These studies suggest that taking Tongkat Ali can help to improve testosterone production, along with sexual health and fertility. A study even suggested that it could have helped more than 14% of participants and their partners get pregnant.

Stress Relief

Finding ways to deal with stress can be tough for anyone. Supplements are often something people turn to, especially when looking for natural ways to de-stress. Tongkat Ali is one of the natural supplements that has been researched and examined to determine if it has a positive effect on stress levels.

Studies have shown that Tongkat Ali might be able to deliver benefits such as lowering stress hormones, improving symptoms of anxiety, and boosting mood. A study of 63 people showed that, compared to those taking a placebo, people taking Tongkat Ali over 4 weeks were less angry, tense, and confused. A slightly more recent study looked at the use of Tongkat Ali together with multivitamins. Participants reported that their emotional well-being improved and they experienced improved social functioning and vitality.

Research into how this herb can help with stress is still ongoing. Previous studies have shown some promising results, but further research might reveal more about how it can help to lower stress levels.

Improved Athletic Performance

Another benefit that could be gained from using this herb is improved athletic performance and increased muscle mass. It includes compounds called quassinoids, which could help your body to use energy in a more efficient way, as well as reduce fatigue and help boost endurance.The herb might act as an ergogenic aid, which can improve athletic performance and body composition.

Studies on this effect have been rather small, but some of them have shown some promising results. For example, one study of 14 participants suggested that those taking 100mg of Tongkat Ali each day gained more lean muscle mass and lost more fat than those taking a placebo. Another, slightly larger, study of 25 adults showed that participants taking a daily dose of 400mg over 5 weeks showed a significant increase in muscular strength compared to a placebo.

Some research has also suggested that Tongkat Ali might not be so useful for this purpose. A study looking at cyclists showed that it didn’t improve performance any more than drinking water did. However, all of these studies are relatively small, and further research is really needed to determine whether Tongkat Ali has a significant effect as an ergogenic aid.

person exercising

Further Possible Uses

Other potential uses for Tongkat Ali are still being researched. Researchers have considered and studied its use as an anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial treatment, as well as a potential treatment to help fight cancer.

How Does Tongkat Ali Work?

Tongkat Ali is an herbal remedy that typically comes in capsule form. It has a number of active compounds that have been attributed to the herb’s various effects.

When it comes to male sexual health, the primary active compound is eurycomanone. This has steroidogenic activity and has been shown to have anti-estrogenic effects too. It blocks the enzyme aromatase and stops testosterone from converting to estrogen in the Leydig cells of the testes. Eurycomanone might also help to increase the production of pregnenolone, which is used for testosterone biosynthesis. Tongkat Ali might also increase sperm production and testosterone by promoting the production of two gonadotropins.

As a stress relieving remedy, Tongkat Ali may help to improve stress by reducing stress hormones. Hormones such as cortisol have been shown to reduce when taking the supplement, while testosterone has been shown to increase.

In terms of athletic performance, It has the potential to work through acting as an ergogenic aid. Ergogenic aids are sometimes used by athletes to enhance performance and act as one by decreasing stress and increasing testosterone levels. It contains quassinoids such as eurycomaoside, eurycolactone, and eurycomanone, which aid the body in using energy more efficiently and improve endurance.

Are There Any Side Effects or Risks?

It’s always important to be aware of any potential side effects or risks when considering taking any kind of supplement. Even all-natural products can have potential side effects and may not be suitable for everyone. One thing to consider is that there is still a lot of research to be done into the use of Tongkat Ali, especially as many of the human studies that have taken place were quite small. We may not know the full extent of its benefits and drawbacks just yet.

The studies that have been carried out so far haven’t shown that there are any dangerous side effects. One thing to note is that high doses of Tongkat Ali (2,000mg per kg of weight) have been shown to cause DNA damage to the stomach and duodenum tissues. However, it isn’t typically taken in such high doses.

A review from 2016 found that it didn’t cause changes in liver or kidney function in mice. In this case, the mice were given a dose of 200mg per kg of body weight in an alcohol-based extract or 300mg in a water-based extract.

Studies have also looked at the potential side effects of Tongkat Ali in humans. One study of over 100 men found that a 300mg daily dose of the supplement over 12 weeks was as safe as taking a placebo.

However, one thing that has not been studied is long-term usage, so we don’t yet know much about its effects over time. It’s also important to be careful of what might be in supplements. A study of supplements in Malaysia found that more than a quarter had high levels of mercury over the recommended limit. It’s key to note that the effects of the supplement on pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as children, are also not known. So whether it’s safe for these people to take Tongkat Ali isn’t clear.

The dosage for this supplement seems to be kept to around 200-400mg per day for the best levels of effectiveness. It might be as low as 100mg or as high as 600mg. It usually comes in a standard water-soluble capsule to make it easy to take orally.

Summary: What Is Tongkat Ali?

  • A herbal supplement originating in Southeast Asia
  • Can help with libido and testosterone
  • May improve athletic performance and muscle mass
  • Could reduce stress and improve sleep
Adil Maqbool, Medical MD

Adil Maqbool, Medical MD

Dr. Adil is a seasoned medical writer, researcher, and physician with extensive publications in top medical journals. Holding an MBBS, BSc, and FCPS-1, he excels in medical writing and patient care. Certified as a Registered Practitioner, Medical Writer, and Peer-Reviewer, he stays current with the latest medical advancements.