Tongkat ali (Eurycoma longifolia) is a tree native to Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. The root of the tree contains compounds called quassinoids and alkaloids and is the part of the tree that is used for medicinal purposes. Tongkat Ali is usually consumed in dietary supplements, tea, energy drinks, or in coffee beverages.
Other names for tongkat ali include Eurycoma longifolia Jack, longjack, long jack, Tongkat Ali, Malaysian ginseng, tung saw, umpudumaidu, and wonod mondou.
Uses for Tongkat Ali
In alternative medicine, tongkat ali is said to increase testosterone levels, promote muscle strength, and address a number of conditions including erectile dysfunction, low libido, fatigue, and stress.
1) Erectile dysfunction and low libido
Tongkat Ali is often touted as a remedy for erectile dysfunction. There is some preliminary evidence that it may be useful. For example, in a small study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers found that twelve weeks of supplementation of a product containing an extract of Eurycoma longifolia and Polygonum minus (an antioxidant) helped improve sexual performance and function erectile.
Another study, also published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, suggests that an extract of tongkat Ali may help treat low libido and erectile function.
With the participation of 109 men between 30 and 55 years of age, the study found that the extract can help increase erectile function, sexual libido, sperm motility, semen volume. Loss of fat mass was also observed in those who were overweight.
2) To build muscle
Tongkat Ali may increase muscle mass and strength due to its purported effects on testosterone levels.
It is sometimes used to increase athletic performance, physical strength, and to promote fat loss. In a preliminary study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers found that 100 mg/day of an extract of Eurycoma longifolia for five weeks increased muscle mass and strength in men participating in an intensive strength training program at compared to those who participated in the program alone.
Tongkat Ali may also help increase muscle strength in older adults, according to a pilot study published in Phototherapy Research in 2014. For the study, 13 men and 12 women between the ages of 57 and 72 took 400 mg of a tongkat Ali extract daily for five weeks. At the end of the study, Tongkat Ali benefits were found to have increased total and free testosterone levels and muscle strength.
However, one study involving male recreational athletes found that 150 mg/day for seven days before an endurance race (plus one hour before the race) did not increase endurance compared to a placebo.
Tongkat Ali shows promise in treating infertility, suggests a preliminary study published in the Asian Journal of Andrology in 2010.
The researchers found that supplementation of 200 mg/day with Eurycoma longifolia in men for three to nine months resulted in increased sperm volume, sperm concentrations, percentage of normal sperm morphology, and sperm motility, and resulted in spontaneous pregnancy in 11 of participants after treatment.
Some research suggests that tongkat ali can help relieve stress. Available research includes a small study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Researchers evaluated mood and stress hormones in 63 people before and after taking a tongkat ali supplement for four weeks and found significant improvements in the moods of tension, anger, and confusion, as well as decreased salivary cortisol and increased testosterone in those taking tongkat ali extract.
5) Late-onset hypogonadism
Tongkat ali may improve symptoms of late-onset hypogonadism, according to a study published in Andrologia. For the study, 76 people with late-onset hypogonadism were given 200 mg of a standardized extract of tongkat ali for one month. The results suggested that tongkat ali extract improved male aging symptom scale scores and testosterone levels.
Because so few studies have tested the effects of tongkat ali in humans, little is known about the safety of long-term or regular use of this herb. The studies that have been done generally use 200 mg per day for up to nine months. Noted side effects include restlessness, anxiety, and insomnia.
Since tongkat ali can raise testosterone levels, it should not be used by people with conditions that would be negatively affected by higher testosterone levels, such as heart disease, hormone-sensitive cancers, liver or kidney disease, or sleep apnea.
Tongkat ali should not be used by pregnant or nursing women, children, or people with medical conditions. People with weakened immune systems should avoid tongkat Ali. The herb may interact with medications (such as blood pressure medications, anticoagulant and antiplatelet medications, medications that lower blood sugar or insulin levels, immunosuppressant medications) and other supplements.