After you figure out how to pronounce the name, you’ll learn that Tongkat Ali, sometimes known as Eurycoma, is a plant native to parts of Southeast Asia. As it goes with many plants, this one is a feature in many systems of folk medicine, where it used as an aphrodisiac and to treat a range of common ailments. Recent probing into the plant suggests it might have an effect on stress hormones, which has brought the nootropics community a-knocking in full force.
Tongkat Ali is a plant with a wide range of supposed health benefits. In traditional medicine, practitioners boil the roots to create an “anti-aging” cure-all that can combat various maladies. Modern-day supplements market it as a way to improve energy levels, athletic performance, weight loss, and libido, among other things.
As far a research goes, however, the only benefit that has been tested with any rigor is the ability of Tongkat Ali to reduce stress hormones and related symptoms. In this regard, there is some promise. There might also be some reason to believe that the plant can help counteract male infertility, though more research will be required for a more definitive answer.
As for the other myriad claims? Not much data exists to back them up, but the anecdotal reports are all there saying that Tongkat Ali can do everything from keeping you calm in a crisis to giving you the most powerful erection you’ve had in your life. Take these with a grain of salt, obviously.
You can obtain Tongkat Ali online from various sources, and it comes in capsule and powder forms. Using the raw root is possible, but difficult to obtain and much more hassle than its worth. This is much in line with many other herbal supplements, and the outrageous claims associated with it are par for the course.
Still, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to it at all, and if the current research behind Tongkat Ali holds true, then at the least, its poised to take its place in the hall of “plants that can help you take it easy.”
In addition to its Latin name, Eurycoma Longifolia, Tongkat Ali is referred to by several other monikers, including: Akar Pasak Bumi, Ali’s Umbrella, Ali’s Walking Stick, Batang Pasak Bumi, Bedara Pahit, Canne d’Ali, Cay ba binh, Eurycoma, Eurycoma Longifolia Jack, Ginseng de Malaisie, Ian-don, Jelaih, Kayu Dali, Local Ginseng, Long Jack, Longjack, Malaysian Ginseng, Natural Viagra, Pasak Bumi, Payung Ali, Penawar Pahit, Pokok Jelas, Pokok Syurga, Sengkayap, Setunjang Bumi, Tongkat Ali, Tongkat Baginda, Tung Saw, Umpudumaidu, and Wonod Mondou.
“Oh joy, another herb,” I thought to myself while looking Tongkat Ali up online. I’ve a track record for not being impressed, but there have also been times where I’ve been surprised, so I decided it was worth a shot. The capsules seemed like the easiest way to go, so I ordered a bottle of the 400 milligram variety and got to work. I’ve seen dosing guides go as low as 200 milligrams daily, to as high as 800 milligrams daily, so I decided to stick with one pill and see what would happen.
The first time around I felt nothing. No mood changes, no lowered stress, no general state of well being. It was just another rainy Tuesday. I read further and realized that the studies with Tongkat Ali took place over a period of four weeks, so it might take a while to start noticing anything. I was in this one for the long-haul. At around the two-week mark, I started noticing a mild reduction in tension, and some of the daily stuff that stressed me out didn’t make quite the same impact. A total mood overhaul, though, this was not.
As for the other supposed effects: libido, super-erections, energy boost, I felt none of them. Doesn’t mean they don’t exist, but, with the modes supplementation regimen I was on, there was no change. Thankfully, I didn’t experience any side effects either, so this is one that I’d rate as a mild, but pretty safe supplement.
It seems I didn’t have the most disappointing experience with Tongkat Ali:
“Currently I have Longjack 200:1 extract which I ordered on eBay. I’ve been using it 600-800 mg daily for a while, but there are no effects at all. I have read that the difference between different sources can be enormous, so I’m looking for a good, cheap and reputable source that actually works.”
This hints at one of the main points I was reading about Tongkat Ali during my research. There’s no regulation on its production, so you don’t really know if what you order is going to be a dud batch. Still, there are some folks who have gotten a lot out of it:
“I bought a powder and can say it’s pretty powerful for a supplement. I mean MAYBE its placebo but later in the day after taking it I have energy and motivation and just a great mood. It’s a very natural feeling, hard to call it an effect.”
So, it seems that currently, results with Tongkat Ali are going to be hit-or-miss, depending on the source that you obtain yours from and the amount that you decide to use. Take heed.
There’s still plenty of back and forth on whether or not Tongkat Ali can help improve lowered testosterone levels or if it is an effective method for boosting athletic performance. That doesn’t make it useless, though, there are a few effects that have some data to back them up.
Controlling Stress Hormones
With daily supplementation, Tongkat Ali can help to control stress hormones and positively influence different “mood state parameters.” One four-week study, involving 63 subjects found that the group using Tongkat Ali extract, comparative to their placebo counterparts, showed marked improvements:
“Significant improvements were found in the TA group for Tension (−11%), Anger (−12%), and Confusion (−15%). Stress hormone profile (salivary cortisol and testosterone) was significantly improved by TA supplementation, with reduced cortisol exposure (−16%) and increased testosterone status (+37%).”
This is backed up by much of the anecdotal data that exists. When Tongkat Ali does work, users state that over time their overall level of stress seems to decrease and day-to-day anxieties become much more manageable.
This might not be the “hardest” evidence in existence, but there is some data suggesting that Tongkat Ali might be effective for increasing the strength of erectile function. One review of studies that looked at 139 total participants found increased IIEF-5 (International Index of Erectile Function) score among those that had supplemented with Tongkat Ali.
The conclusion of the review was that “based on current evidence, the herbal extract of Tongkat Ali may have a clinical effect on erectile function.” They noted, however, that “more efficacy trials are warranted to further support current evidence.” It seems that at least some of the sexual enhancement claims made about Tongkat Ali may have some merit, though to what degree is still unknown.
There is data to suggest that Tongkat Ali might have some influence on weight, but how much is still not well understood. “Persons with a BMI above 25 noted minor weight loss,” but this weight loss did not extend to individuals who were already at a lower BMI, and the mechanism of action is not currently known. It could be that Tongkat Ali has some property that allows overweight men to shed pounds more easily, or it could be something of a coincidence. More study is needed to reach a more conclusive result.
All the workings of Tongkat Ali aren’t well known, but that doesn’t mean that there is no knowledge available on this herbal remedy. Researchers have discovered that the plant contains a “group of small peptides referred to as ‘eurypeptides’ that are known to have effects in improving energy status and sex drive in studies of rodents.” The current understanding is that the compounds within Tongkat Ali somehow regulate the amounts of free hormones in the body, rather than directly increasing or decreasing the production of these hormones.
In traditional use, various concoctions derived from boiled root extracts would be used to gain the benefits of the Tongkat Ali plant. Nowadays, powders and capsules can confer the same benefits. Generally speaking, several weeks of daily supplementation are necessary to see the results of the stress reduction afforded by this plant. Acute use of the Tongkat Ali is associated with the erectile functioning benefits, but more research is necessary to pin down the specifics.
As mentioned, the dosages for Tongkat Ali can vary from 200-800 milligrams. Most trials data collected with Tongkat Ali tended towards the lower end of the spectrum, while recreational use saw the higher end. The supplement needn’t be taken with food, and you don’t have to adjust based on sex or body weight. You will, however, have to watch out for the extract’s potency ratio. Some mixtures come at a strength of 1:100, though other’s come at a completely different 1:200. Obviously, you’ll not need to take as much of the more potent extracts.
Side effects with Tongkat Ali are largely non-existent. There are some warnings for those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, etc. but on the whole, it’s a safe compound to ingest. The danger with Tongkat Ali comes in the fact that it is not well regulated. Many “supplements” purporting to contain Tongkat Ali have been banned for containing other compounds that are dangerous.
Then there’s the fact that what is supposed to be pure Tongkat Ali can be fraudulent, with little way of telling otherwise. You could get anything from an ineffective dud compound to something that has actively been laced with more dangerous substances. Make sure you thoroughly vet any supplier of Tongkat Ali that you decide to use, checking their reputation within the community and longevity as a supplier of different nootropics and such.
Tongkat Ali Stacks can go in one of two ways: other herbs meant to gradually complement the long-term supplementation benefit, or acute acting nootropics meant to give a short-term effect in combination with the long-term benefit of Tongkat Ali.
Combining with Ashwagandha, for instance, is thought to provide an anti-anxiety component to the stress reduction of Tongkat Ali when both are supplemented long term. Taking the plant with physical enhancers like Carnitine, on the other hand, is supposed to grant a large testosterone boost and let you perform better during a workout or athletic competition.
If you like the benefits that Tongkat Ali provides with very few drawbacks, you might also be interested in herbal solutions like:
St. John’s Wort
Also known as Hypericum Perforatum, St. John’s Wort is a plant that has been shown to have a considerable effect on depression. This so-called “natural alternative” shows it might be just as effective as antidepressants when combating mild depression and suitable as a supplement to help boost overall mood. Like most other herbal supplements, it can be found in capsule and powder form.
Valerian is another plant that is commonly used to help with sleep disorders like insomnia. In addition to helping users drift off, though, it seems Valerian also has an effect on psychological stress, anxiety, and fear. It could be emerging as another natural option for treating depression and symptoms of other mood disorders.
Though primarily thought to help with cognitive function and “vigor,” the plant Rhodiola Rosea could have some effectiveness in treating depression and anxiety as well. Early evidence shows that it could alleviate distress for those with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and that the benefits might be enjoyed by otherwise healthy persons as well.
Tongkat Ali seems like a nice herbal alternative if you’re looking for something with mild effects that will gradually decrease stress and anxiety. The fact that it has few (if any) side effects makes it that much more attractive. The one thing I’d be wary about is where you source it from, but if you can find a supplier that’s reputable, I say have at it.