Testosterone is just a chemical - while you have plenty.
But when those levels begin to dip - whether from getting in your 30’s, intense training or just plain deficiency, it becomes much more.
So much of what we think of when we say a real man - confidence, physical strength, muscles - is determined by your testosterone levels.
Fortunately, those who start out with less aren’t doomed to stay that way. There are a number of natural testosterone boosters - one of them is Tongkat Ali.
What is Tongkat Ali
Tongkat Ali (Latin Eurycoma Longifolia) is a name for a herb native to the forests of Indonesia and Malaysia.
It is commonly known as Tongkat, Pasak Bumi, Malaysian Ginseng, or Longjack.
It can reach up to 10 meters in height, but we’re no interested in that, as the roots are the part of the plant known for their beneficial effects. Take that into account when looking for an extract: it has to be a root extract!
Tongkat Ali meaning
Tongkat Ali comes from the Malay language and literally means “Ali’s walking stick”. Other names like penawar pahit, which means “bitter medicine”, reference the extremely bitter taste of the plant.
The story of the name tells of a man called Ali, who was burdened with disease and was weak. One day, he went hunting in the woods, alone. His tribe pleaded with him not to go, but he didn’t listen to their advice. In the forest, Ali got lost and couldn’t find his way home for several days. Once he ran out of food, he had to eat anything that he could find: bugs, plants and even roots.
After a few days, his people found him, but they were shocked to see that not only was Ali still alive, he seemed to be much stronger and healthier than before he got lost! Unknowingly, Ali ate the bitter roots of the plant that would later bear his name. He returned to the village, healthier than ever, and he even married a younger wife.
While the story may be just a legend, it shows what Tongkat can do for you.
How Does Tongkat Ali Work
The exact mechanism that allows Longjack to work has not yet been discovered.
We know that it is mostly based around the 'quassinoid' triterpenoid structures, with the main one being known as eurycomanone. Other bioactives include the canthin-6-one class and possibly the eurypeptides for sexuality; contribution of other ingredients is not known.
It boost the number of Leydig cells, which are found in the testes. Additionally, it affects a hormone called SHGB, which binds testosterone. Tongkat Ali allows this hormone to release more testosterone.
However, we don’t know why exactly many natural testosterone and libido boosters work. We just know that they do! As there are multiple studies that confirm the effectiveness of Longjack (which you will see below), the exact mechanism is surely of interest, but not completely necessary to understand if you want to use it (especially when there aren’t any side effects!).
In the next section, we’ll take a look at some studies that show the benefits of Tongkat Ali supplementation.
Tongkat Ali Uses
The Longjack use has many benefits, and here we’ll take a look at a handful of research studies that have taken a look at its effectiveness.
Tongkat Ali for testosterone
Can Tongkat Ali boost your testosterone?
There have been a number of human studies into the effect of Tongkat on testosterone levels.
We’ll take a more in-depth look at some of the studies below, but here’s the TL;DR version:
Tongkat Ali works, and it does increase testosterone if yours has decreased due to aging, increased stress (either due to general life stress or training stress that is common with endurance athletes) or if your levels are below normal for your age.
Therefore it can be a great testosterone aid, but it probably won’t do much for your T levels if you’re a young, healthy and energetic man without stress.
Now, let’s take a look at some specific situations where Tongkat can be useful. Do take a closer look at the ones that apply to your life situation!
Tongkat Ali for libido
One of the oldest uses of Longjack extract is as an aphrodisiac.
It has been tested in both animals and in humans. In animals, it appears to be a reliable aphrodisiac and its aphrodisiac-like effects do not appear to be confounded with patent issues.
When tested in humans, this study looked at men between the ages of 30 and 55, which is a time in life when testosterone decrease starts to become noticable.
Supplementation of 300mg of a water extract daily for 6-12 weeks was able to increase libido in the range of 8.4-10.8% (relative to baseline) as assessed by self-report survey.
So, the age old claims of Tongkat Ali being a libido booster are true!
Tongkat Ali for erectile dysfunction
In the same study as above, Tongkat supplementation was found to increase the erection quality.
The group who received supplementation showed higher overall scores for erectile function, with all the other indicators of improvement of ED (sperm motility and semen volume) increasing as well, by by 44.4% and 18.2% respectively.
Tongkat Ali for premature ejaculation
So far, there haven’t been any studies that have looked at Tongkat Ali specifically for its uses in curing premature ejaculation.
PE isn’t caused by low testosterone or insufficient libido (where Tongkat Ali could help), but it more often comes from anxiety, endocrinopathy or 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT)-receptor dysfunction.
Still, if the issue is low confidence and therefore performance anxiety, taking Longjack extract may provide a sufficient boost to your T-levels to raise your confidence.
Tongkat Ali for late-onset hypogonadism
A 4-year study of 320 men in Malaysia took a look at the impact of Tongkat Ali supplementation for late-onset hypogonadism.
The result? In individuals with late-onset hypogonadism, Longifolia (a Tongkat Ali extract, dosed as a 200mg water soluble extract) is effective in enhancing libido and serum testosterone levels.
This study ran for 4 years at hypogonadism clinic in Malaysia and evaluated 320 men with a serum testosterone below 6 umol/L (which is termed as clinical hypogonadism) and noted that over a period of 1 month, the average testosterone levels increased from 5.66+/-1.51umol/L to 8.31+/-2.47umol/L.
To put it simply, that is an average increase of 46%. To put it even more simply, Tongkat is very effective in this case - and this further suggests that it is effective in increasing low T-levels.
Tongkat Ali for stress and anxiety
A very interesting study was conducted in 2013 that examined the effects of Tongkat supplementation on moderately stressed individuals, both men and women.
After 4 weeks of supplementation, those who took Tongkat Ali had significant decreases in tension (-11%), anger (-12%), and confusion (-15%).
The Tongkat Ali group also had significantly lower cortisol levels (-16%) and higher free testosterone levels (+37%) compared to the placebo group.
That’s pretty hard to achieve in just 4 weeks using any other means outside of anabolic steroids. Plus this comes with a ton of other benefits and without any side effects!
Still, this doesn’t mean much for people who have low levels of stress. They aren’t likely to see a similar increase. But if you do lead a moderately stressful life, Longjack is certainly something that you should consider.
Tongkat Ali for weight loss
While this is not a common application, one study did look into the effects of Tongkat Ali on losing fat mass.
The results were surprising: during the study protocol (which also increased erectile function and libido), subjects with BMI ≥ 25 kg/m(2) significantly improved in fat mass lost in the trunk area.
While this certainly doesn’t mean that you will be able to lose significant weight using only the Longjack without other interventions (like diet and exercise), it does seem like it could be a useful tool for fat loss.
Additionally, testosterone levels often drop during weight loss.
Additional studies in dieters and athletes have shown that 50-100 mg/day of Longjack extract can help restore normal testosterone levels in supplemented dieters (compared to a typical drop in testosterone among non-supplemented dieters) and supplemented athletes (compared to a typical drop in non-supplemented athletes).
In one trial of endurance cyclists cortisol levels were 32% lower and testosterone levels were 16% higher in supplemented subjects compared to placebo, indicating a more favorable biochemical profile for promoting an “anabolic” hormonal state.
Tongkat Ali for joint pain
The effective ingredient in TongkatAli - eurycomanone - has been researched as a potential treatment for osteoporosis caused by hormone deficiency.
So far there aren’t any human studies, but a study on mice found that replacing half of the regular testosterone injection dose with eurycomanone achieves the same effect, which is promising, but further studies are needed to be certain.
While this supplement does appear to increase bone mineralization, right now, other treatments would probably be more useful than Tongkat.
Tongkat Ali for bodybuilding
We’ve already looked at its effect on testosterone, but are there any other potential benefits that the herb can offer to an aspiring bodybuilder?
In one of the studies referenced above, the participants also increased their grip strength by 17%. This is to be taken with a grain of salt, as the study was performed on seniors.
However, grip strength is a great indicator of both total body strength - and strength is very important in bodybuilding - and of general health.
But this is where it gets interesting: in another study of 14 healthy (!) men taking 100mg of tongkat per day, those who were supplementing with Tongkat gained more muscle (2.13kg), lost more body fat (-2.86%) and had bigger arms (+0.7 inches) compared to the placebo group over the course of five weeks.
These are outstanding results, and if your goal is to build a more muscular body, the research says that Tongkat Ali can be a great addition to a fitness routine.
Tongkat Ali and estrogen
While increasing testosterone is the first step when improving muscle growth or libido, too much estrogen can also become a problem (which is why some bodybuilders who take testosterone develop gynecomastia).
As of right now, there are no studies on live subjects, but there is an in-vitro study that has shown that Tongkat Ali blocked estrogen more effectively in a petri dish than tamoxifen (a popular synthetic estrogen-blocker).
However, this is only an in-vitro study (a study done outside of a live organism, but with the same substances), which means that the effects might not be seen in humans. Until we get more data, we cannot say that Tongkat Ali can be used as an estrogen blocker in humans.
Types of Tongkat Ali
There are many types of Tongkat Ali, but there are three that are most well-known and available:
Yellow type is what we’ve been talking about this whole article.
It is the most studied variant (all the studies above have been done with Eurycoma Longifolia ) and therefore the one most likely to get you good results.
Black Tongkat Ali is said to have stronger sexual effects, but there is no evidence to confirm that this is true. If you wish to experiment, go ahead, but know that black Tongkat Ali is less bitter than the yellow variety, and bitterness is likely a good indicator of potency.
Red Tongkat Ali is traditionally used for its health benefits, while the other two have always been known mostly for their aphrodisiac qualities. Therefore, it is likely less potent.
We recommend that you take yellow Tongkat Ali, as there is the most science behind it.
Ok, if you’ve read this far, you probably plan to buy some Tongkat and try it out for yourself. But first, make sure that you’re buying the real stuff!
First off, many of the so-called Tongkat supplements are impure, contain other supplements, and are just plain ineffective. But that’s not all. In 2006, Malaysia’s Drug Control Authority tested 100 products containing tongkat ali and found that 26% contained insane levels of mercury!
Don’t set yourself up for failure - buy the quality stuff that’s been proven to be effective from reputable sellers.
One way to make sure you’re getting the good stuff is the taste: authentic Eurycoma longifolia extract is very bitter and the NIH warns that those extracts that don’t taste bitter are either fake or not as potent.
Also, make sure you’re buying root extract specifically, because the active ingredients only come from the roots of the plant.
Longjack is available in various forms:
You could even do it the traditional way with boiling the roots and drinking the brew. However, real roots are banned from export from Malaysia, so you’re unlikely to get your hands on the real thing. Therefore, it is best to stick with the forms mentioned above.
There is no known significant difference between the plant in extract, powder or pill form. Choose what you like best.
How to take Tongkat Ali
“The standard dosage of eurycoma longifolia jack is 200-300mg of a 100:1 extract (the concentration is based on the eurycomanone content), which at least in regards to eurycomanone is as effective as 20-30g of the dry root of the plant.”
This dose tends to be taken in 1-2 doses throughout the day, and it is unsure if this is the optimal dose. If you plan on taking this supplement, you’ll have to experiment to see what is most effective for you.
You can take it at any time during the day, including before bed.
Tongkat Ali dosage for increasing testosterone
If your main goal is to increase your testosterone, you need to take the most potent version of the supplement to see the greatest results.
Pay close attention to the ratio. A 100:1 ratio means that 100 grams of the root were used to make 1 gram of the extract. Look for supplements with a higher ratio - if you can get ones with 200:1, that would be best, but even the 100:1 version (which is more common) is enough to take your T back where it should be.
Tongkat Ali safety
“The LD50 of Eurycoma has been found to be greater than 5000 mg/kg in rats, and a dose of 1200 mg/kg was associated with some pathological changes in the liver of rats; this correlates to 1,200mg daily in humans.”
If you are a diabetic, you’re advised to not use Tongkat Ali due to its effects on blood sugar levels. It lowers the blood sugar and may decrease glucose levels dangerously.
Tongkat Ali side effects
According to WebMD, supplementing with tongkat ali is possibly safe when taken for 9 months.
There are no known serious or damaging side effects, but some users report the following:
Some other reported side effects include acne, hair loss and elevated blood pressure. However, it is likely that these weren’t a direct consequence of the supplement.
Can Longjack cause gynecomastia?
While excess testosterone can result in gynecomastia, this won’t happen with Tongkat Ali. It takes much more to develop man-boobs - something with the same power as anabolic steroids.
If you’re afraid you’re going to develop breasts instead of pecs because of Tongkat, you have nothing to fear.
Adulteration and contamination of Tongkat Ali
As with all natural supplements, product quality and purity is always a burning question. You may be spending you money on something that doesn’t even contain what it says it does.
“There have been a number of cases of products falsely claiming to contain E. longifolia as an ingredient, as well as E. longifolia product contamination cases. In 2006 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned seven dietary supplement products that claimed to include E. longifolia as a principal ingredient, but which additionally contained prescription drugs and even analogues of prescription drugs that have not yet been tested for safety in humans, such as acetildenafil.
In 2017, the FDA announced that two different brands of E. longifolia-containing coffee were recalled after being found to also contain undeclared active ingredients of erectile dysfunction drugs.
In Malaysia, there are over 200 registered E. longifolia products. However, a 2004 study determined, following quality testing, that 36% of these were contaminated with mercury beyond legally permitted limits.”
Take care to check what you’re buying - make sure you’re buying from a reputable brand.
Tongkat Ali nootropic effects
Longjack extract has little to no known nootropic-like effects. It can be helpful in lifting brain fog and mild depression due to its testosterone boost, but there are other, more effective substances. If you’re looking to boost your brain functioning, try NooCube.
However, it does appear to be beneficial when it comes to reducing anxiety and stress.
In otherwise stressed humans, supplementation of eurycoma daily for a period of four weeks is associated with a betterment of stress as assessed by self-report survey.
According to MyFitnessPal, longjack roots have no nutritional value, nor do they contain any of the four most common vitamins and minerals (vitamin C, A, calcium and iron).
The final verdict
All in all, would I recommend Tongkat Ali?
Yes, but only under one condition - if you’re experiencing the side effects of low testosterone.
In that case, the research is pretty clear that supplementing with an extract from the roots of the plant can raise your levels back to normal.
I would also recommend it to people who are trying to lose weight, and to endurance athletes.
Which supplement to buy?
Here’s my recommendation: if you’re looking for a pure Tongkat Ali supplement, take Source Naturals Tongkat Ali.
It is a 100:1 root extract of Eurycoma longifolia and contains 40% glycosaponins and 22% eurypeptides.
Source Naturals is a trusted brand that provides high-quality supplements.
Above all, it seems to be one of the most popular Tongkat Ali extracts online. Many people are satisfied with it, and that is the ultimate test of effectiveness. It gets my vote for the best Tongkat Ali extract!
However, if you’re looking for a mix of ingredients, not just Tongkat, my choice would be ALLMAX Nutrition TestoFX 5-Stage Male Testosterone Support.
It contains the root extract of Tongkat Ali, but also fenugreek, Ashwagandha, Tribulus terrestris and other testosterone-boosting ingredients.
It is the ultimate testosterone booster and if you’re looking for something that combines all of the best-known natural T-boosters, this is it.