Tongkat Ali: Get your Long Jack Back

Plant-based herbal medicines have a very long history of use. Occasionally, some of them get re-introduced to the Western world, mixed with our modern science, and the results are nothing short of fantastic.

Curcumin is one such natural compound we’ve discussed (for joints). But when it comes to male virility and muscle-building, none have been underestimated more than Tongkat Ali, especially when extracted properly.

TL;DR

This is a long and thorough article. Here are the major points:

What is Tongkat Ali?

Eurycoma Longifolia

A flowering Eurycoma Longifolia plant, courtesy Wikimedia

Eurycoma longifolia Jack, otherwise known as Tongkat Ali, is a plant native to South-Eastern Asian countries and is one of the more popular herbal plants. It’s also known as Malaysian Ginseng and Longjack, but Tongkat Ali is the most common term used for it here in the states. In Malaysia, Ali translates to “walking stick”, which is a reference to the plants long twisted roots.

Tongkat Ali Uses

Tongkat Ali has been used for a variety of different reasons. It is commonly used to

  • increase male virility and sexual prowess,[1]
  • antimalarial, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, and antipyretic properties[2]

The roots of the plant contain several compounds which may have sexual and testosterone enhancing effects. These compounds are what supplement companies typically extract out of the plant for supplemental use, and that will be the focus of this paper. Not all extracts are equal.

How does it work?

The primary bioactive compound in Tongkat Ali is believed to be the quassinoid compounds. These are a group of natural chemical compounds classified as diterpenoids and triterpenoid structures.

Quassinoids are bitter principles found in plants that are in the Simaroubaceae family.[3,4,5] Several quassinoids have been isolated and identified in Tongkat Ali.[6] The most promising of these include eurycomanone, eurycomalactone, euryconolactone (A-C), eurycomanon, and eurycomanol.

Of these, eurycomanone and eurycomanol are believed to be the main bioactive quassinoids. [7] However, currently no relevant studies specific to exactly which quassinoid is the one responsible for the effects some experience from Tongkat Ali supplementation. Despite this, some supplement manufacturers do extract specifically for quassinoids or glycopeptide fractions.

Tongkat Ali

You can see why Tongkat Ali translates to walking stick, as shown at the Singapore Science Center. Image courtesy Wikimedia.

Glycopeptides are a form of bonded amino acids chains and like quassinoids, are promising but at this time no relevant specific studies have been done on them.

Extract strength makes a world of difference

The most promising extract of Tongkat Ali is LJ100. This extract is a 100:1 patented blend consisting of the two more promising bioactives, eurypeptides and glycosaponins, in a 22% and 40% ratio respectively.[8]

Our interest in this often-overlooked herb peaked with the release of Olympus Labs LJ100 – a single-ingredient formula that contains just the potent extract and nothing else.

The studies behind it were quite impressive, and the more research we did, the more impressive it became. What you’re left with is this article here, and we get more into the details of this product in our Tongkat Ali supplements section later on.

The Tongkat Ali Benefits

In some countries, it has traditionally been used as a tea to treat various ailments such as headaches, fevers, and ulcers. In addition to this, it is believed to be anti-tumor and antimalarial,[9] but research here is limited and beyond the scope of this article.

In Indonesia it is called Pasak Bumi and is used as a treatment for dysentery and malaria.

While its use does vary from country to country, in Southeast Asia it is almost universally used as an aphrodisiac and to treat impotence – that much is basically undisputed, as you’ll see in the research below. This is the more traditional role of Tongkat Ali use by humans.[2]

Western Uses:

But here in the states, the plant extract, especially the roots, are commonly used for enhancing libido & testosterone levels in men, as well as body composition changes (both muscle gains and fat losses).

  • Sexual Health Effects

    Recently there has been a significant increase in demand for Tongkat Ali, and as a result tons of supplements containing the plants extract have appeared in the market. The vast majority of them advertise it for Tongkat Ali’s aphrodisiac properties.

    Tongkat Ali Benefits

    “Increase in the percentage of sperm with normal morphology after treatment with a 100 mg twice daily dose of the proprietary standardized water-soluble extract of Eurycoma longifolia Jack root. A significant improvement in sperm morphology after the treatment can be seen from the baseline to the first, second and third cycles.”[14]

    While many types of treatments are largely considered to be “folk medicine” here in the west, Tongkat Ali seems to be an exception, as scientific literature suggests it is effective in this area.

    • A 300 mg extract of Tongkat Ali were given to study participants over the course of 12 weeks and showed an increase in libido in the range of 8.4-10.8%.[14]

    • Complementary to its aphrodisiac effects, supplementation with Tongkat Ali may also positively affect the ability to form erections.

      In one study researchers used castrated rats, as a control for the influence of testosterone, and found an increase in the frequency of erections when they were supplemented with Tongkat Ali extract [11].

      While the pro-erectile effects of Tongkat Ali are far from conclusive, they are more than promising at this time.

    Meanwhile, several studies, albeit animal studies, have shown the administration of this extract does in fact increase male sexual performance.[10,11]

    How? We’re not 100% sure

    For the most part, the mechanism behind this is currently unknown but it is hypothesized that the glycoprotein content, and to some extent the eurypeptide content, is the source of the pro-aphrodisiac effects of Tongkat Ali.[12]

    Regardless, it works quite dependably — several studies done using rats have demonstrated Tongkat Ali to be a reliable aphrodisiac. [10,13]

    All in all, this is a good start for Longjack, but we want more. Let’s go get it:

  • Effect on Testosterone

    In addition to male sexual health, it is speculated that Tongkat Ali may increase testosterone, the male androgen.

    Longjack

    The Quassinoid Components of Longjack

    It is thought that this increase might be what is responsible for the enhanced male sexual potency one experiences from Tongkat Ali. A paper from the University of Malaya first elluded to Tongkat Ali’s effect on testosterone back in 2003.[15]

    At this time, the evidence for this is limited, but the mechanism as to how Tongkat Ali may increase testosterone levels is plausible.

    Research on men and women

    However, a pilot study was published in the journal of Phytotherapy Research which supports this. In the study, twenty-five physically active male and females were given Tongkat Ali daily for five weeks. At the end of the study researchers noted a significant increase in total and free testosterone concentrations and muscular force:

    • Testosterone increased by 15.1% and 48.6%;
    • free testosterone by 61.1% and 122%; and
    • muscular force by 16.6% and 48.6%

    in men and women respectively.[16]

    The possible science behind the rise in testosterone

    It is believed that the eurypeptide content increases an enzyme in the testes which in turn increases the conversion rate of precursors into DHEA and consequentially androgens.

    Hypogonadic success with Longjack

    In a study males suffering from hypogonadism, Tongkat Ali was effective in improving libido and increased testosterone levels by 46% on average.[17]

    Prior to the study, only 35.5% had normal testosterone levels, but after supplementation with Tongkat Ali, 90.8% of the participants reached normal values.[17] Mean serum testosterone also rose from 5.66nm to 8.31nm.

    Consider use during PCT

    DHEA Conversion

    It is POSTULATED that eurycoma longifolia may work by increasing the rate of the DHEA reactions above. Image courtesy OMICS International[33]

    Because of the above study, it appears the best time for one to use Tongkat Ali would be during post cycle therapy (PCT).

    Why? Because after using exogenous hormones, your body’s natural production of testosterone plummets, making this a crucial period to return to baseline. During this time, the body is essentially similar to a hypogonadic one making Tongkat Ali a great PCT ingredient.

    Unfortunately, when the studies results were attempted to be replicated using healthy males, no increase in testosterone was found.[14]

    However, in that study, a weaker 20:1 extract of Eurycoma longifolia root was used, leading us to wonder if 100:1 extract is what’s truly needed to get a statistically significant serum testosterone rise out of healthy males.

  • Anti-Estrogenic Effect

    Testosterone isn’t the only hormone that may be positively affected by Tongkat Ali supplementation. Tongkat Ali also appears to be posses antiestrogenic effects.[18,19,20]

    In one study, researchers injected female rats with testosterone, which unsurprisingly led to irregular estrous cycle, thus affecting the ovarian function. The researchers gave the rats a quassinoid rich extract of Tongkat Ali and saw improvements in estrous cycle.[20] The researchers attributed the amelioration of the adverse side effects from the testosterone to the antiestrogenic effect of Tongkat Ali.[20]

  • Ergogenic Effects (Muscle-Building!)

    The benefits don’t stop at sexual health either. According to a study presented at the joint conference of BASEM and BASES, Tongkat Ali may also possess ergogenic effects as well.[21]

    In this study, the researchers recruited 14 males and had them perform circuit training over the course of five weeks. Participants were given either a placebo or Tongkat Ali extract.

    After the five weeks the participants in the group receiving the Tongkat Ali experienced a greater increase in lean body mass compared to the placebo group. Both groups gained strength however, the Tongkat Ali experienced significantly greater strength gains [21].

    Meanwhile, fat mass went down in the longjack users!

    Results from the study:

    • 4% gains: Non-fat mass increases from 52.26kg to 54.39kg (vs nothing significant in placebo)
    • Body fat decreased significantly – by 9%! (from 31.3kg to 28.44kg)
    • Strength gains: 1 Rep Max increased 6.7% (73.71kg to 78.71kg, but it doesn’t state what exercise).[21]

      Placebo’s 1RM went up 2.77%: nice, but not as nice.

    Muscle Gains

    We’re always on the lookout for natural muscle gains. Pictured: Amin Shahry

    The success of this study leads us to wonder if this can be used for more than just muscle-building supplement use…

  • Body Composition Effects: More Muscle, Less Fat

    Reiterating the data above from the study presented at the joint conference, researchers also noted that the participant group that received Tongkat Ali showed improvements in lean mass gains, body fat levels, overall strength (1RM), and arm circumference over the placebo group.[21]

    In a separate study, this one a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study, 26 men were given either Tongkat Ali or placebo for 12 weeks. At the end of the study the researchers observed a trend of decreased fat mass in overweight participants who were in the Tongkat Ali group.[22]

    Stack this with your fat burner?

    Their findings of decreased waist and hip circumference suggest Tongkat Ali may actually be useful for weight loss[14], yet it’s practically never advertised as such!

    This means that you could consider stacking it in with your weight loss supplement stack / fat burner, since it almost definitely won’t already contain any.

    Regardless of the whole testosterone discussion, for most of us, it’s these body composition changes — appropriate “gains” (and losses!) — that we ultimately seek. Longjack has long been overlooked for this purpose, and we explain why that is when we start talking about supplement quality later on.

  • Effects on Stress

    Tongkat Ali Testosterone

    The same study that measured cortisol also measured salivary testosterone. It went up significantly in longjack users (32 men, 31 women).[23]

    Supplementation with Tongkat Ali extract may also have a positive effect on stress.

    One study showed a 16% reduction in cortisol levels (and also a 37% increase in testosterone) after treatment with Tongkat Ali extract.[23]

    The treatment group also experienced a 11% drop in tension, 12% drop in anger, and a 15% drop in confusion, compared to placebo.[23] Literally a decisive man-maker: calm, cool, and collected.

    In a separate paper published in the International Society of Sport Medicine, thirty (30) male subjects were recruited from a mountain biking event. Fifeteen of them were given Tongkat Ali and the rest placebo. The researchers collected saliva sample before and after each lap the participants made for a total of 8 saliva samples.

    What the researchers found was that the cortisol levels in the Tongkat Ali group was 32.2% lower and the testosterone levels 16.4% higher when compared to placebo.[24]

Where has this stuff been all my life?!

For a natural extract, the benefits are downright ridiculous, which leads us to wonder why it’s taken the sports nutrition industry so long to jump on board. The answer to that question leads us to the next section: product quality.

Tonkgkat Ali Supplements: The full story

When it comes to the tongkat ali supplements available for purchase, product quality has historically been a serious issue. Products just never seemed to work as well as indicated in the research studies cited above and below.

Unfortunately, the behavior of a few dishonest companies and suppliers tarnished the ingredient’s entire reputation for a while. That story is told in the sidebar to the right, but out of that mess came LJ100, which was formulated after too many scam extracts appeared on the market, misling both consumers and the honest supplement brands we enjoy working with.

Introducing LJ100 – Quality Tongkat Ali 100:1 Extract

LJ100 is the first commercially-trusted, science-backed Tongkat Ali extract. It’s a true 100:1 standardized to 40% Glyco Saponins, 28% Eurypeptides, 30% Polysacharides, and Eurycomanone.

LJ100 has more human research behind it than any other extract (much of it cited in this document), and was created by the original researchers at MIT and University Malaya. It was born out of near necessity by HP Ingredients[32], as discussed to the side.

For instance, HP Ingredients claims that the incredible ergogenic effects research study discussed above (with 4% non-fat gains, 9% body fat losses, and 1 rep max increase of 6.7%) was performed using LJ100.[21]

Recommended Tongkat Ali products

Of the companies selling LJ100, Olympus Labs is by far the one with the most professional experience and trust in the community.

There are two things that set them apart:

  1. Olympus Labs LJ100 is offered at a consumer friendly value, yet with the doses required to match the most successful studies for body composition improvements (the kind most of our readers want!)

    It has a legit 100mg per capsule (and 60 capsules per bottle). This is compared to other products who offer as little as 25mg per capsule (at 60 caps per bottle) or 50mg (at just 30 caps per bottle) for roughly the same price.

  2. Olympus Labs LJ100

    Olympus Labs brings an ultra-premium version of Longjack to the market with LJ100, promising anabolic and libido boosting qualities!

    Olympus Labs requires CoAs (Certificate of Analysis) on each batch received, which the manufacturers of LJ100 provide. These CoAs show the breakdown in key components of the extract to prove the ratios shown above.

    As a sidenote, when Olympus Labs is not using patented or licensed ingredients in their other supplements, they perform applicable HPLC, LCMS, and GCMS tests on incoming raw materials. This is unfortunately not done by too many companies, who are in a rush to get product out the door cheap.

You can compare prices on this product below, or sign up for price drop updates to catch the next hot deal:

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You can also read more about Olympus Labs or see our LJ100 article for more information.

Recommended Tongkat Ali Dosage

As always, stick with the dosing instructions on the product you buy, and first get written consent from your licensed medical practitioner before beginning any dietary or supplementation program. These statements are not approved by the FDA.

While an optimal dose is still unknown, the typical dose of Tongkat Ali extract ranges from 200-400mg per day.[25] This is true for the LJ100 100:1 extract, which has the most research behind it.

Doses are normally recommended to be administered to men in 1-2 doses throughout the day.

Cycling LJ100 Properly

In terms of Olympus Labs LJ100, the instructions are to take two to three capsules daily. However, you cycle it by taking it for five day on, followed by two days off, then repeating the process. This lengthens the effective time and allows your body to continue with its own testosterone production.

In terms of some other products, the maximal acceptable daily intake of Tongkat Ali is up to 1.2g/60kg adult/day, but that was with basic water-based extracts and such a dose would be far too much if using a quality extract.[26]

Are there any Side Effects?

Longjack Extract

Image courtesy HP Ingredients

While human data is limited, Tongkat Ali supplementation is considered safe if taken in a reasonable manner. A recent study concluded that Tongkat Ali may even be a safe alternative to testosterone replacement therapy![27]

Recent animal study concluded that Tongkat Ali appears to be safe as a treatment for male infertility and general ageing male problems.[28] However, at very high doses, Tongkat Ali supplementation may result in deleterious side effects.[29] In rats, the LD50 for Tongkat Ali has been reported to be >5000 mg/kg.[31]

In one study using humans, up to 600 mg/kg of Tongkat Ali did not result in any negative effects.[30]

But again, don’t be stupid or overly aggressive: used a trusted product (not some knock-off crap you see on Amazon), follow the instructions on your bottle, and always do so under the guidance of your doctor.

When used appropriately, Tongkat Ali seriously may just bring your Long Jack back.

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References

  1. Ang, Hooi Hoon, and Hung Seong Cheang. 2001. “Effects of Eurycoma longifolia jack on laevator ani muscle in both uncastrated and testosterone-stimulated castrated intact male rats”; Archives of pharmacal research 24.5: 437-440.
  2. Bhat R, Karim AA. 2010 “Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia Jack): a review on its ethnobotany and pharmacological importance“. Fitoterapia.
  3. Guo Z, S. Vangapandu et al. 2005. “Biologically Active Quassinoids and Their Chemistry: Potential Leads for Drug Design“. Current Medicinal Chemistry. 12, 173-190 173
  4. Miyake K, et al. 2009. “Quassinoids from Eurycoma longifolia“. J Nat Prod.
  5. Dayan, FE et al. 1999. “Phytotoxicity of quassinoids: physiological responses and structural requirements.” Pesticide Biochemistry and Physiology 65.: 15-24.
  6. Chua LS, et al 2011. LC-MS/MS-based metabolites of Eurycoma longifolia (Tongkat Ali) in Malaysia (Perak and Pahang). J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci.
  7. Darise, M., Kohda, H., Mizutani, K., & Tanaka, O. (1982). Eurycomanone and eurycomanol, quassinoids from the roots of Eurycoma longifolia. Phytochemistry, 21(8), 2091-2093.
  8. Eng, A. (2005). US 20070009621 A1, Correcting systemic androgen levels using Eurycoma longifolia. U.S. Patent Application 11/176,464, US Patent and Trademark Office.
  9. Kuo PC, Damu AG, Lee KH, Wu TS. 2004. Cytotoxic and antimalarial constituents from the roots of Eurycoma longifolia. Bioorg Med Chem. Feb 1;12(3):537-44.
  10. Ang HH, Cheang HS, Yusof AP. 2000. Effects of Eurycoma longifolia Jack (Tongkat Ali) on the initiation of sexual performance of inexperienced castrated male rats. Exp Anim. Jan;49(1):35-8.
  11. Ang HH, Ikeda S, Gan EK. 2001. Evaluation of the potency activity of aphrodisiac in Eurycoma longifolia Jack. Phytother Res. Aug;15(5):435-6.
  12. Tambi MI, Imran MK. 2010. Eurycoma longifolia Jack in managing idiopathic male infertility. Asian J Androl.
  13. Zanoli P, et al. 2009. Influence of Eurycoma longifolia on the copulatory activity of sexually sluggish and impotent male rats. J Ethnopharmacol.
  14. Ismail SB, et al., 2012. Randomized Clinical Trial on the Use of PHYSTA Freeze-Dried Water Extract of Eurycoma longifolia for the Improvement of Quality of Life and Sexual Well-Being in Men. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med.
  15. Ali, J. M., & Saad, J. M. (1993). Biochemical effect of Eurycoma longifolia jack on the sexual behavior, fertility, sex hormone, and glycolysis. Department of Biochemistry, University of Malaysia: PhD Dissertation.
  16. Henkel, R. R., Wang, R., Bassett, S. H., Chen, T., Liu, N., Zhu, Y., & Tambi, M. I. (2014). Tongkat Ali as a potential herbal supplement for physically active male and female seniors—a pilot study. Phytotherapy Research, 28(4), 544-550.
  17. Tambi MI, Imran MK, Henkel RR. 2011. Standardised water-soluble extract of Eurycoma longifolia, Tongkat ali, as testosterone booster for managing men with late-onset hypogonadism. Andrologia.
  18. Teh CH, et al. 2011. Comparative X-ray and conformational analysis of a new crystal of 13α,21-dihydroeurycomanone with eurycomanone from Eurycoma longifolia and their anti-estrogenic activity using the uterotrophic assay. Planta Med.
  19. Wahab NA, et al., 2010. The effect of eurycoma longifolia Jack on spermatogenesis in estrogen-treated rats. Clinics (Sao Paulo).
  20. Abdulghani M, et al., 2012. The ameliorative effects of Eurycoma longifolia Jack on testosterone-induced reproductive disorders in female rats. Reprod Biol.
  21. SPORT, C. I. (2003). Joint Conference of BASEM and BASES. Phys Ther,37:464-470
  22. Udani, J. K., George, A. A., Musthapa, M., Pakdaman, M. N., & Abas, A. (2014). Effects of a proprietary freeze-dried water extract of Eurycoma longifolia (Physta) and Polygonum minus on sexual performance and well-being in men: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2014
  23. Talbott, Shawn M., et al. 2013. “Effect of Tongkat Ali on stress hormones and psychological mood state in moderately stressed.”Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 10: 28.
  24. Journal of International Society of Sport Medicine 3 (1): S32 2006
  25. Tajul Ariff AS, et al. 2012. Effects of Eurycoma longifolia on Testosterone Level and Bone Structure in an Aged Orchidectomised Rat Model. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med.
  26. Li, Ching-Hao, et al. 2013 “Evaluation of Acute 13-Week Subchronic Toxicity and Genotoxicity of the Powdered Root of Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia Jack).”Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
  27. George, A., and R. Henkel. 2014 “Phytoandrogenic properties of Eurycoma longifolia as natural alternative to testosterone replacement therapy.” Andrologia
  28. Solomon, M. C., N. Erasmus, and R. R. Henkel. 2013. “In vivo effects of Eurycoma longifolia Jack (Tongkat Ali) extract on reproductive functions in the rat.” Andrologia
  29. Erasmus, N., et al. 2012 “Effect of Eurycoma longifolia Jack (Tongkat ali) extract on human spermatozoa in vitro.” Andrologia 44.5: 308-314.
  30. Tambi, M. I. 2005. “Standardized water soluble extract of eurycoma longifolia (LJ100) on men’s health.” International Journal of Andrology. Vol. 28. Commerce Place, 350 Main St, Malden 02148, MA USA: WILEY-BLACKWELL PUBLISHING, INC.
  31. Shuid, A. N., et al. “Acute and subacute toxicity studies of Eurycoma longifolia in male rats.” International Journal of Pharmacology 7.5 (2011): 641-646.
  32. http://hpingredients.com/
  33. Production of sex steroids from the adrenal precursors, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and its sulfate form (DHEAS); OMICs International
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