Tongkat Ali

Physician-designed supplements raising standards
Dr. Bill Rawls
Eurycoma longifolia
Tongkat Ali

Eurycoma longifolia is a shrub native to Southeast Asia. It goes by many names: in Indonesia it is known as pasak bumi; in Malaysia, tongkat ali; and Thailand, cay ba binh. Tongkat ali and longjack are the most commonly used names for the herb in the Western world.

Tongkat Ali is probably best known for enhancing sexual vitality, but this remarkable herb provides broad adaptogenic and balancing properties for both women and men. The list of traditional uses is long and includes promoting general vitality with aging, invigorating sexual vitality, enhancing strength, muscle mass and bone mass, supporting balanced mood, strengthening stress tolerance, and supporting energy and general health.

Benefits of Tongkat Ali:*

Adaptogens like tongkat ali send feedback to the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that governs many of your body’s key processes including metabolism and energy (thyroid), stress response (adrenals), and reproductive functions (testes/ovaries).

Research has shown that Tongkat Ali helps:

  • Promote sexual drive and desire in men and women
  • Support male sexual performance
  • Improve energy and stress tolerance
  • Promote normal muscle mass and strength
  • Support optimal bone density
  • Improve physical stamina and performance
  • Elevate mood
  • Balance blood sugar and normalize insulin
  • Modulate immunity
  • Balance the microbiome

Tongkat Ali for Sexual Health*

The research on tongkat ali’s ability to support sexual energy focuses primarily on men, but evidence suggests the herb can help support hormonal balance for women, as well.

In men, various studies have shown that tongkat ali can support indicators of sexual function. For instance, last year the Chinese Journal of Natural Medicines published a systematic review of the clinical significance and therapeutic feasibility of tongkat ali. The researchers investigated the data supporting tongkat ali for a variety of indicators of male health and concluded that there is convincing evidence for the use of tongkat ali in supporting male sexual health.

Less research exists on the benefits of tongkat ali for female sexual health. However, a 2012 study shows that an extract of tongkat ali helps support sexual health in female animals.

Tongkat Ali for Metabolism & More*

One of the hallmarks of modern aging is decreased tolerance of carbohydrates, insulin insensitivity, and obesity. A study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology demonstrated increased insulin sensitivity, enhanced glucose uptake by cells, and reduced lipid accumulation in adipose tissue with regular use of tongkat ali extracts.

Other studies have shown direct support of bone density by reducing bone resorption, protecting the stomach lining, normalizing stressed immune system functions, and suppressing various types of microbes that threaten the balance of the gut microbiome.

How Tongkat Ali Works*

Over the past several years, the worldwide scientific community has taken great notice of tongkat ali. Scientific studies in both laboratory animals and humans have defined biochemical components of the herb and validated all of its traditional uses.

Tongkat Ali is a rich source of a variety of bioactive compounds including alkaloids, triterpenoids, and complex polypeptides called eurypeptides that may help normalize hormone levels. Quassinoids, the dominant group of chemical compounds in tongkat ali, provide dynamic bioactive properties that promote good health. Because these chemical substances are distinctly bitter, tongkat ali is best taken as an herbal extract in capsules.

Like other adaptogenic and restorative herbs, tongkat ali works to balance the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis).

The hypothalamus is a walnut-sized structure at the base of the brain that controls metabolism and energy (thyroid), reaction to stress (adrenals), and reproductive functions (testes/ovaries). In short, anything and everything that happens in the body goes through the HPA axis.

Chronic stress of any sort disrupts the HPA axis, with the end result of low energy, stress intolerance, and loss of sexual vitality.

Because tongkat ali works primarily by balancing the HPA axis, the effect in men and women, from a reproductive hormone production point of view, is slightly different. The end result is enhanced athletic performance, stamina, stress tolerance, muscle mass, bone density, and sexual energy in both sexes—but without potential for masculinization in women.

Side effects: Though reports of side effects are mild and few, the potential side effects include nausea and upset stomach; therefore, tongkat ali should be taken with food. Because tongkat ali is an energizing adaptogen, it should be used with caution by individuals with sleep issues or who are overcoming health adversity. Like many herbs, tongkat ali has mild blood thinning properties; if you are taking prescription blood thinners, consult your healthcare provider before taking tongkat ali.

Vital Plan Products that contain Tongkat Ali:

eVITALIZE – a blend of energizing adaptogens for libido support, stamina, endurance, strength, and resilience.

Ingredients similar to Tongkat Ali:

Epimedium

*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult your qualified healthcare provider before beginning any diet or program.

References
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about the author
Dr. Bill Rawls
Dr. Bill Rawls has practiced conventional medicine as a gynecologist for
over 20 years and is also the co-founder and medical director of Vital Plan, a wellness and herbal supplement company.