Health Benefits of Tongkat Ali

Tonkat ali plant, Image from Wikimedia CommonsI first heard the word tongkat ali in a television advertisement few years ago. Although I cannot totally remember the whole details of the advertisement, I knew its message to the viewing public. The target market of the ad is couples having fertility problems. The ad featured a man with pregnant wife who jokingly teased his brother about his fertility problem (his wife is not yet pregnant after years of trying). The man then presented tongkat ali supplements to his brother. The ad ended with the man’s brother holding the abdomen of his pregnant wife. After watching the ad, the first thing that came into my mind is “Viagra effect”.

Tongkat ali, scientifically known as Eurycoma longifolia, is a flowering plant in the family Simaroubaceae, native to Southeast Asian countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. It can grow to as tall as 15 m. Extract of its root is a very popular herbal medicine as it is best known as Asia’s herbal Viagra. For centuries, Southeast Asian natives used tongkat ali as aphrodisiac. The natives believe that tongkat ali improves sexual desire and fertility.

Tongkat ali became popular worldwide especially in industrialized countries when they learned that tongkat ali root extract can help their sexual problems such as impotence, low libido, poor sperm quality, premature ejaculation, low sperm production and others. Tonkat ali, being herbal, gains advantage over prescription Viagra that has many side effects including blurred vision, headaches, stomachaches, and light-headedness. With lesser side effects, many male customers prefer tongkat ali than synthetic drugs. Tongkat ali became more popular when Dr. Oz featured it to his television program.
The extract of tongkat ali root contains compounds (probably secondary plant metabolites) that enhances production of testosterone in male body. Testosterone is a male hormone produced in the testicles and responsible for the growth and development of male penis, testicles, scrotum, seminal vesicles, and prostates. Testosterone also affects the development of secondary sex characteristics such as musculature, bone mass, fat distribution, laryngeal enlargement, hair patterns, and vocal cord thickening. There are different factors that cause the decline of testosterone production in the body, including stress, anxiety, diet, lack of exercise, and aging.

Tongkat ali has other health benefits besides from improving sexual performance. Preliminary researches show that tongkat ali extract has anti-cancer properties. In laboratory experiments, tongkat ali extract inhibits the growth of different cancer cells. Alkaloids isolated from tongkat ali extract have been found to kill lung and breast cancer cells.

Studies conducted by research institutions in Malaysia discovered that tongkat ali extract contains an anti-oxidant enzyme called superoxide dismutase (SOD). Antioxidants, like SOD, helps the body get rid of harmful free radicals – unstable and highly reactive compounds that can damage normal cells. Too much free radical in the body is linked to cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

Another health benefit of tongkat ali is boosting energy production (heat production or thermogenesis) by increasing metabolic rate.

Tongkat ali extract is also added with supplements for muscle building. Tongkat ali boosts testosterone production resulting to faster muscular growth. Furthermore, testosterone improves muscular strength and tone.

Safety Concerns

Reported side effects of tongkat ali include restlessness, anxiety, and insomnia. Tongkat ali should not be taken by children, and pregnant or nursing women. Due to tongkat ali’s ability to increase testosterone levels, it should not be taken by men with prostate cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, liver disease, and sleep apnea. Tongkat ali should not also be taken by people with weakened immune systems because it can further aggravate the problem. Tongkat ali and immunosuppressant drugs should not be taken at the same time to prevent adverse drug interaction.[ad#afterpost]