Last modified on June 8th, 2023
Tongkat Ali is arguably one of the most popular supplements right now. So what is Tongkat Ali used for? Primarily when people use it, they’re doing so to raise testosterone levels, but does the science support that? We’ll break it down below.
What is Tongkat Ali?
Tongkat Ali may be incredibly popular now among natural health fans, but it’s not new. It’s an herbal remedy that’s been part of Southeast Asia for centuries, and in traditional medicine, it’s used for fevers, bacterial infections, male infertility, and erectile dysfunction.
Also known as longjack, Tongkat Ali comes from the Eurycoma longifolia tree natively grown in Southeast Asia.
Tongkat Ali’s properties act as antioxidants; people usually take it in pill form, or sometimes they’ll have herbal drinks containing it as an ingredient.
Quick Takeaway: What is Tongkat Ali used for?
Tongkat ali is used for:
- Increasing testosterone
- Improving libido and sexual performance
- Stress relief
- Mood improvement
- Building muscle mass
- Improvements in body composition
- Bone health
- Anti-inflammatory benefits
- Antibacterial effects
The Possible Benefits of Tongkat Ali
There’s pretty limited research on the benefits of Tongkat Ali and what it’s used for, but in some studies, there’s evidence to suggest it could improve mood, help with male infertility and improve muscle mass.
Tongkat Ali is so popular right now because of its potential to increase testosterone, which is the primary sex hormone of men, although women also have small amounts.
There is the most research and evidence to support the fact that Tongkat Ali may help increase testosterone. Low testosterone can stem from many factors, including medications, aging, chemotherapy, and certain diseases, including obstructive sleep apnea.
With low testosterone in men, symptoms include erectile dysfunction and low libido. For some men with low testosterone, infertility can occur.
There are compounds in Tongkat Ali that may help raise testosterone. One study found that taking 200 mg of Tongkat Ali extract significantly increased testosterone levels to normal in more than 90% of participants.
Both animal and human studies have found Tongkat Ali has the potential to stimulate arousal and may improve men’s erectile dysfunction
Other studies indicate that Tongkat Ali might improve sperm concentration and motility, improving male infertility.
In a study of 75 male partners in couples with infertility, 200 mg of Tongkat Ali daily improved sperm motility and concentration after three months. More than 14% of the couples became pregnant.
In another study of men between the ages of 30 and 55, taking 300 mg of Tongkat Ali daily increased sperm volume by an average of 18% and sperm motility by 44%.
So how does Tongkat Ali have such significant effects on testosterone?
One reason is that it has compounds called quassinoids, which may help the body release luteinizing hormone, or LH, that allows the body to produce more testosterone.
Increased testosterone levels can improve sexual function, libido, and athletic performance. Studies have found that men with higher levels of testosterone tend to be faster runners, with more lean muscle mass and better strength.
Higher testosterone levels can improve mood and energy and reduce chronic disease risk.
In an animal study done in 2019, researchers also found that Tongkat Ali can raise dopamine levels in the brain, which is another way it might improve libido.
Tongkat Ali might improve mood, reduce anxiety and lower the body’s levels of stress hormones.
In an animal study, a Tongkat Ali extract was similar to the effects of common anxiety medication to reduce anxiety symptoms.
While similar effects have been seen in people, the research is still somewhat limited.
In one study of 63 adults dealing with moderate stress, a supplement with 200 mg of Tongkat Ali a day reduced cortisol levels in the saliva by 16% compared to participants taking a placebo. Cortisol is a stress hormone, and participants in this study also said they felt less anger, tension, and stress after taking Tongkat Ali.
Muscle Mass and Body Composition
Tongkat Ali may increase muscle mass and improve athletic performance.
There are certain compounds responsible for these effects, all of which are classified as quassinoids. These compounds help you use energy more efficiently, improve endurance and reduce fatigue.
These things make Tongkat Ali an ergogenic acid. Ergogenic acids are substances that enhance your physical performance and improve body composition.
In a study of 14 men participating in a strength training program, the ones taking 100 mg of Tongkat Ali extract a day had a more significant increase in lean body mass than those taking a placebo and lost more fat.
In a study of older adults, 400 mg of Tongkat Ali daily significantly improved muscle strength.
The quassinoids in Tongkat Ali may combat cancer, at least according to test-tube studies looking at cervical and lung cancer cells. Tongkat Ali is toxic to these cells.
In a review in 2018, 16 compounds were identified from the plant and isolated that showed cancer-fighting properties.
Some research has found this plant-based supplement is effective against bacteria, including Salmonella typhi.
In some test tube studies, extracts of Tongkat Ali had antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Tongkat Ali can help protect against osteoporosis and protect bone health in men, likely because it increases testosterone levels.
Is Tongkat Ali Safe?
Tongkat Ali has been used for centuries in traditional medicine, but there’s not a huge amount of modern clinical research. It seems like a reasonably safe supplement, with a few exceptions.
First, avoid Tongkat Ali if you have a suppressed immune system. You should also avoid taking it if you take blood pressure or hypoglycemic medicine, and pregnant or nursing mothers should avoid it.
If you have hormone-sensitive prostate or breast cancer, don’t take Tongkat Ali since it can potentially raise testosterone levels.
If you have a history of kidney or heart disease, you should also avoid Tongkat Ali.
In 2021, a European Food Safety Authority Panel on Nutrition report found that a high dose of Tongkat Ali could lead to DNA damage to the duodenum and stomach tissues. It’s important to note that this risk was associated with a very high dose of 2,000 mg per kg of body weight.
In the studies thus far on the testosterone-boosting supplement, no adverse side effects have been found.
A 2016 review concluded, based on toxicology studies, that Tongkat Ali didn’t cause changes in liver or kidney function in rats given significant doses of the supplement. The same study found that a lethal dose of Tongkat for mice was 1,500 to 2,000 mg per kg of body weight with an alcohol-based extract and more than 3000 mg per kg for a water-based extract.
In a study in 2012 of men taking 300 mg of Tongkat Ali every day for 12 weeks, it was found to be as safe as a placebo.
Current research shows that up to 1.2 grams of Tongkat Ali per day are likely safe for adults, with the ideal doses being between 200-400 mg per day.
What is tongkat ali used for? As it turns out, quite a bit. Tongkat Ali is used to raising testosterone and improve libido, muscle mass, and body composition. It does appear to be effective for these things, based on currently available research. Talk to your healthcare provider before trying any new supplement.