Tongkat ali is an herb widely used traditionally in Southeast Asia to improve sexual performance. In the contemporary system, it is being used to manage many diseases.

Several studies have been done on tongkat ali and its proposed suggested uses include boosting sexual performance in men, relieving stress and anxiety, as well as improving body composition.In as much as it has all these promising benefits, it still has some very severe side effects. Therefore, someone should take caution before using it, especially if they are under medications or are suffering from a certain health problem.

This article will explore more about tongkat ali, its health benefits, and potential side effects.

What Is Tongkat Ali?

Tongkat ali is also known as longjack and is botanically called Eurycoma longifolia. It is a herbal drug and supplement derived from the roots of this plant which is native to Southeast Asia.According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, tongkat ali is widely used in Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, other countries in Asia to manage various health conditions, including infections, malaria, fever, erectile dysfunction, and male fertility.

Tongkat ali is believed to contain very powerful plant compounds that make it effectively manage these conditions. Particular plant compounds it contains are alkaloids, flavonoids, and other compounds, which once they get into the body, act as antioxidants. Antioxidants are stable compounds that have the potential to reverse damages on cells caused by free radicals. According to studies, antioxidants may help the body in other important ways.

This herb is usually made into modern drugs that are sold as pills, drinks, or supplements. The word tongkat ali simply means “Ali’s walking stick”. It can also be called Malaysian ginseng or Ali’s Umbrella. Regarding tongkat ali, some trees also have the same properties as it is. These include Polyalthia bullata, Entomophthora apiculata, and Goniothalamus.

Traditional Uses

In many Asian countries, E.longifolia is commonly known for its use in sexual performance and treating malaria. Nearly, the entire plant is used to make the herbal preparation including its bark, roots, and fruits.According to one study review in 2016 by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, tongkat ali had been used traditionally to treat several health conditions including malaria, anxiety, sexual dysfunction, high blood pressure, intestinal worms, combating aging, diarrhea, itching, fever, dysentery, type 2 diabetes, constipation, certain types of cancer, jaundice, blood disorders like leukemia, syphilis, lumbago, digestion issue like indigestion, muscle and joint pains and aches, and osteoporosis.

It is worth noting that this herbal medicine may have side effects which, in fact, lacks sufficient evidence. The roots of this plant are also used by Asian people to stimulate appetite, increase physical output and energy. Traditionally, E.longifolia was available as a concoction, but currently, it can be found in powder and capsule forms.Steroids and alkaloids are the bioactive compounds contained in the leaves and bark of the plant while the roots majorly contain quassinoids. What’s more, tongkat ali is sometimes referred to as an adaptogen. This means that it can help someone adapt to chemical, physical, and biological stress.

Health Benefits of Tongkat Ali

With its content of plant compounds, tongkat ali may have some health benefits. Some of them are discussed below.

1.      May Help Relieve Stress

Studies have shown that tongkat ali may decrease anxiety, lower hormones responsible for stress in the body, and stabilize mood. One old study of 1999, examined tongkat ali’s effects on stress in mice. It concluded that it was just as effective as common anti-anxiety drugs at reducing the symptoms of anxiety. This research used extracts of tongkat ali and was published in PubMed.

Human research on the same, which is in fact limited, has shown the same result. For example, the National Center for Biotechnology did 30-day research on 63 adults with stress. After supplementing them with 200 mg of tongkat ali every day, it was found that their levels of the stress hormone cortisol in saliva, was reduced by up to 16% compared to those who were on placebo. Furthermore, these participants also said that they experienced less anger, tension, and stress. These results were published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

2.      May Improve Sexual Performance and Male Fertility

Many studies have consistently found that the use of tongkat ali can increase the levels of testosterone in men. Reduced levels of testosterone are associated with radiotherapy, chemotherapy, aging, certain medications, injury of the testicles or their infection, chronic alcoholism, and sleep disorders.

Inadequate production of testosterone is evidenced by infertility, low libido, and erectile dysfunction. According to published studies, tongkat ali contains compounds that may help treat these problems.In a 30-day study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, men of age 76 with low testosterone, were examined by giving them extracts of tongkat ali at a dosage of 200 mg per day. At the end of the study, 90% of the participants had their testosterone levels restored to normal values.

Additionally, tongkat ali may also increase sexual desire and arousal as well enhancing erectile function in men, according to published study findings.

What’s more, using tongkat ali may increase semen volume, sperm count, the viability of sperms and increase its motility. These are according to a 2016 study finding by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

3.      May Increase Physical Output and Performance

It is believed that tongkat ali can help increase muscle mass and boost performance. Quassinoids, a plant compound in tongkat ali helps it to do so by acting as an ergogenic. They include eurycolactone, eurycomaoside, and eurycomanone which have been shown to efficiently energy utility, reduce fatigue, and improve perseverance and endurance.

Side Effects of Tongkat Ali

Higher doses of tongkat ali can be toxic as have been shown by some animal published studies. Those with compromised immunity should also avoid taking this herb.


Tongkat ali is commonly used in many Asian countries to manage particularly sexual dysfunction. It contains antioxidants such as quassinoids, steroids, alkaloids, and flavonoids which gives it the potential to manage several health problems like malaria, fever, and stress.

Elena Ognivtseva

Nutritionist, Cornell University, MS I believe that nutrition science is a wonderful helper both for the preventive improvement of health and adjunctive therapy in treatment. My goal is to help people improve their health and well-being without torturing themselves with unnecessary dietary restrictions. I am a supporter of a healthy lifestyle – I play sports, cycle, and swim in the lake all year round. With my work, I have been featured in Vice, Country Living, Harrods magazine, Daily Telegraph, Grazia, Women's Health, and other media outlets.