Does Tongkat Ali Really Work? Read What Science Says

Malaysian men love tongkat ali, claiming the herb gives them more energy and helps them perform better in the bedroom. It’s so popular that you’ll find tongkat ali drinks and supplements in almost every supermarket and can choose to get your dose of the “Malaysian ginseng” in the form of cappuccinos, tea, energy drinks, pills, and even chocolate.

According to tongkat ali product manufacturers, this wonder herb can do anything from curing erectile dysfunction to boosting your performance in the gym. It’s been traditionally used for its aphrodisiac, antimalarial, antidiabetic, antimicrobial properties for ages, but how effective is the herb in the eyes of science?

What is Tongkat Ali? 

Tongkat ali is a shrub that grows in Malaysia and Indonesia, with the fancy schmancy scientific name of Eurycoma longifolia. Because its scientific name is quite a mouthful, we prefer calling it tongkat ali, or Ali’s walking stick, which *wink wink*, refers to its effects on Ali’s sexual health [1].

Ali's tongkat? |
Ali’s tongkat? |

What Does Tongkat Ali Claim to Do?  

1. Increase your libido

This is perhaps one of the biggest reasons people use Tongkat Ali, and according to them, it helps improve the libido of both males and females.

Scientific Evidence

In a double-blinded randomised clinical trial that tested 109 men for 12 weeks, researchers found that a daily supplementation of 300mg eurycoma extract increased the erectile and libido of the men by 8.4-8.7%. [2]

Verdict: The study backs it up, but it’s important to note that changes are minor. It’s also worth noting that the study was funded by a phytopharmaceutical company which produces tongkat ali products.

2. Elevate your testosterone level

Oh yea |
Oh yea |

Testosterone is a very important hormone to men, and helps to regulate a man’s sex drive, bone mass, fat distribution, muscle size and strength, as well as sperm production [3]. You’ll see why men like having more of this. But can tongkat ali really raise testosterone levels?

Scientific Evidence

One study on sexually sluggish and impotent rats showed the increase of serum testosterone bt 50% after 12 days of consuming 500mg/kg of tongkat ali [4].

In another study done on rats using a lower dose of tongkat ali, the herb failed to produce any effect when supplemented to both normal male rats and rats with removed testicles [5].

What about humans, you ask? This 12-week study on 109 men showed no significant changes in testosterone levels before and after daily ingestion of tongkat ali extract. [6]

Verdict: Inconclusive evidence due to lack of research, but the few studies that are available showed no increase in testosterone.

3. Improve sperm quality and quantity


Sperm quality and quantity is correlated with fertility, and who doesn’t want to always be optimally fertile? Let’s see if tongkat ali really helps in this case.

Scientific Evidence

75 sub-fertile men were prescribed a 200mg dose of tongkat ali with follow-up exams conducted every 3 months for 3 cycles. In all 75 men, there was an improvement in sperm concentration (by 65.5%), as well as sperm percentage (by 94.9%). [7]

However, in another study conducted in vitro (test tube experiment), semen samples of 40 men were divided and incubated with different concentrations of tongkat ali. The study found that the same dose failed to have any significant influence on sperm vitality. [8]

Verdict: It’s possible the tongkat ali could help with sperm concentration and percentage, and the first study on 75 men also showed some percentages of pregnancy. However, mixed results in researches call for more studies to support this claim.

4. Decrease stress levels

Sellers of tongkat ali claim that intake of the herb can help increase our tolerance to stress as well improve our general mood.

Scientific Evidence

In a double-blinded study published in 2013, 63 moderately stressed out subjects (both male and female) were assessed for 4 weeks. The researchers collected saliva samples from the subjects and tested for cortisol (the stress hormone) and testosterone, before giving 200mg/day of tongkat ali to one half of the subjects and a placebo for the other half. They found that those on the tongkat ali had 11% less tension, 12% less anger, and 15% less confusion than those on the placebo. Salivary cortisol were 16% less in those ingesting tongkat ali than placebo, while salivary testosterone was 37% higher compared to placebo. [9]

In a study conducted on mice, researchers found that tongkat ali gave the same effect as the drug anti-anxiety drug Diazepam. Mice were also fighting less, and that’s always good. [10]

Verdict: There aren’t many studies in this area as of now, but from the available research, it seems tongkat ali has a positive effect on stress levels.

5. Improve exercise performance


There’s been plenty of anecdotal “evidence” of how tongkat ali helped several people improve their performance in sports and the gym. But what does science say?

Scientific Evidence

A pilot study in 2002 conducted on 14 men found an increase in lean body mass and muscle strength after taking 100mg/day of tongkat ali for 5 weeks. They also experienced reduced body fat and increased muscle size. [11]

However, later studies could not replicate the results of the pilot study. 12 athletes ingested 150mg/day of tongkat ali for 7 days, but failed to show significant improvements in running or cycling endurance in the fitness test. [12]

Verdict: From the existing research, it appears that tongkat ali’s role in improving your exercise performance is insignificant. More research should be done in this aspect of the herb so we could draw a better conclusion.

So, Should I Start Taking Tongkat Ali? 

There are some support in the scientific world to some of the benefits of tongkat ali, so it wouldn’t hurt to try it out if you feel that it could help your current situation.

Beware of Fakes

However, you need to be aware that there are lots of fake products out there claiming to include tongkat ali as its principal ingredient but in fact consists of illegal substances. And once the authorities catch up with these unscrupulous producers, they just change the packaging and name of the product, so it’s really hard to figure out which is legitimate and which isn’t. [13]

Police checking out the fake tongkat ali coffee | Source:
Police checking out the fake tongkat ali coffee | Source:

Just last month, police seized 40,000 sachets of fake tongkat ali premixed coffee in Sabah, so do your homework before you purchase.

How to Choose Tongkat Ali Products

1. Research the producer

Google them. Find out if they’re legitimate, if their claims hold water, and if their business is sound (with proper certification etc).

2. Choose the right extract for you

The standard dosage of tongkat ali is usually 200-300mg of a 100:1 extract, usually taken in 1-2 doses in a day. However, there are no current scientific evidence supporting appropriate dosages, and it all depends on a myriad of factors including your age, health, and other conditions. We suggest speaking to your doctor and pharmacist about your interest in tongkat ali and see what they recommend.

Sidenote: Check the dosages in the bottles of tongkat ali coffee and other casual products in the supermarket as too low a dose won’t make a difference.

 3. Don’t buy it off random Facebook posts by random Facebook users

You never know where the products are coming from, if they’re using fake herbs or even if they could cause severe health issues.

Remember, just because tongkat ali is a natural herb doesn’t mean you can ingest as much of it as you want. Cyanide is natural too.


If you’ve ever tried out tongkat ali, what does it do for you? Share your experience with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

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