A guest on Joe Rogan this week mentioned tongkat ali as a powerful herbal testosterone-booster. So was he right? We examine the evidence…
In a recent episode of the Joe Rogan podcast, Joe and Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist at the Stanford University School of Medicine, discussed methods for optimising testosterone.
Tongkat Ali Study
After stating that behaviour – i.e. doing the right things – should be your primary focus if you want to have optimal testosterone levels – a point we’d wholeheartedly agree with – Huberman discussed two herbal remedies that he claimed can have powerful test-boosting effects.
Rogan had heard of the first, tongkat ali, and many of you might also have heard of it as well; the second, fadogia agrestis, a Nigerian plant, is more obscure. Here we’ll talk about tongkat ali and examine the claims for its effects. Next week, we’ll turn to fadogia agrestis.
Tongkat ali: what it is and its traditional uses
Eurycoma longifolia, otherwise known as tongkat ali
Eurycoma longifolia, otherwise known as tongkat ali, is a flowering plant in the family Simaroubaceae. It is native to Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia and has also been found in the Philippines.
The plant has long been used in folk remedies and is now also used in supplements, as well as food and drink additives.
A great many benefits have been attributed to tongkat ali. Traditionally, the root is boiled in water and the water is consumed as tonic. Tongkat ali is variously used for post-partum recovery, as an aphrodisiac, and for relief from fever, intestinal worms, dysentery, diarrhoea, indigestion and jaundice. Tongkat ali is also attributed antimalarial, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, anti-dengue and immunomodulation properties.
As a supplement, tongkat ali is marketed for improved sexual health, stamina and energy boosts and testosterone optimisation.
Our concern here is with testosterone optimisation. Does tongkat ali work?
Does tongkat ali work to improve testosterone?
In his interview with Joe Rogan, Andrew Huberman attributed powerful testosterone-optimising effects to tongkat ali.
There are at least seven studies – human and animal – which are relevant and together suggest that tongkat ali does indeed have powerful testoterone-boosting effects, as well as many other potential benefits. Let’s look at these studies one by one.
A 12-week study of 12 men showed that supplementation with tongkat ali (200mg per day) increased serum testosterone levels significantly as compared to the placebo or control group. All sexual parameters were improved and a general feeling of well-being was reported. Liver and kidney function tests revealed no harmful effect of the extract on the critical organs.
A study suggests that the ‘sigma male’ lone wolf meme may have some truth behind it. Mice which spend less time in social situations have increased testosterone, probably because they do not experience the stresses associated with social interaction.
A five-week study of 13 physically active elderly males and 12 women were given 500mg of tongkat ali a day. There was a significant increase in total and free testosterone levels in both sets of subjects. Muscle strength also increased in both cases.
76 men with late-onset hypogonadism were given 200mg a day for five weeks. Testosterone levels increased significantly for all subjects, and 90% had normal male aging symptoms after the supplementation, compared to just 35% before.
109 health men aged 30-55 were given 300mg of tongkat ali a day for 12 weeks. Although testosterone did not increase significantly, sexual well-being scores did, and there was an increase in sperm motility and semen volume.
Extracts of tongkat ali were used on rats and significantly increased levels of serum testosterone, luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone, as well as increased spermatogenesis.
Researchers isolated certain compounds in tongkat ali and used them on rat testicle cells in petri dishes. The researchers showed that tongkat ali works by inhibiting enzymes responsible for bioconversion of testosterone, which ultimately results in increased testosterone levels.
What Does This Mean?
Ultimately, it looks like tongkat ali really does work. Certainly, the evidence is much better than for another herbal remedy – butea superba – which has been claimed to boost testosterone.
We recommend paying attention to the doses used in the human studies. 200mg a day appears to be a good dose. As with other test boosters like bulbine natalensis, you may wish to cycle the herb, say over a period of 8-12 weeks.
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