The Health Benefits of Tongkat Ali

Sexual Health, Muscle Building, and Stress Relief

Tongkat Ali

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Though best known as an aphrodisiac, tongkat ali has many uses in traditional folk medicine. Native to Southeast Asia, tongkat ali (Eurycoma longifolia) is a flowering shrub rich in phytochemicals like quassinoids, alkaloids, flavonoids, and bioactive steroids.

Traditional medicine uses the fruit, bark, leaves, and root of the shrub to treat various ailments. However, the roots of the shrub are the source of most of the bioactive compounds. 

Tongkat ali, also known as Jack, longjack, and Ali’s umbrella, is found in dietary supplements, teas, energy drinks, and coffee drinks.

Health Benefits

Tongkat ali is one of the most popular herbal remedies in traditional folk medicine because of its purported benefits for sexual health. It’s touted as a remedy for erectile dysfunction (ED), low sex drive, and male infertility. The herbal supplement is also said to improve physical fitness, boost mood, and promote bone health.

Erectile Dysfunction and Libido

Tongkat ali is one of the primary ingredients in many herbal supplements for erectile dysfunction. Early research shows that the traditional remedy might help.

A 2021 double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized trial published in Maturitas found improvements in erectile function in older men with erectile dysfunction and low testosterone when they combined regular workouts (60 minutes of progressive training three days a week) with a tongkat ali (Eurycoma longifolia) supplement. These men also had an increase in testosterone levels.

A 2014 study found similar results in a group of men taking a supplement containing a proprietary freeze-dried water extract of Eurycoma longifolia and Polygonum minus (an antioxidant). In this study, the healthy men taking the supplement reported enhanced sexual performance and erectile function.

Though promising, more clinical evidence is needed to better understand the potential benefits and how it may be used.

Male Infertility

Male infertility is common and many may turn to dietary supplements for help. Tongkat ali may benefit male sexual health, including infertility, because of its affects on testosterone levels. 

A 2017 systematic review on clinical studies published in the Chinese Journal of Natural Medicine looked at 11 studies evaluating the effectiveness of tongkat ali on sexual health in men, including how it affected male infertility. The authors of this review found evidence that the herbal remedy may male infertility by increasing semen volume and enhancing sperm health. 

Physical Fitness

Tongkat ali is also marketed to athletes as an ergogenic supplement that increases muscle mass and strength, and improves endurance due to its testosterone boosting effects. The evidence to support these claims is mixed.

A 2021 randomized controlled trial published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice found that Eurycoma longifolia supplementation improved muscle strength and cardiorespiratory fitness in a group of men with low testosterone.

However, a 2021 longitudinal study published in Clinical Interventions in Aging concluded that dietary supplements like tongkat ali, aren't associated with improvements in physical fitness.

While this study wasn’t looking solely at the use of the tongkat ali, it was one of the most popular supplements used in the group of 1,285 participants. The researchers noted no significant differences in physical fitness between the supplement takers and the non-supplement takers. 

Reduce Stress and Boost Mood

Some people supplement with tongkat ali to reduce stress and boost mood. In a 2013 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Medicine, researchers found that supplementing with a tongkat ali root extract restored stress hormone balance and improved mood in a small group of people (63 participants).

Though promising, the researchers noted that most studies involving humans and the health benefits of tongkat ali used a specific type of root extract, Eurycoma longifolia, from Malaysia. 

Additionally, the 2021 longitudinal study found no differences in depressive symptoms between supplement takers and non-supplement takers.

Bone Health

Tongkat ali is also used to improve bone health and protect against osteoporosis, a condition that makes bones more vulnerable to fractures. Though there is some evidence that this herbal supplement may protect bone health in men by increasing testosterone levels, more clinical trials are needed before recommendations are made.

Possible Side Effects

Though used for centuries in traditional folk medicine, not much is known about the possible side effects of supplementing with tongkat ali.

However, certain groups of people should take caution with tongkat ali supplements, including those with a suppressed immune system, as well as people taking hypoglycemic or blood pressure medication. It’s also recommended that pregnant or nursing mothers and children avoid this herbal supplement. 

Because tongkat ali might increase testosterone levels, people at risk of hormone-sensitive cancers (breast cancer, prostate cancer) or a history of heart disease or kidney disease may have an adverse reaction to the supplement. 

Before adding any dietary supplement to your daily routine, consult with your primary care provider for guidance.

Dosage and Preparation

According to a 2016 review published in Molecules, the standard dose for tongkat ali is 200 to 400 milligrams per day. However, caution is recommended when taking this supplement, especially in older adults. The authors of this review say you shouldn’t take more than the recommended dose. 

Tongkat ali supplements are available as a capsule, tablet, or tincture. You can also find it in powdered form. Tongkat ali is also added to coffees, teas, and energy drinks. 

Herbal-infused drinks are popular, but consumers should limit their intake of these products. A 2020 animal study published in Nutrients looked at the effects of high intakes of Eurycoma longifolia infused coffee on rats. They found that these tongkat herbal-infused beverages contained 2.5 grams of tongkat ali. 

The authors of the 2020 study suggested people consume these types of beverages in moderation. Drinking two cups of coffee with added tongkat ali would not exceed toxic levels of intake. Based on the data from the rats, the researchers suggest people consume no more than 1 gram of tongkat ali per kilogram of body weight (no more than 70 grams for someone who weighs 70 kilogram or 154 pounds).  The FDA says it’s not safe to extrapolate findings from animal studies to humans.

We've tried, tested, and reviewed the best coffees. If you're in the market for tasty coffee, explore which option may be best for you.

What to Look For

It’s always best to take some precautions when adding dietary supplements to your daily routine. These supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA and may contain hidden ingredients. For safety, look for products tested by independent third parties, such as the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), NSF International, or ConsumerLab.

Many products containing tongkat ali have a long list of other ingredients. Carefully read the label to look for potential allergens. Also, avoid any supplements that claim to cure a specific disease or treat symptoms of a specific disease.

You also want to look for the amount of tongkat ali in the supplement. The herbal supplement is considered safe as long as you don’t exceed the recommended dose.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long is it before tongkat ali starts to work?

    How long it takes before tongkat ali starts to work may depend on your reason for taking the supplement. Your age and overall health may also influence the effectiveness of this supplement.  

    Limited human studies noted improvements in mood, stress levels, and testosterone within four weeks of supplementation. Studies investigating erectile dysfunction and male infertility lasted several weeks or months, noting improvements at the end of the study period.

    Note that there is not solid clinical evidence in humans to support tongkat ali having any efficacy, and supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so it is challenging to ensure the safety of the products available.

  • What is tongkat ali powder?

    Tongkat ali powder is usually made from the root of the plant and sold in bulk form. Retailers of these products provide instructions on how to use their products. This includes serving size (1/2 teaspoon) and serving suggestions, such as taking loosely or putting the powder in capsules.

  • When should I take tongkat ali?

    There are no set rules or broad recommendations for when or how to take tongkat ali. Always speak with a health care provider to discuss if supplements are appropriate for your needs, and if so, what dosage and product are best.

    Read the Supplement Facts label for instructions on how to take a specific product. Some manufacturers may recommend you take your supplement after your morning or evening meal. For sports performance, the label may recommend taking the supplement an hour before working out.

  • What does tongkat ali taste like?

    True tongkat ali extract tastes bitter. This bitterness comes from the quassinoids in the plant, which is also the phytochemical thought to provide all the health benefits.

14 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Jill Corleone, RD
Jill is a registered dietitian who's been learning and writing about nutrition for more than 20 years.