Disclaimer: We want to address Tongkat Ali due to its recent and sudden rise in popularity, however, it is important to note that these studies are poorly designed and lack high-quality data. We can’t be sure of the benefits of Tongkat Ali until they are shown in well-designed clinical trials. Patients should consult with a physician regarding safety before starting any supplement regimen.
Tongkat Ali or Longjack, an herb found in Southeast Asia and commonly used as part of traditional holistic medicine there, has risen in popularity due to claims about its effectiveness in increasing testosterone, reducing stress, and potentially even boosting male fertility. Various podcasters, including Joe Rogan and Professor of Neurobiology at Stanford University Andrew Huberman, have discussed this herb in depth. They posit that taking Tongkat Ali boosts antioxidant levels in the body to fight free radicals while normalizing certain hormones like testosterone and Cortisol. Do these claims hold water? Let’s dive in.
Before we evaluate each of these claims, it is important to note that the FDA does not oversee supplements. Therefore, you must do your due diligence about which supplements to buy, as their purity and concentrations can vary. Safety should be your primary concern.
Tongkat Ali Boosts Testosterone
The simple fact is that as we age, we begin to lose testosterone. This starts around the age of 40, and testosterone production gradually declines as we get older. As testosterone levels drop, patients may feel less energy and lose muscle mass and libido.
Of all the claims, a boost in testosterone is probably the most valid and supported by several studies, including one¹ that showed that 200 milligrams of the extract each day brought testosterone levels to normal values in over 90% of study subjects in just one month. It is worth noting that what exactly normal testosterone means is still up for interpretation, so any study about testosterone will have inherent inaccuracies.
Tongkat Ali Reduces Stress
Another study² showed a significant effect of Tongkat Ali on stress hormones, with tension dropping 11%, anger dropping 12%, and confusion dropping 15%. From a salivary test, study authors saw a 16% drop in cortisol (stress hormone) exposure and an increase of 37% in testosterone levels.
If eventually validated, there is the potential for this herb to be used therapeutically, as stress control and normalized testosterone may play a significant role in addressing metabolic disorders which underlie many urinary (and other health) conditions.
As for other claims around Tongkat Ali, including improving infertility, more research is required. Especially as it relates to male infertility, many possible causes should be evaluated by a qualified men’s health specialist like Dr. Kapadia and not left to chance. However, after plenty of research and speaking to your medical team, you believe that Tongkat Ali is an appropriate supplement; we simply encourage you to do your due diligence and choose a supplement company with a proven track record of quality and purity.
Most importantly, studies have not shown significant side effects associated with taking the supplement, even in the long term, though some patients have reported sleeplessness, irritability, and other minor concerns.
Other Natural Testosterone Boosting Options
It’s easy to get excited about a supplement and feel we can rely on it alone to solve our issues. However, natural testosterone enhancement requires following several lifestyle improvements concurrently. Diet and exercise are critical to improving testosterone. Similarly, proper sleep has been proven to reduce stress and increase testosterone levels. Testosterone may also be low due to chronic medical conditions that need to be evaluated and treated by a qualified urologist or specialist.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy
Many patients will benefit from testosterone replacement therapy as an alternative to the natural options discussed above. However, synthetic testosterone does have important considerations, and patients should be under the close watch of a qualified urologist or men’s health specialist. Once again, what precisely low testosterone means remains a question that the urological community has to answer. Further, while men’s health clinics and online ads make testosterone therapy seem like a cure-all, there are many potential causes for the symptoms associated with low T. That said, testosterone can be administered in many ways, including injections, gels, patches, and pellets.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, boosting testosterone levels is not as straightforward as taking a supplement. While we believe in supplementation when there is a proven or suspected deficiency, we also want our patients to understand that there is no cure-all. Therapy may require a combination of approaches, including lifestyle change. Most importantly, if you are suffering from the symptoms associated with low T, schedule a consultation with Dr. Kapadia to learn more about potential options.
- Tambi MI, Imran MK, Henkel RR. Standardised water-soluble extract of Eurycoma longifolia, Tongkat ali, as testosterone booster for managing men with late-onset hypogonadism? Andrologia. 2012 May;44 Suppl 1:226-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0272.2011.01168.x. Epub 2011 Jun 15. PMID: 21671978.
- Talbott SM, Talbott JA, George A, Pugh M. Effect of Tongkat Ali on stress hormones and psychological mood state in moderately stressed subjects. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013 May 26;10(1):28. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-10-28. PMID: 23705671; PMCID: PMC3669033.