By Zane Christopher
A word before we start…
We recently acquired and tested a powerful herb we had been interested in acquiring for many years now. Our experience with the strength that this plant possessed lead me to a desire for a grander understanding of the way it works within the human body to provide the gifts we may receive from it. My research lead me down many different paths and I kept finding more and more information I thought relevant that anyone consuming this herb or considering it should have knowledge of. Originally, this article was only going to be one post but now I feel I have to break it up into three pieces in part to not overwhelm the readers, but mainly to allow myself more time to continue my own research into Tongkat Ali’s prodigious tomb of wisdom. I hope you enjoy this piece and recognize that many of the opinions expressed there in are mine and mine alone.
I could not decide how I wanted to start this long article on the miracle plant Tongkat Ali (TKA), scientific name of Euryocoma longifolia. So I figured the best way would be to throw some in my mouth and feel the power of the herbal root itself. This is an incredibly competent plant, allowing you to greatly leverage the androgen testosterone to your advantage in training or life in general.
The taste is sharp with an after taste that can and often will stay with you for up to half-an-hour. This is caused by the innumerable quassinoids TKA produces (1). As with many herbs, this is a good indicator of quality as the more bitter a Tongkat supplement is, the more ‘medicine’ it contains. The bitterness itself preps the body for digestion and is an important thing to consider when using medicinal herbs. Covering this bitterness may reduce the overall effectiveness of Tongkat Ali, as no plant willingly gives its gifts if you disrespect them by trying to be comfortable, especially one that wishes to give the gift of manliness.
Sometimes I can feel the energy radiating out from that taste, opening up energy reserves that were closed off to me before, changing my head always in a positive way. This alertness comes from two things in my opinion: the aforementioned bitterness factor and TKA’s presumed ability to increase ATP (adenosine triphosphate) production. ATP is the coal to your mitochondria’s power plants. I could find no direct mechanism for this supposed uptake in ATP but eventually came on one study talking about heart cells and testosterone:
Cardiomyocytes are target cells for androgens, and testosterone induces rapid effects via Ca(2+) release and protein kinase activation and long-term effects via cardiomyocyte differentiation and hypertrophy. Furthermore, it stimulates metabolic effects such as increasing glucose uptake in different tissues. Cardiomyocytes preferentially consume fatty acids for ATP production, but under particular circumstances, glucose uptake is increased to optimize energy production…Glucose uptake could represent a mechanism by which testosterone increases energy production and protein synthesis in cardiomyocytes.(2)
Increased energy is something our society salivates over and this stuff may just get you back some of that lost energy. In fact, just from one 100 milligram scoop of TKA I took when I started this article I’ve had to take a break to workout. I am not making this stuff up, this herb is phenomenal!
Another potential mechanism through which you can receive more energy is through Tongkats capacity to reduce anxiety. In one study, a Japanese group found that mice treated with TKA showed less anxiety and, significantly for all those using synthetic steroids, “resulted in reduced aggressive behavior (3).” The results were the same as treatment with the anti-anxiety drug Diazepam (3).
Another study done more recently (2013) found:
…that daily supplementation with tongkat ali root extract (200 mg/day) improves stress hormone profile (lower cortisol; higher testosterone) and certain mood state parameters (lower tension, anger, and confusion). These findings are in agreement with several recent supplementation trials in humans, suggesting that tongkat ali may be an effective approach to shielding the body from the detrimental effects of chronic stress from daily stressors, dieting for weight loss, sleep deprivation, and intense exercise training. (4)
Reducing stress, especially chronic stress, helps our adrenals to lessen the release of cortisol and recover from our over-stimulated environment, causing a whole cascade of beneficial changes like hormonal balancing and allowing the bodies’ mechanisms for repair to work unimpeded. A good simile to think about cortisol and testosterone is that of counter-balancing weights on a balance scale. When one is high, usually the other is low. High cortisol suppresses everyone’s testosterone and high testosterone seems to mitigate the effects of stress on the body and mind. We know that testosterone provides us with a sense of confidence (one reason why doing power poses before an interview or a speaking engagement actually raises T levels and lowers cortisol, which in turn makes you more confident and relaxed in the situation ) largely due to this counter-balancing effect.
That’s right, you get your own section. Normally I would not single the ladies out like this if there were not so many misconceptions about women and testosterone that many men and women unknowingly continue to perpetuate. I realize a lot of our readership is in general more knowledgeable then the average person you pull off the street but I will continue to educate this point until we stop hearing such ignorant comments as “but testosterone for women is bad, isn’t it?” or the famous “but I don’t want to get big and bulky like a guy.” Nein, nein, nein, nein, nein, nein!
Now anything in excess is going to be detrimental to anyone. The thing with testosterone and women is they just don’t need as much as a man. They do however, require it to perform at their optimal epigenetic potential. It has many effects we don’t really ever hear about. It is essential to a woman’s libido (just as it is for a man), so low T means no sex drive. Chronic stress raises cortisol and reduces testosterone as we know,which is a main factor why stress kills sex drive. “Women have employed Tongkat Ali as an aphrodisiac for centuries at least. They do so because Tongkat Ali works (6).” Testosterone also turns on a woman’s erogenous zones, making the clitoris, nipples and breast extra sensitive during sex (6). And just like in men, testosterone in women works as an anti-depressant and boosts confidence (6).
Most people know sometime after the age of 25-30 a man’s body begins a steady decline in testosterone production. This rate is around 2% a year. Most people don’t realize this takes place in women as well (5). Thus, Tongkat Ali can provide a major boost to women’s desire for and the pleasure they receive from sex. A good thing to keep in mind is that nature, while not discarding us completely, does not generally favor those that are no longer able to reproduce. This is one reason that most herbs that have potential lifespan-increasing effects are also usually sex herbs of some sort or another. If you retain your ability to bear children (even if you never use it) nature will keep you around a bit longer to perpetuate the species it would seem.
Part 2 will go over just how Tongkat Ali increases the bodies levels of free testosterone.
(1) Quassinoids from Eurycoma longifolia. A recent (2009) study done on the stem of E. longifolia. Ten new quassanoids were discovered with 14 already known also found. TKA has a LOT of quassinoids.
(3) Kurus, Bahi Tongkat Ali. New York: Amazing Herbs Press, 2004. Print. pg 29
(6) Kilham, Chris Hot Plants: Natures Proven Sex Boosters for Men and Women. New York: St. Martins Press, 2004. Print. pg 16-17