Where is it from?
Tongkat Ali is a very rare and unique plant which only grows in the far east, mainly in Indonesia, Malaysia & Thailand. Unfortunatley it is now a protected species in Malaysia due to the locals over harvesting the plant. According to FRIM (Forest Research Institute of Malaysia), the plant can still be harvested in the wild without issue, but there are now national parks and reserves containing Tongkat Ali in Malaysia to prevent extinction and harvesting from these areas only is strictly forbidden. Some Malaysian manufacturers also import the roots from Indonesia.
What about plantations?
There are field plantations in Malaysia, the oldest of which I know of mentioned is 7 years old, see HERE for proof of this in a study.
There are even modern and safe ways of growing Tongkat Ali to increase the active ingredients in the plants roots, and even increase the number of shoots from 1, which is all a wild grown plant will have, to 6!
A study that you can download HERE has proven not only the above, but also that it is now possible to yield more Eurycomanone from a 1 year old cultivated plant than a mature wild plant, meaning in the future harvesting mature plants in to near extinction will no longer be needed, which is of course great news for the declining species and for manufacturers!
Do not believe dishonest manufacturers or people who say the root must be at least 10 years of age to be beneficial, it probably is not 10 years old even if it is advertised as such and in this day and age with todays technology and extraction methods the age is not really important, unless of course you are using very old and more traditional/simple methods of extraction.
What does Tongkat Ali mean?
The word “Tongkat Ali” is Malaysian and translates to “Ali’s walking stick”, partly because of the long thin trunk of the tree which resembles a huge stick, and partly some say because it is a sexual innuendo, as It is used as an aphrodisiac.
How many species exist?
There are a total four species being referred by locals as Tongkat Ali according to the Journal of applied science, but I count five including Jackiopsis ornata which is often called Red Tongkat Ali, though this is not an official member of the same species. The species are…
Eurycoma longifolia Jack, also known as Longjack, which is yellow/beige in color in it’s raw form, and is the most studied and the most used for extracts. When people talk about Tongkat Ali, this is usually what they are referring to and is really the only species you should consider if you are basing your purchase on studies.
Polyathia bullata, also known as Hitam, which is Black/dark brown on the outside and creamy white on the inside, sometimes called King. Also used in extracts by some manufacturers though not as much as it is not very well studied.
Eurycoma apiculata, very little info about this species online.
Goniothalamus sp, very little info about this species available online.
Jackiopsis ornata, also known as Merah, which has reddish pink tinge to it in places and is called Red Tongkat Ali by some people in Malaysia although it is not actually a member of the same species. It is not as bitter as Eurycoma Longifolia and is said to have a pleasant Ginseng like taste.
How can I know if a product is real and potent or just fake/weak?
The answer to this is a simple one, make sure it is a standardized extract which shows the percentage or Eurycomanone on the bottle. If it just says the extract ratio such as 1:200 or 1:50 etc then their is no way at all to know if it is real or how potent it is since extract ratios are NOT a measurement of strength despite what some sellers say and are also incredibly easy to fake with no tests that can verify an extract ratio.
FDA registration numbers and the like are NOT proof a product is genuine or that it has been tested. Neither is a COA.
The most common tactic used by a seller of a fake product is to show you an FDA registration number or The Health Ministry of Malaysia registration number or similar, and/or a COA when asked for proof, or to display them in a prominent place on their site as if they actually mean something. Both are 100% irrelevant and neither are recognized by the actual FDA or Malaysian Health Ministry as proof of a genuine product.
Both are 100% irrelevant and neither are recognized by the actual FDA or Malaysian Health Ministry as proof of a genuine product and never have been.
The FDA do NOT test any herbal product AT ALL before it goes to market or after, unless someone is harmed by the product or reports an adverse side effect (by which time it is to late). If you send them a product for testing because you believe it to be fake or adulterated, they will return it and tell you to find your own lab and pay for your own tests and report it to the BBB or Trading standards if you think it is fake, they are not interested in testing herbal supplements as this is not their job. Their main focus is prescription drugs. See below links for evidence of this.
FDA 101: Dietary Supplements.
The FDA do not approve or test dietary supplements.
COA stands for Certificate of Analysis and NOT certificate of Authenticity and is simply a basic report to say a substance was analyzed for things such as ecoli, heavy metals etc. Such tests do not involve testing the substance for active or marker constituents or percentages so do not prove the product is genuine or real. COA’s are also often done in house by the seller of the product so obviously are easily faked and pointless. Pretty much every single fake herb on the market ever discovered came complete with a COA.
Unless the COA testing was verified or tested by a 3rd party lab and specificaly states it was tested for Eurycomanone percentage via HPLC or similar, I would avoid it.
What is a standardized extract?
A standardized extract is an extract that was created to contain a specific percentage of an active constituent or constituents that have shown to be effective for whatever the herb is being sold for. In the case of Tongkat Ali, eurycomanone is the most common constituent for standardization as it is the most studied and looks to be the most beneficial for use as an aphrodisiac or body building supplement.
Some manufacturers may also produce an extract using normal methods, and test every batch for the eurycomanone content after the extract has been created. If it meets or exceeds the percentage they require, it can be kept, If not then it cannot be used for that specific product and may be discarded, used in another product or modified until it does meet the requirements.
In Malaysia it is said that all Tongkat Ali extract products should contain at least 0.8% eurycomanone, although there are still plenty of fakes in circulation as it is not properly policed.
The problem with non standardized extracts (extract ratios).
The problem with herbs sold with only extract ratios, such as 1:200, is that it is 100% impossible to know if the herb is real or not, or how genuine the extract ratio given is, since no tests exist to test for such a thing. There are simply too many factors involved in the production process that may affect the amount of raw herb needed to be used, and too many different extraction methods.
HOWEVER if you standardize an extract to make sure it contains a good amount of Eurycomanone, then you can be sure it is going to be genuine and should also contain a good amount of other active constituents also.
Buying a standardized Tongkat Ali product that has been HPLC tested, is always going to be the safest way to ensure what you are buying is of good quality and legit. Some brands will claim ridiculous amounts of eurycomanone such as 25% but will not be able to prove it as they are just scam artists, and also that would be a bad idea since there are hundreds of other beneficial constituents in Tongkat, so producing a 25% eurycomanone extract would reduce the overall quality of the product as you would need to discard most of the other constituents. A 25% extract is normaly only available from an R&D laboratory and costs close to 10,000 dollars per kilo or more so it it not likley to ever be sold to the public or used in a supplement.
For more info about plant extracts and how they are made etc, there is plenty of information at www.ahpa.org about all sorts of things herbal, and an article explaining about extracts in more details can be found HERE.
The only real downside to standardization is that to increase the percentage of one constituent others may need to be removed, and this may or may not decrease the desired effect, depending on what you are trying to achieve. Since eurycomanone is the major and most studied of Tongkat Ali’s constituents, and has been shown in studies to be responsible for the effects most people buy Tongkat ali for, it is felt that the benefits outweigh this minor downside and with Tongkat Ali it is not really a problem anyway. As long as you do not take the percentage to high it can still offer a full sprectrum of active constituents. 2-3% Eurycomanone is perfect in my opinion.
A good quality extract produced properly should contain 2% plus eurycomaone anyway, but unfortunatley often it will contain little to no eurycomaonone whatsoever, as shown in the study by the journal of independant sciences elsewere on this site, making standardization the one and only surefire way to avoid selling or buying herbs of low or inconsistent quality, or missnamed herbs. For example selling cheap tribulus re-labeled as Tongkat Ali is a one scam, but Tribulus does not contain Eurycomaone as this is only found in Tongkat Ali, so if i standardized was compulsory it would be found out straight away.
The link below has lots of info on Eurycomanone.
What are the active constituents found in Tongkat Ali?
Below is an image showing the many active constituents. Hold control and move your mouse wheel up to zoom in on images if using a Windows PC.
Beware false Eurycomanone content claims.
You may have stumbled across retailers claiming certain percentages of Eurycomaone content but not showing test results or a CoA that contains the test results or name of the lab etc to back up such claims, which means the claims are more than likley fake and you should not buy from a retailer that can’t prove the claims are real.
Take the below screenshot from an email I recieved Tonvara for example…
Saying you won’t show your test results because it might be used by competitors is just stupid and a commonly used excuse, it takes seconds to stamp paperwork with your company stamp or cover it with semi-transparent watermarking text to ensure it can’t be used by anybody else, it’s common practice! Also it would conatin a test number and the name of the lab etc anyway so people could verify it meaining no seller would want to copy it. It’s a common excuse I hear all to often by people who cannot back up their claims. This particular seller is selling what they claim to be 2.4% extract for just £29 for 36 grams, which is in my opinion a dead giveaway that it is not 2.4% and probably just your bog standard Chinese extract that will contain little to no eurycomaone with 2.4% plastered on the label to increase sales.
If no CoA with an or independant lab name is given on the sellers site, AVOID!
The supplier I personaly use that sells a 2.4% extract does actually give a CoA with lab names etc, I think Tonvara were just trying to copy them.
PROOF many extracts are fake.
A recent independent non biased study tested 41 products being sold on Amazon etc as tongkat Ali, some with an extract ratio and some without, for the presence of eurycomanone. If it did not contain any eurycomanone then it was obviously fake as it is simply not possible for Tongkat Ali to not contain Eurycomaone, it is part of its genetic makeup.
Out of these 41 products,17 of them contained no eurycomanone at all, 12 of which were purchased from Amazon and some were from know brands that were registered with the Malaysian health department and FDA, proving that registration means nothing when it comes to quality.
24 products did contain eurycomanone, but 10 contained of these less than the legal required standard of 0.8% in Malaysia, meaning they were either of low quality or not extracted properly.
The remaining 14 products had above the required level of 0.8% and one product actually had 8%, although rather disappointingly that product, called Nu Prep Lelaki, was not standardized to 8% so it may just have been a fluke or mistake, and 8% is not guaranteed in future batches. The product also only contained 100mg of Tongkat Ali per capsule, the other 250mg was a filler that will do nothing for you, so it is not actually a very good purchase. At first glance 8% seemed to good to be true, and it was.
You can read the study yourself at… http://scialert.net/qredirect.php?doi=jas.2015.999.1005&linkid=pdf
How long does it take for Tongkat Ali to work?
This is not possible to answer as it varies from person to person. Some people may feel an effect in as little as 3 days, others may need a few weeks, and there will also be people who never see any effect at all, because as with ALL herbal products and even all man made prescription drugs, and even pro hormones, there is no guarantee they will have any noticeable effect upon an individual. What works for one may not work for another. This is a fact you should be aware of as no returns are accepted should this be the case once a bottle has been opened.
How is Tongkat Ali Extract Produced?
All production methods tend to be very similar, but times, extract solutions, extraction temperatures, species, parts of the plant used and the final drying method in to an extract powder may vary.
Basically the roots are heated in a liquid solvent, which can be water, ethanol, methanol or grain alcohol, and then removed from the solvent.
The remaining liquid is then evaporated until all that remains is the extract from within the plant. This is then milled, spray dried or freeze dried in to a fine powder.
Standardized extracts are monitored during the liquid phase using high-pressure liquid chromatography for levels of known active marker compounds such as eurycomanone to ensure the finished product is both real and potent and of a standard that can be repeated batch to batch.
What color should Tongkat Ali root extract be?
The truth is, there is no color or shade that it “should” be and there never ever has been, the color may be determined by a number of factors such as temperatures used, extraction methods, extract solvents used, extraction times, species used, drying methods etc. It could be whitish yellow, yellow, creamy white, pink, pinky brown, reddish brown, tan brown, dark brown etc, it honestly makes zero difference to the quality if done correctly.
Of course you will find sellers of dark extracts saying it should be dark and sellers of light extracts saying it should be light, blah blah blah, etc etc. You can ignore every single one of them as none of them have any proof for what they say and it is a marketing technique or sometimes lack of knowledge from resellers who just repeat what their supplier tells them.
Traditional extraction methods using high temps and milling tend to be darker, newer methods of extraction such as high pressure extraction, and drying methods like freeze and spray drying, tend to produce lighter extracts.
In fact you can take a light extract, put it in an oven on a high temp and darken it up yourself to see what effect high temp extraction and drying methods would have. It will turn dark brown, proving temps effect the color. Infact most things turn dark brown when exposed to high temps, right before they turn black and burn…
The whole ” 1:200 should always be dark brown”, rumour started because Sumatra Pasak Bumi, who used to supply many Tongkat ali resellers and seemed to have all the certificates required so people had no reason to doubt them. This was however an outright lie used to scam buyers by making them think light extracts were fake.
They now admit light extracts are from different extraction methods and now even make lighter extracts themselves using more modern extraction methods, thus ending the rumors. However this is to little to late and they are no longer used by many of their previous suppliers due to dishonesty, inconsistent quality and a refusal to standardize their products or even provide basic tests for legitimacy such as a Eurycomanone percentage test. They even go as far as telling people those that do have tests are liers and make out as if having such tests done is very difficult despite it being a simple case of sending the extract to a lab for a HPLC test.
The only thing that truly determines if an extract is real or a fake substitute such as Tribulus or ground coffee, is if it contains Eurycomanone or another constituent that is only found in the roots of Eurycoma Longifolia, and NOT color. This is why HPLC testing and the standardization of herbal extracts in general is now becoming much more common and hopefully one day it will be mandatory.
Indeed the study I refered to earlier by the Journal of applied sciences, which tested 41 products and found many to be fake, lists many of the products and if you look at the ones that were tested and found to be real, you will find they were not dark brown, and they were not all the same color, which is yet more proof color does not matter at all.
Beware of the below and similar statements….
“Eurycomanone is snow white.” “The further from white an extract is the more impurities in contains.”
Yes, Eurycomanone “as a single constituent In its pure form when not attatched to anything else” is White, BUT this is irrelevant and has nothing at all to do with regular herbal extracts in any way, shape or form, and is nothing at all to do with how pure or un pure Tongkat Ali extract is. I will explain why below in simple terms…
Oranges are Orange, everyone knows this!
Pure Orange juice is Orange, everyone knows this!
Vitamin C, which is one of the many constituents in Oranges and the most well known, just like Eurycomanone is one of the many constituents in Tongkat Ali and the most well known, is white when removed and viewed in its pure form.
Everyone that has purchased Vitamin C powder knows this. Vitamin C powder is usually crystalline and white for those that don’t know!
This obviously does not mean the further from White your Orange juice is, the less pure it is! But that is what the seller of the light extract seems to want you to believe, based on just one constituent being white, which is actually quite common.
Removing solitary constituents from any herb or plant, regardless of what it is, almost always results in a color different to the plant or herb it came from, and that color is very often WHITE!
Contact any lab that specializes in producing pure singular constituents and they will verify this for you. Also, there are many many constituents in Tongkat Ali, not just Eurycomanone.
What is it used for?
I left this until last because if you are researching Tongkat you probably already know what it is used for. A wealth of info regarding tongkat studies and usage can be found HERE