Our immune system promotes the lengthening of lifespan and helps longevity. Even when our body is exposed to virus attacks such as COVID-19, our immune system is the first line of deference.
Unfortunately, our immune function both declines in effectiveness and becomes inflammatory as we age. That means if you have a strong immune system, the probability of living longer is higher than people who have a weaker immune system.
In the case of the 47-year-old woman in Melbourne who made a remarkable recovery from COVID19, researchers at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Australia found that her recovery was due to an unexpectedly strong immune response. They found the following:
- Her chest was clear 10 days after she was admitted to hospital and she was safely discharged on day 11.
- All symptoms related to COVID19 had disappeared by day 13
- Three days before the woman’s symptoms faded, the researchers looked at levels of four types of immune cells that activated to fight COVID-19: antibody-secreting cells, follicular helper T cells, activated CD4+ T cells and CD8+ T cells and immunoglobulin M, and IgG antibodies
A study led by researcher Chen Dong of the Institute for Immunology and the School of Medicine at Tsinghua University in Beijing showed high levels of antibodies to COVID-19 found in patients who recovered from COVID-19 – indicating immune protection from immediate reinfection. The findings have been accepted for publication in the journal Immunity.
This begs the question of how we can improve or build more resilience from virus attacks through a stronger immune system.
Study on Tongkat Ali and Immune System
A research study by a group of scientists in Japan found strong evidence that Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma Longifolia) can potentially improve our immune system. This is linked to higher CD4+ T-cells, Lymphocytes, Naive T-cells, and other T-cells found in the group of test subjects who consumed Tongkat Ali vs placebo group.
The study was conducted by a group of independent scientists and experts from entities such as:
Why this discovery is important?
We live in a global health crisis. What is becoming increasingly clear by most scientists is that our immune system plays a critical role in whether you recover from virus attacks such as COVID-19, or you die from it.
Countries like Korea and Japan are one of the global leaders in R&D of new medicines. Coincidentally, Japan’s life expectancy is one of the highest in the world. With more than 60,000 people above 100 years of age, the secret of longevity by having strong immune system has been the diet, nutrition and exercise.
Now, interestingly Japan is the largest Tongkat Ali export market for Malaysia. This increasing demand for better quality herbal medicine means more stringent controls on quality.
This breakthrough discovery by Japanese scientists is a significant milestone for Tongkat Ali.
Originating from Malaysia, Tongkat Ali has already reached global popularity and it’s wide range of proven health benefits are at par with other modern medicines.
Let’s find out.
Our immune system
But first let’s understand about our immune system, i.e essentially our natural defense mechanism that protects us from viruses and germs.
The immune system is a complex system made up of multiple organs and vessel systems, including a sophisticated network of individual cells and proteins.
Here are essential parts of the immune system:
In fact, when you first become infected with a virus, your body will launch a standard innate immune defense. And this innate immune response is behind many of the symptoms you experience when you are sick.
Contained in those organs and network are microscopic cells that are not visible to our naked eye. The cells that are responsible to protect our immune system are called CD4+ and T-cells.
Let’s explain the functions of these cells.
Key facts on T-Cells
T-cells are a subset of White Blood Cells (WBC) that play a crucial role in our body’s immune system. T-cells are also commonly known as immune cells.
T cells are found in almost every organ and tissue in our body including lymphoid tissue, mucosal and barrier sites, exocrine organs, fat, and even in the brain and central nervous system.
Types of T-cells
There 5 common types of T-cells with a different set of functions:
- Cytotoxic T-cells
- Helper T-cells
- Regulatory T-cells
- Natural killer T-cells
- Memory T-cells
The most important T-cells are the cytotoxic T-cells. Its primary role is to find and attack bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells.
Key facts on CD4+ T-Cells
- CD4 is a type of protein found on immune cells like T-cells, macrophages, and monocytes. So in short, T-cells contain CD4 – or more commonly described as CD4+ T-cells.
- CD4 cell count gives you a measure of the condition of your immune system, i.e which includes your body’s natural defence system against pathogens, infections and illnesses.
- For healthy adults, the amount of CD4 varies according to age and CD4 count can typically around 500 to 1500 cells per cubic millimeter of blood (mL).
- CD4 count is a common measurement used by doctors in diagnosing HIV / AIDS patients. If a patient’s CD4 count falls below 200, then your life expectancy reduces drastically. Here is a chart taken from a study by the University of Bristol UK, which was published here
How was the scientific study conducted?
Now since you understand better how our immune system works, T-cell and CD4, lets go back to the main scientific discovery of Tongkat Ali’s ability to boost the immune system.
83 test subjects were tested in this study. These subjects were separated into two groups,
- Tongkat Ali group – 42 test subjects
- Placebo group – 41 test subjects
The Tongkat Ali group was instructed to consume 200 mg per day of Tongkat Ali (i.e freeze-dried Physta® formulation) for 4 weeks. This is similar ingredient contained in AKARALI™ products.
The Placebo group was tasked to consume rice powder as a placebo for 4 weeks. To ensure validity of this research, of course no one informed them that the capsule contained rice powder!
All test subjects were instructed to visit a clinic in Tokyo twice throughout the 4 week period, i.e in weeks 0 and week 4.
What was measured during the study?
During each clinic visit, test subjects were tested and the following measurements were recorded:
- Scoring of Immunological Vigor (SIV)
- Total T cells (CD3+ cells)
- CD4+ T cells
- CD8+ T cells
- CD8+CD28+ T cells
- naïve T cells (CD4+CD45+ cells)
- memory T cells (CD45+CDRO+ cells)
- B cells (CD20+ cells),
- natural killer (NK) cells (CD16+CD56+ cells);
- ratios of CD4+/CD8+ T cells and naïve/memory T cells
- T cell proliferative activity
- T cell proliferative index (TCPI)
- immunological age
- T lymphocyte age
In total, eighty-three test subjects completed the study; 40 in the Tongkat Ali group and 41 in the Placebo group were statistically analyzed. Two subjects were excluded from the analysis.
What was the result?
Scientists found that the test subjects had relatively lower scores of Scoring of Immunological Vigor (SIV) when subjected to 200mg per day of Tongkat Ali for 4 weeks.
At week 4, the SIV and immunological grade were significantly higher in the Tongkat Ali group compared to the Placebo group. The statistically significant p-value was measured at less than 0.05.
The numbers of total, naïve, and CD4 T-cells were also higher in the Tongkat Ali group compared to the Placebo group. Between-group comparisons showed the most significant increases in the following:
- Lymphocytes (P < 0.05)
- Total T cells (P < 0.05)
- CD4+ T cells (P < 0.01)
- Naïve T cells (P < 0.05).
The increase of CD4 T-cells found in the test subjects means consuming Tongkat Ali can improve our chances to strengthen our immune system. Remember, a higher number of the CD4 T-cells in our body correlates to a better immune system.
At the same time, there were no severe adverse events reported by test subjects throughout the 4 week period.
Absolute values for each immunological parameters from the research study (taken from Week 0 to week 4) were summarized in the figures below.
Research Paper on Tongkat Ali
Immunomodulation in Middle-Aged Humans Via the Ingestion of Physta® Tongkat Ali Eurycoma Longifolia – A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Parallel Study
Author: Annie George, Naoko Suzuki, Azreena Abas, Kiminori Mohri, Masanori Utsuyama, Katsuiku Hirokawa and Tsuyoshi Takara
Publisher: Phytotherapy Research Journal 2016
You can download the full research paper from Phytotherapy Research for free.
Results of immune system parameters
Naive T-Cell Count
CD4+ T-Cell Count
Scoring of Immunological Vigor (SIV)
What made this outcome possible?
Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma Longifolia) root contains quassinoids and alkaloids – a unique compound which are only found in this plant.
In 2011, the Journal of Current Medicinal Chemistry stated that over 150 quassinoids from Tongkat Ali have been isolated and classified based on their chemical structures. Scientists found molecules with quassinoids display a wide range of inhibitory effects, including anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-malarial and anti-proliferative effects on various tumor cell types.
The paper titled “Quassinoids: From Traditional Drugs to New Cancer Therapeutics” showed possible applications of quassinoids and quassinoid derivatives in modern medicine as cancer therapeutics.
Based on statistically significant results found by these scientists, we believe the mechanism of action behind stronger immune system was contributed by higher cytotoxic T-cells found person consuming Tongkat Ali.
Whilst this assertion requires further investigation, but the higher count of CD4 T-cells in patients who consumed Tongkat Ali showed a significant milestone in the study of immunology and medical science.
Our immune system and longevity are closely linked. As we battle through the global crisis of fighting coronavirus, strengthening our immune system is key to win this battle.
We have seen a growing trend of consumers to embrace a better diet plan – from natural to organic foods. Diets are always best complimented by herbal supplements and exercises. This trend is going to stay in line with the growth of the herbal industry since 2010.
If you are concerned about your preserving good health and boost your immune system, then give Tongkat Ali a try.
Naressa Khan contributes regularly on AKARALI. As a writer and journalist, Naressa is all about creating, deconstructing, and reassembling meanings through words. With this approach always in mind, she eagerly explores the nuances in life via the aspects of lifestyle, culture, travel, health, and wellness.
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