Has anyone told you that Tongkat Ali is quintessentially Malaysian?
What has been used by indigenous people in remote parts of Asia for centuries is now a global household name under various titles such as “Long Jack”.
Technically you can find Tongkat Ali sold in every shop in Malaysia as it is highly regulated by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) under the Ministry of Health Malaysia.
Here are an untold story and everything you need to know about Tongkat Ali in Malaysia.
Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma Longifolia) is mainly found in remote rainforests of Malaysia, Indonesia and some parts of Southern Thailand.
Malaysia is the largest net exporter of Tongkat Ali in the world, with world consumption of more than 70%.
Tongkat Ali came from the Malay word which means Ali’s crutch or stick.
Three types of Tongkat Ali which are sold in the market today:
- Yellow Tongkat Ali – Eurycoma Longifolia
- Black Tongkat Ali – Polyalthia Bullata
- Red Tongkat Ali – Stema Tuberosa
A Blast From the Past
Before we move on, we want to bring you on a reflection journey to the past.
Have you ever wondered how humans survived in harsh conditions and increased their longevity before the existence of modern science, antibiotics and medicine?
Millions, if not thousands of years ago, well into the era before the arrival of religion, humans are blessed with a natural ability to control their immune system to withstand diseases or to revitalize health.
When the Agricultural Revolution began through massive farming practices in the early 18th and 19th century, this has led to a massive increase in global food production. The increase in food technology and production had unfortunately brought along a new set of diseases, some of which are now commonly known as cancer and other health complications due to obesity and rapid changing lifestyles.
While conspiracy theorists began to associate the increase of food producers and deteriorating health conditions with the increase of chemical-induced pharmaceutical products in the market, herbal remedies have, in contrast, registered a growing interest from consumers around the world.
The previously unfounded myths of benefits from herbal plants are now substantiated with scientific research studies and clinical trials proving that these herbs may have the ability to revitalize and restore our health and even cure diseases.
The Present Offers More Options
The increase of herbal supplement sales figures shows consumers are seeking more natural alternatives and remedies. This is against the backdrop of escalating healthcare costs in recent years.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 1 out 5 people have used herbal products as dietary supplements or to improve health.
On this note, within the USD 8 billion herbal industry, little that people know that Long Jack, or Tongkat Ali as it is commonly known in Malaysia, came from a unique herbal plant Eurycoma Longifolia, hidden away in lush rainforests of Southeast Asia.
If you are not an avid reader, here is a quick video that summarizes everything that you need to know about Tongkat Ali in less than 90 seconds!
When was Tongkat Ali first discovered?
It is believed the first Tongkat Ali discovered by modern civilization dated as far the early 1100s although there were no documented records to show sufficient evidence.
The first documented evidence was seen on a Tongkat Ali painting belonging to Major General William Farquhar, who was the Rajah of Malacca (a state in Malaysia) between 1803 to 1818. The honourable man was also the first British resident and Commandant of Singapore during the same period.
The painting of Tongkat Ali belonging to General William Farquhar signifies that the Long Jack plant that we all know today is of some significance back in the 1800s.
He was believed to be one the first Scottish to receive such a gift from the locals given the first attempt by the British to land a foothold in Malaysia was in 1786. It was believed by the locals that Tongkat Ali was a symbol of power for primal men, with its close association with masculinity and virility.
The painting of Tongkat Ali plant is now stored and kept safely at the William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings in Singapore as evidence that Tongkat Ali gained the reputation of significance to modern civilization back in the 1800s.
Traditional medicine for centuries with proven medical benefits
Eurycoma Longifolia plant is categorized as a flowering plant belonging to the family of Simaroubaceae. With a more popular street name known as Long Jack in western countries, the most potent part of Tongkat Ali is in its roots (and not other parts of the plant).
Back in the early days before the manufacturing revolution and modern science, Tongkat Ali is naturally available in rainforests in Malaysia and was widely consumed by locals to treat many types of illnesses such as flu, cold and others.
Different parts of the Tongkat Ali plant are used for different purposes– branch, leaves and roots.
Most part of the Tongkat Ali plant is rich with quassinoids, which have been found to contain several bio-active compounds that are used to heal and improve health.
The main bio-active compounds are the most potent in its roots which include eurycomaoside, eurycolactone, eurycomalactone, eurycomanone.
It was the root that gave birth to the word “Tongkat” (i.e. a Malay word for Ali’s stick), a symbol of masculinity and since it was widely known as a natural aphrodisiac for primal men – the usage of a walking stick amongst older men was also common sight back in World War II.
In the Asian culture where metaphors are frequently used in local conversations and folklores, the word “Tongkat” or stick was also analogous to a hard erection for men. On the other hand, the word “Ali” was a common Muslim surname in Malaysia when Islam first arrived in Southeast Asia between 1160-1451s by the Gujaratis from India.
Here are quick facts about Tongkat Ali:
What are Quassinoids?
Quassinoids is a group of biologically potent substances named after a compound first found in plants from the genus Quassia (Simarouba amara) in the family of Simaroubaceae, where Eurycoma Longifolia belongs to.
Eurycomanone and eurycomanol are derived from highly oxygenated quassinoids, the most bioactive compounds from Tongkat Ali plants responsible for various potential health benefits.
Potential Health Benefits
Studies from the University of Children’s Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland in 2011 have shown quassinoids display a wide range of inhibitory effects, including anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-malarial and anti-proliferative effects on various tumor cell types.
In the world of biochemistry, quassinoids in the Tongkat Ali plant have sparked interest as the plant is scientifically proven by scientists to increase sexual libido in men by naturally increasing or restoring the level of testosterone thus improving blood flow into the penis.
Summary of Potential Health Benefits Backed By Science:
- Increases the Production of Testosterone
- Improves Sexual Health & Libido
- Improve Strength, Muscle & Physical Activities
- Promote Loss of Weight & Body Fat
- Potential Treatment for Osteoporosis
- Anti-Cancer properties to aid Cancer Treatment
- Reduce Stress, Anger & Improve Mood
- Enhancing the Immune System
- Potentially Reduce Blood Sugar Level
- Reduction in Blood Pressure
- Anti Inflammatory, Anti Bacterial and Parasitic Agent
- Exhibits Anti-Ulcer Properties
Access our full article and scientific studies here.
That explains the increasing number of research papers; with more than 150 scientific papers published to date on Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma Longifolia).
Most of scientific studies are published in trusted journals such as Journal of Sexual Medicine, Asian Journal of Andrology and many others. Search results on Google Scholar based on the keyword “Eurycoma Longifolia” produced 4,540 results!
Now, for those who are obsessed with the discovery of this natural aphrodisiac from the virgin jungle, there are three distinct types of Tongkat Ali – Yellow Tongkat Ali, Red Tongkat Ali, Black Tongkat Ali. Yellow Tongkat Ali, or better known as the Malaysian ginseng has a bitter taste with a hint of the ginseng smell.
Yellow Tongkat Ali is commonly used for commercialization due to its potency, well-researched health benefits, safety and availability.
The Black and Red Tongkat Ali are rarely found or harvested due to its consistently high level of mercury and lead – which is detrimental to health over medium to long term.
This explains why 90% of the Tongkat Ali available in the global market today is Yellow Tongkat Ali (as shown below).
Read our comprehensive review on Yellow Tongkat Ali vs. Black Tongkat Ali vs. Red Tongkat Ali before making your first purchase. Protect your health!
Malaysia is the best natural home to Tongkat Ali
Former British colony of 32 million people, Malaysia has been a natural home for Tongkat Ali due to its rich bio-diversity with some of the oldest tropical rainforests in the world. The tropical rainforests in Malaysia have existed for 130 million years – making it older than the Amazon and the Congo.
Scientists found more than 185,000 species of fauna and 12,500 species of flowering plants in Malaysia and other deeper parts of Borneo. The forest reserves such as the Royal Belum State Park in Perak, was even recognized by the UNESCO World Heritage as being some of the oldest forests in the world.
There is a reason many believe that the best Long Jack products available in the market today are sourced from Tongkat Ali manufacturers in Malaysia.
Due to tight Government regulations and standards, there are less than a handful of trusted manufacturers and suppliers in Malaysia, making Tongkat Ali rather a rare commodity.
Find out 5 reasons why Tongkat Ali in Malaysia is highly sought after here.
Being home to the oldest tropical rainforest has one unique advantage, as the soils are rich with nutrients and minerals known to humankind and is perfect for the proliferation of Tongkat Ali plants.
Although technically Tongkat Ali can grow in other tropical climate countries, the best Tongkat Ali plants grow more efficiently in its natural habitat which is abundant in natural minerals sourced from natural clean water.
The natural minerals found in soils unique to some of the deep rainforests in Malaysia is free from human contamination and pollutants that may decrease the amount or the quality of bio-active compounds found in the Tongkat Ali roots.
An ideal environment for thriving Tongkat Ali plants requires well-drained soil with a high organic matter content coupled with an annual rainfall of 2,000-3,000 mm in the optimal temperature range of 25–30ºC. For that, Malaysia provides the perfect tropical climate year on year.
Every root is unique
Tongkat Ali is unlike synthetic drugs such as Viagra which can be artificially developed and manufactured in a lab environment with consistent active molecular properties.
Due to the nature of any herbal extraction, this has spurred the proponents of Tongkat Ali to research and develop advanced extraction and purification techniques to ensure that Tongkat Ali products are on par with other herbal supplement products in the market.
Regardless of the wide range of marketing claims out there, no two roots of Tongkat Ali plants are actually the same.
Each root contains different levels of quassinoids and bio-active compounds of eurycomanone, eurycolactone, polysaccharide, glycosaponin and others.
A high-quality extraction process from Tongkat Ali should contain verified amount of the bio-active properties within a certain tolerance such as the standardized specification below:
0.8 – 3%
The market demand pushes the boundaries for further standardization and regulation for Tongkat Ali producers. A standardization of the processes involved from harvesting, root selection, root extraction, drying down to packaging as is crucial in delivering consistent effectiveness of its claimed medical benefits.
Different extraction methods utilized such as the freeze-dried water extract method make for a significant and noticeable difference in the benefits for those seeking premium Tongkat Ali products. Only a few manufacturers in Malaysia have been accredited and followed these practices closely to ensure quality production of Tongkat Ali root extracts.
For more sophisticated and advanced quality control of Tongkat Ali, chromatographic fingerprint technology is also now adopted by selected extraction facilities in Malaysia to assess the quality of Tongkat Ali during preliminary selection (i.e. right after harvesting) before the root undergoes the extraction process.
This form of standardization beyond marketing gimmicks of 200:1, 100:1 and 50:1 have undoubtedly strengthened the reputation of Tongkat Ali or Long Jack among consumers in the marketplace. These stringent quality steps are what distinguishes a premium Tongkat Ali extract from the common Tongkat Ali products found in the market, especially in Amazon!
So don’t trust every drop shipper you find on Amazon? You can buy direct high quality Tongkat Ali from the source.
If you want quality, let it grow
The best practice for harvesting a quality Tongkat Ali is between 3 to 5 years. Most Tongkat Ali plants at 2-3 years of age are found to start flowering and bearing fruit where the plant begins to mature steadily.
Although the plant can be harvested early at this age, the root is fully developed and there will be potential challenges in extracting the best bio-active compounds from the plant.
So yes, a highly potent is from a 5-year old or older Tongkat Ali plant.
Given the right conditions, Yellow Tongkat Ali plants can grow as high as 15 meters, about five to six times the average height of humans. The root is yellowish in nature, and requires manual hand tools to unearth the roots from the ground.
If you are an enthusiast, the expected potential yield for fresh Tongkat Ali roots per plant from an open field is between 0.75 to 1.7 kg. This is the estimated yield from Tongkat Ali plants, harvested 4 to 5 years after planting. Well, some roots can weigh as much as 4 kilos depending on age.
Do you know that most of the root selection and “up-rooting” are hand-performed manually without needing complex machineries? Well you do not want to cause damage to the forests or neighbouring plants.
The Tongkat Ali plants are generally harvested and chopped into manageable chunks on site before hand-carried to the nearest collection centres. The best part of the whole process is that it takes two to three people to complete the harvesting steps from the deep rainforest.
ABC News made extensive coverage on Tongkat Ali in Malaysia years ago and you should watch this amazing video!
Tongkat Ali requires sustainable harvesting
As Tongkat Ali is a rare valuable commodity, preserving it becomes increasingly important. The Malaysian Government has placed policies and guidelines on sustainability since early 2008.
Sustainable harvesting of Tongkat Ali is widely adopted by plantation owners in Malaysia due to the level of quality enforcement by selected manufacturers. It means these plants are not harvested in the open field harvesting nor require deforestation – unlike palm oil, rubber and others.
The sustainability is practiced in every touch points – from harvesting techniques, replantation programmes, employment and education opportunities for the local indigenous communities that are involved directly in every step of the value chain of Tongkat Ali production.
Tongkat Ali started its life from humble beginnings in remote locations of Malaysia. Thanks to technology and innovation, Tongkat Ali now has evolved into a global household name.
Who would have thought that the Malay traditional herb is now attracting scientists around the world to discover its wonderful health benefits?
This article is written to remind us that the best health can be gained from natural sources – only if we know how to harness them correctly.
With the advancement of herbal extraction technology such as freeze-drying, the potency of Tongkat Ali can be significantly increased to provide the best health benefits to our body.
Try one here and feel the difference.
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 in Malaysia .
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