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By Serge Kreutz (2004)
This is a longer-than-average article. It deals with two important issues: the manner in which tongkat ali improves sex, and where to buy proper tongkat ali products.
The manner in which tongkat ali improves sex has to be explained because people often have wrong expectations. With Viagra, you can just pop a pill, and an hour-or-so later, you are fit for (better) sex. Viagra works on penile plumbing. With dopaminergics, at least as novice user, you can produce a sexual kick, too, by just swallowing a tablet. It will have a hard-to-describe effect on sexually relevant neurotransmitters, or sexual wiring. In both cases the effect is direct. A measurable effect sets in after an hour, more or less.
But tongkat ali works on testosterone levels and requires prolonged use, and even then, the best sex will still occur rather randomly.
Guidance for the purchase of tongkat ali products is needed because most available products are grossly underdosed, and for some of those that are underdosed, exaggerated claims are made nevertheless. Unfortunately, it's never a long way from viable traditional medicine to quackery, and from quackery to gimmickry.
Prudence dictates that one buys tongkat ali from a company that actually manufactures extracts, and is licensed to do so, and has been marketing health supplements for some time.
What is tongkat ali?
Tongkat ali is a herbal medication (in Malay referred to as "jamu") widely used in Malaysia as an aphrodisiac for men. In Indonesia, the same medication is known as pasak bumi.
Even though the herbal is largely unknown in the US and Europe, the pro-sexual effect of tongkat ali is actually well documented in Western science. Anybody can check this for himself at the Medline database.
The best free Medline is available at: http://www.infotrieve.com
To search for scientific information, one has to use the plants scientific, Latin name, eurycoma longifolia. The plant is also a proven therapeutic and preventive medication against malaria, so in order to focus the search on the pro-sexual properties, one should use the additional search term "sexual".
Tongkat ali improves sex by raising testosterone levels, or, more specifically, the levels of free testosterone. A large proportion of the testosterone that circulates in the human, female and male, body is bound by a protein, SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin).
Testosterone that is bound to SHBG is rendered ineffective. Only free testosterone exerts the effects that are attributed to the hormone: one androgenic (masculinizing and sexualizing, both physiologically and mentally, and thus enhancing libido) and one anabolic (building tissue, mainly muscle).
How exactly tongkat ali extract increases free testosterone is not known. One possible explanation is that tongkat ali's active ingredients capture and bind SHBG and therefore prevent SHBG from capturing circulating free testosterone. Another explanation is that tongkat ali extract stimulates the excretion of luteinizing hormone, which in return entices the Leydig cells of the testes to produce more testosterone.
In whatever way it may happen, the fact is that tongkat ali, in sufficient dosage, improves testosterone tone. Furthermore, there is little doubt that an improved testosterone tone exerts a positive effect on libido.
However, the correlation between tongkat ali and improved libido is NOT of the kind that you consume a certain amount of genuine tongkat ali extract, and an hour later you would experience a proportionate improvement of sexual desire. Testosterone enhancement does not work this way. Not if you inject anabolic steroids, not if you apply testosterone patches or testosterone cream, and not if you use tongkat ali extract.
Libido certainly is testosterone-dependent, but the manner in which improved testosterone tone exerts its pro-libido effect is always somewhat unpredictable. No two men experience the improved libido in the same manner, and even in a single man, there are wild variations how improved testosterone tone expresses itself as heightened sexual desire or focus.
When setting out on any testosterone enhancement therapy, one may see no libido improvement for several days, or even more than a week, and then, all of a sudden, one has a blasting sexual experience, the best sex of a lifetime.
If you've been using it, credit the tongkat ali.
Buying tongkat ali
I first purchased tongkat ali a few years back, but the product I bought didn't have an effect. I was later challenged by an Indonesian wholesale company to try their 1:50 tongkat ali extract, and this was when I was thoroughly convinced of tongkat ali's benefits.
The problem with most tongkat ali products that can be obtained in the US or over the Internet is that they are grossly underdosed.
Tongkat ali is a root, and as such, it consists mostly of cellulose. Cellulose is not a pharmacologically active substance. The pharmacologically active ingredients only form a very small part of the root.
The raw root itself, whether powdered or chipped, is not fit for human consumption. This is not just the case because humans cannot digest cellulose but also because the raw root always is infested with fungi and bacteria, some of which are harmful (e.g. salmonella).
Is there anything humans would pull out of the soil and consume it uncooked?
Raw root powder is commonly sold in Malaysia as well as in the US, both in brick-and-mortar shops and by Internet retailers.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with root powder, as long as you know how to handle it.
If you do not buy a ready-made extract, you have to prepare the root powder as your own extract. This can be a liquid extract or a dry one. If you prepare a liquid extract, you will have to consume a lot of fluid to get a proper dosage. Producing your own dry extract will take a lot of time.
Root powder in capsules is nonsense because one should not ingest raw tongkat ali root, even not if it is packaged in gelatin capsules. The most likely effect of ingesting raw root powder is diarrhea, caused by salmonella bacteria. And if you are unlucky, you get a strain that causes typhoid fever.
Tongkat ali is so bitter, and tastes so lousy, that the only way one can ingest a proper dosage is to get it down as quickly as possible. Capsules of dried tongkat ali extract are the ideal solution because extract is concentrated, and you can swallow the tongkat ali without tasting it.
The only problem with dried extract in capsules is that you are easily cheated. It is very difficult to check yourself whether you actually get tongkat ali extract, or just tongkat ali root powder.
If you have a lot of time, and enough money to spare, preparing your own dry extract, and filling it into capsules, will probably assure you the best quality. But preparing an extract takes several days, and doing it on your own is expensive because of the shipping costs from Indonesia.
Tongkat ali root has to be boiled, and before being boiled, it should be soaked for about 24 hours. Use about 1 liter of water for 100 gram of root powder or chipped root. 100 gram of root powder or chipped root will yield about 2 normal dosages, or a single dosage for an experienced user or a bodybuilding athlete.
In order to judge Internet offers of pouches of root powder, you have to be aware of the amounts of root needed to get a proper single dose, which is 50 to 100 gram. If they offer you one 1 lb, you get about 9 dosages, and you'll have a lot of work preparing your tongkat ali extract.
Buying root powder instead of a ready-made extract is an expensive solution (unless you are in Indonesia). But then, if you prepare your own extract, you at least know what you are getting.
I did prepare my own extract. A powdered extract, this is. Not a liquid one. Liquid extract as it is sold over the Internet is even worse a deal than root powder. If you buy a liquid extract in a bottle of 50 ml, than you purchase the equivalent of 100 gram of root powder at best. That makes how many dosages? About 2!
I know what I'm talking about because I did make my own extract. I did so because I am a suspicious character, and so that I could write about it.
I used 500 gram of chipped root, soaked in 5 liter of water for 24 hours. I brought the whole thing to a boil, and then filtered the water. I then left the 5 liters of water for almost 2 days on an electric stove with heat control (about 50 centigrade) until I got a thick sap. I further heated the sap in an electric oven (about 40 centigrade) and then got a rather hard crust. Working this crust through an electric coffee mill, I ended up with about 10 gram of powdered extract. Which means: an extract of the strength 1:50. 10 dosages out of 500 gram.
I discussed this extraction process with two German pharmacists and the assistants of a plant analytical laboratory of a university. They all assured me that mine has been a proper extraction process.
There isn't much technology to preparing water-based extracts. The solvent has to be water, and just water, otherwise the result would not be an aqueous (water) extract. In proper extracting facilities, they have integrated machines that speed up the evaporation by doing it under high pressure, or by other means. Some companies that sell such evaporating equipment have patents on these machines.
But if a website claims that they have patented the extraction by water of tongkat ali, then that's bulls. They just want you to believe that their extract is special (so that you won't buy somewhere else), and that it justifies an inflated price.
Tongkat ali has been researched well, though not in full. But one thing is certain: the traditional use is as an aqueous extract (extraction by water, as in tea or coffee), and that way, it has been used in Southeast Asia for hundreds of years.
Other extraction possibilities would be by ethanol (alcohol) or chloroform, and a plethora of other chemical solvents. But such extracts have only been tested recently, and only one thing is clear: their LD50 values are much worse than those for aqueous extract. I would not experiment with tongkat ali extracts in which the solvent has been anything but water (see www.tongkatali.org (alternative sites: eurycomalongifolia.net) for LD50 test results).
Extract strength is another critical topic. I know from my own experiments that 100 grams of root yield a dried extract of 2 gram. So, 1:50 seems to be genuine strength of an aqueous extract.
Of course, 1:100 sounds much sexier. But who is to check on such claims? Even if a new trader should decide to proclaim that his extract is 1:1000, who is going to examine whether the claim is true?
A 1:100 extract, or one that is proclaimed to be 1:1000, doesn't necessarily contain more active ingredients. In order to turn a 1:50 extract into one that is 1:100, I really just have to discard half of the 1:50 extract. I can do so by passing it through a smaller mesh, which will just remove the coarser part of the ground crust I got from drying the aqueous extract.
Thus, turning a 1:50 extract into a 1:100 extract means just that they sell half the extract, probably for double the price. It says NOTHING about the efficacy of the extract.
Furthermore, there are justified suspicions that what is sold as 1:100 extract may only be root powder. I have seen documents on the FDA website (www.fda.gov) that show that people marketing 1:100 extract capsules have just applied for a registration of tongkat ali powder in capsule form, not of extract in capsules. To see these documents on www.fda.gov, please use their search engine and enter the search term "eurycoma". The scientific, Latin name of tongkat ali is eurycoma longifolia, and official documents deal with the plant under this name. Do not search for "tongkat ali", as this will not get you to the FDA correspondence about the product which is sold as 1:100. A search for the combined name, "eurycoma longifolia", doesn't seem to work well on the FDA site. It is best to just search for "eurycoma" only.
Tongkat ali meanwhile is a rare plant. A few hundred years ago, it grew all over Southeast Asia. But in Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, deforestation has become so widespread that governments were forced to put a total stop on removing anything from forests. In Thailand, the export of anything composed of wood requires special permits. And in Malaysia, tongkat ali has been proclaimed a protected plant that cannot be harvested in the wild.
That only leaves one legal country of origin: Indonesia, or, more specifically, the forests of the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo).
Tongkat ali coffee
In Southeast Asia where it originates, tongkat ali has a great reputation. Men have been using it for centuries to improve their virility, and in Southeast Asian traditional medicine, it is used as a treatment for many diseases.
It therefore comes as no surprise that the designers of fashionable food and drink items anywhere in Southeast Asia like to print "Tongkat Ali" on their labels. So you have tongkat ali energy drinks, tongkat ali beef soup, tongkat ali coffee, etc.
But all manufacturers of processed foods and drinks that are said to contain tongkat ali really only cash in on the placebo effect. The point is: in order to have a product that can be marketed, it has to taste OK. But the taste of tongkat ali or tongkat ali extract is so bad that even with 100 grams of sugar, you cannot mask the taste of a single gram of tongkat ali extract. Therefore, the trick of manufacturers of foods and drinks that contain tongkat ali is to minimize as much as possible the actual content of it.
Because tongkat ali tastes so bad, even traditional use aims at concentrating it as much as possible. For this reason, the tinctures that are offered at roadside stalls in Malaysia (primarily near red-light districts) resemble more a strong coffee than a typical tea.
But tongkat ali is not used as a coffee substitute in Malaysia. Not even as a traditional coffee additive.
Tongkat ali coffee is nothing but a modern marketing ploy of some companies in Singapore and Malaysia, and their aim is to turn tongkat ali's reputation into corporate earnings.
Tongkat ali plus coffee would be an awkward combination indeed because caffeine clearly is not conducive to great sex. Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, and it has the power do disrupt sexual function in any man. It's really just a matter of dosage. Have 10 cups of coffee, and you will have a hard time to have a hard one.
And with tongkat ali coffee (a mixture of coffee and tongkat ali) it is just the same. And it's the coffee that does the harm. Because the tongkat ali is present anyway only in such minuscule amounts that it has no effect whatsoever.
The alleged positive experiences some authors claim with tongkat ali coffee are fake. They write nothing but misleading advertising copy. Tongkat ali coffee isn't even quackery; it's plain gimmickry.
Why tongkat ali
I have been trying, and using, medications and supplements for almost 10 years. Over the years, I experienced a marked decline in sexual desire and function. But I have always lived primarily for the purpose of seeking sexual gratifications. The decline I felt over time put into question the very fundamentals of my existence. It wasn't acceptable to me, for philosophical reasons.
I had to find a solution. Something that would give me back my libido and erections. Mind you: this was in pre-Viagra times.
Restoring my libido and sexual function was so important to me that I did try everything that could possibly help. In that, I am no different from most men.
Most of the medications or supplements did, of course, not work. Not did most tongkat ali products.
Some tongkat ali companies sell combination products that contains miniscule amounts of tongkat ali powder, just so that they can write Tongkat Ali on the label. Or they sell root powder as extract of 1:100.
I have spent some twenty thousand dollars on fake cures. Zinc and arginine, muira puama and ginseng, multivitamins and minerals, lecithin and colostrum.
As far as sexual enhancement goes: all junk.
Even more expensive than supplements were the "proper" mediations I tried: thousands of dollars I spent on growth hormone injections alone. There was no noticeable effect at all.
My first breakthrough was yohimbe. Yohimbe works. In a sufficiently high dosage, it causes world-class erections. Alas, the side effects are too much to stomach. More than 20 hours of sleeplessness, heart palpitations, and tachycardia. Constant use of yohimbe will take its toll on a person's health.
Beside that: constant use will diminish orgasmic pleasure (while erectile reliability is maintained). After a few years, I gave up on yohimbe.
Anyway, since Viagra became available, engineering erections has become easy. But Viagra does nothing for sexual desire. It has happened to me that when on Viagra alone, I stopped in the midst of intercourse because I just was bored, even though I had a persistent erection.
Good sex comes from between the ears, not from between the tights.
I can work pharmacologically on my brain in order to achieve a greater degree of sexual excitement. One drug that works, at least for a few times, is bromocriptine. Bromocriptine is a Parkinson's medication and increases brain dopamine levels.
But as with all dopaminergics, nausea is a problem. And dopaminergics also tend to lose effectiveness rather quickly. The first three times you have sex on bromocriptine are likely the best you can get out of the drug.
Tongkat ali, in a sufficient dosage, also is a dopaminergic, though my experience is that the dopaminergic effect of tongkat ali sets in only after 3 or 4 hours (and is much milder), while with pharmaceutical Parkinson's drugs, the dopaminergic effect sets in after about an hour-and-half.
Usually, you can feel a dopaminergic effect as a distinct sleepiness (most pronounced with pramipexole), and a preference for the horizontal position (strongest with lisuride). With tongkat ali extract, I often experience sleepiness some 3 or 4 hours after ingesting my daily dose.
Tongkat ali, of course, primarily works on testosterone, not on dopamine levels. I say "primarily" because testosterone and dopamine levels are intertwined.
If one raises the levels of the hormone testosterone, then the levels of the hormone prolactin will drop, and vice versa. But prolactin levels not only are inversely related to testosterone levels, but also to levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine.
This is why hypogonadism (low sex hormones) is a common symptom of a prolactinoma (a cancer of the pituitary gland), which expresses itself in increased prolactin secretion. And a prolactinoma as well as the symptomatic hypogonadism is treated with a dopaminergic drug such as bromocriptine.
There are scientific studies that clearly link dopamine to libido, but because dopamine levels are moderated by testosterone, it's still the testosterone that finally is responsible for sexual desire.
I know exactly how heightened testosterone levels feel. They make for superb sex.
Heightened testosterone levels make my mind totally focused. When testosterone is fully at work, I would not stop during intercourse even if I were threatened with capital punishment. Testosterone tells my mind that yes, this is what I need NOW, and never mind what comes thereafter.
Superb testosterone-driven sex has a lot to do with heightened aggressiveness. When enough free testosterone circulates in my blood, my mind is in conquest mode. Every intercourse feels like rape, even though it is consensual. Superb sex is teeth-clinching tension. No, this is not tender love. It is withheld violence.
And I am sure that superb sex is entirely testosterone-dependent. I have the best sex at times when I am most adverse towards other men. When I feel that other men are entirely not needed on the surface of this planet. Only me, and all the females of the world just for me.
I am in the frame of mind for absolutely superb sex when sexual fantasies occur just anytime during the day. Me, and 200 young women on a lost island, somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Ten women at a time, all totally dedicated to allow me every sexual sensation I could imagine.
Testosterone-driven superb sex is totally egoistic. Superb sex is when my whole body just feels like an appendix of the penetrating organ, when I forget time or pain, and only know ONE thing. I fuck her.
And this kind of sex I can engineer only with tongkat ali.
But not with root powder, and not with 1:100 capsules. For this kind of sex, I need the extract from at least 50 gram of genuine aged Indonesian tongkat ali root. And not only once but over a series of days.
Yes, when you want to obtain a proper dosage, tongkat ali is an expensive solution. The root of a single shrub that takes 10 to 20 years to grow is just good for a few proper dosages.
And it is not really possible to economize the use of tongkat ali. You cannot just take a single dosage an hour or two before sex. The reason is that testosterone exerts its effect in a rather randomized fashion. For testosterone-fueled libido rushes, you need trigger events, which are difficult to plan. Something happens, before your eyes or in your mind, which all of a sudden makes you aware that, NOW, you really, really need sex.
Tongkat ali can set the stage (only can set the stage) by improving testosterone tone throughout the body. But the trigger event is not chemical in nature. It is mental.
While rushes of sexual desire will only occur randomly with prolonged use of tongkat ali, my experience with the 1:50 extract is that at a sufficient dosage (1 gram), I have felt an immediate effect the first few times I ingested a proper dose. Unfortunately, it is not an immediate sexual effect.
What I felt first (after 1 to 2 hours) was a specific hot-headedness. In reports on human clinical trials, this hot-headedness has been referred to as facial flushing and headache. I believe that hot-headedness is a better description. It's not a headache, as the hot-headedness is not painful. I also don't think that facial flushing is a correct description. With "flushing" I would associate something that is immediate and temporary. But the hot-headedness when first using tongkat ali in a sufficient dosage persists for a few hours.
On the other hand, if one takes a 1-gram dose each day for several days, this hot-headedness subsides. I assume that this is the case because one's organism gets used to the presence of the tongkat ali.
I have tried all kinds of tricks to raise my testosterone levels, and I have mentioned in other articles that I seem not to respond sexually to testosterone enhancement. I have tried straight testosterone supplementation, or supplementation with DHEA or andro, or hypothalamic stimulation with clomiphene, or aromatase inhibitors like anastrozole, as well as Tribestan, and then tongkat ali. Not that I wouldn't have felt the increased testosterone levels. I did, especially with a clomiphene / anastrozole combination. I felt the increased testosterone levels as aggressiveness. Only as aggressiveness.
The 1:50 tongkat ali extract is the first substance that makes me feel increased testosterone levels in a sexual way. But aggressiveness is still a major component.
The tongkat ali extract doesn't make me a better lover. Sex tends to take less time on tongkat ali than without it. And sex is much more egocentric and, yes, aggressive. I will be inclined to have a much stronger grip on my female partner, and enjoy the idea that I "take her", rather than focusing on harmony.
The tongkat ali extract also gives me more ejaculatory power and makes me want to orgasm two or three times in rather quick sequence (within 10 minutes). This suggests that through increasing testosterone levels, the orgasmic release of the hormone prolactin is partially inhibited, or at least delayed. (A surge of prolactin at the time of orgasm is what usually causes detumescence and a cessation of desire.)
I am getting older, but when I use a sufficiently high dose of tongkat ali extract, sex is much more similar to what it was in my early 20s when, presumably, I had a better testosterone profile, and also was a much more aggressive person.
Actually, I even wonder whether the wide use of tongkat ali is one of the reasons behind communal violence in Indonesia and Malaysia. Both Malaysia and Indonesia are normally very friendly countries, but the native men in both countries also have a tendency to violent excesses, on a communal and personal level. The term "running amok" comes straight from the Malay family of languages. "Amok" means "violent anger" and "running amok" is a way of venting it by going on a mad killing spree until the person running amok is killed himself.
Of course, the management of aggression isn't entirely dependent on brain biochemistry or testosterone-raising substances like tongkat ali. Aggressiveness also is a behavioral component of our psychology. Plain awareness that aggressiveness usually is the wrong policy in human interactions already goes a long way in containing it.
Because of this, the increased aggressiveness resulting from ingesting tongkat ali must not necessarily result in communal or personal violence, or at least not in a form that would be noticeable to our fellow humans. I think that anybody using tongkat ali should know that the herbal can make aggressive; meditation exercises may be a good idea to make oneself better prepared for this effect.
I have tried many other alleged pro-sexual herbals, but apart from yohimbe and tongkat ali, I have never had a clear positive sexual result from any of them.
Sure, some of these other herbals may actually be healthy, ginkgo biloba for the brain, and ginseng for the kidneys (or whatever they want), but for the vital organ, they do nothing. Having the choice between ginseng and tongkat ali, I'd definitely go for the later.
Apart from an increased aggressiveness, the anabolic effect of increased testosterone levels should also be taken into account. Generous dosages of tongkat ali may not be suited for women, or for men who want to preserve a slender (as opposed to athletic) appearance. (ma*r)
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Copyright Serge Kreutz