Episode 179

Tongkat ali is a traditional Malaysian tonic, sometimes called “Malaysian ginseng” because of its energy-boosting effects.

Its traditional use is as medicine for older men suffering from tiredness, fatigue, and low libido.  Like ginseng, it’s a root, and in a traditional preparation is boiled into tea or a soup.

Dr. Shawn Talbott joins Jesse this week to talk about harnessing this traditional medicine for modern use.

The Benefits of Tongkat Ali

Like ginseng, tongkat ali boosts energy, vigor, and mental focus.  It also increases libido.

How is it doing this?  Well, there are two phases of action.

Within 30 – 60 minutes of dosing, you’ll feel more mentally energetic.  That speed means that it’s affecting your neurotransmitters, not hormones or your endocrine system.

How Tongkat Ali Works

But there’s a second mechanism of action.  After about two weeks of dosing, tongkat ali begins to have an effect on the endocrine system by increasing testosterone and decreasing the stress hormone cortisol.

However, it’s not causing an increase in synthesis or secretion of testosterone.  It’s just making more testosterone bioavailable.

But more than that, if you have healthy levels of testosterone, it won’t boost your levels higher.  If you’re at suboptimal levels of testosterone, however, tongkat ali will take you back to a healthy baseline.

This is because tongkat ali is an adaptogen, a class of plants and fungus that normalize physiology regardless of the direction of change.  So they can bring you up when you’re down, and down when you’re up. Adaptogens help you maintain balance.

The Perfect Remedy For Stress

Both men and women can benefit from tongkat ali, as both need testosterone to function optimally, just in different amounts.  Because women produce 10 times less testosterone than men, it’s even more important for women to keep their levels healthy.

The daily stresses of our modern lives can make this difficult however.  When we’re under chronic, moderate stress, our levels of cortisol increase and testosterone is suppressed.  Testosterone is just what you need to help you feel calmer.

Taking tongkat ali reverses this, making more testosterone bioavailable, and restoring your cortisol rhythm.

Taking Tongkat Ali

Dr. Talbott’s research has used 200mg per day as a dosage and found effects.  Higher doses are also effective, but not necessary.

He recommends looking for a hot water extract, as using water extracts different bioactive compounds than an alcohol extract, and the traditional usage has always relied on water.

Who Should Take Tongkat Ali?

Dr. Talbott recommends tongkat ali for a range of people, but especially:

  • Older people
  • Women, particularly if considering taking bioidentical hormones
  • Athletes who train hard
  • Anyone suffering from low libido
  • Anyone suffering from chronic, moderate stress

Negative Effects

Tongkat ali is generally very safe.  Dr. Talbott hasn’t seen any major side effects and hasn’t heard of any allergic reactions.  There’s low addiction potential.

The most common negative side effect is heartburn if taken on an empty stomach.

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Written by Hannah Sabih
Hannah believes there's nothing 8 hours of sleep and some kale can't cure (yes, she's from California). She's an avid runner, reader, and traveler, who brings you the latest and greatest in neuroscience via our social media channels.
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