Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tongkat Ali - Malaysian Viagra W/ Anti-Belly Effect: More Than 30% Reduced Omental Fat Pad Size + Corresponding Increases in Testosterone W/ Human Equiv. of 4g+/Day

It's efficacy in situations like this has more scientific back-up than any of the muscle building of fat burning promises some Tongkat Ali supps come with.
By now, most of you should have read the article on the testosterone "boozing" effects of alcohol and realized that the post workout Margarita probably comes off second best, when we compare it to whey and may - at least until we don't know otherwise - actually be pathological (=the result of a disturbance of the normal hormone metabolism in the liver). That being said, we better go back the "tried(!) and proven(?)" stuff. I mean a herb that goes by the name "Long Jack" does already sound way more promising than a "Blood Mary" doesn't it?

"Long Jack? ;Malaysian viagra? Ok, I am in!"

As the popular name already implies, the root of Eurycoma longifolia Jack, an evergreen plant that belongs to the family Simaroubaceae has a long (all puns intended) tradition in folk medicine. For which purposes? Well, in Malaysia, where people obviously like it a little more explicit, it's called "Tongkat Ali" (TA) and means (literally translated) "Ali's walking stick"... if that ain't explicit enough for you, just call it the "bushman's viagra", or whatever you like.

What's interesting and important to know though is that medicinal value highly of the root extract depends on the soil the plant was grown on. Tongkat Ali from the Malaysian Peninsular, for example, has higher concentrations of phytochemical compounds, such as eurycomaride, tannins, high molecular weight polysaccharides, glycoproteins, mucopolysaccharides and alkaloids of the quassinoid group, than TA from Thailand, Vietnam or Indonesia (Jiwajinda. 2001; Miyake. 2009). This is an important fact to keep in mind, when you buy your TA and a potential reason why you (a) may require way higher dosages than science would suggest to see any effect or (b) may not experience any of the benefits you may have hoped for (e.g. raging libido, increased testosterone and, as you are about to learn in today's article, loss of belly fat).

"Did I hear fat loss?" Yeah, you did!

I have to concede, the hitherto unrecognized fat loss effects Solomon et al. report in their latest paper that's about to be publishe in the peer reviewed journal andrologia were actually the main reason the 14-day rodent experiment the South African researchers conducted eventually made it into the SuppVersity news. The meager testosterone increase of +30% alone doesn't give me a kick, at all. I mean there are way more potent natural testosterone boosters out there that don't exert any beneficial downstream effects on your physique. So why should we bother?
Figure 1: Relative (in % of pre values) body weight, testes weight, prostate weight, weight of the epididymal and omental fat pads, the gastrocnemius muscle and the testosterone levels of the rodents after 14 days on the high or low dose of the extract (
And in fact, the 5.7% reduction in body weight the rodents in both the low (200mg/kg) and high dose (800mg/kg) arm of the study experienced would be quite the opposite of what you'd usually expect as a downstream effect of increased testosterone levels in otherwise healthy rodents. With a statistically significant increase in sperm vitality in the low dose and a less pronounced statistically non-significant increase in sperm vitality in the high dose group, as well as the highly significant increases in sperm count in both groups, it is yet very unlikely that the already small amount of body weight the rodents lost in the course of the 14-day experiment was a sign of toxicity or whatever.

What's more likely is that the overall weight loss effect is simply the result of the highly significant -31.9% reduction in omental and probably other not explicitly measured body fat (not the epididymal fat, i.e. the fat around the reproductive organs, though).

"How much of this stuff do I need?"

Don't be fooled: The testosterone and libido boosting effects we see in the study at hand is something dozens of other herbs can do as well, thin of the study on Nigella Sativa from one of the past installments of "On Short Notice", for example.
Provided you can get your hands on a correspondingly potent extract, it probably would not be necessary, and certainly a waste of valuable ressources to take more than the low dose regimen (HED 4g/day) , which is, compared to what we have hitherto seen in human trials, still hilariously much.

For the fertility part of the equation, way smaller doses of as little as 300mg of a freeze dried water extract from TA (brandname Physta(R)) have shown quite astonishing results in a group of 30-55 year old male subjects who achieved a 44.4% higher sperm motility, 18.2% higher semen volume and subjectively improved erectile performance after 12-weeks on this commercially available product (Ismail. 2012).What you should at least keep in mind though is the fact that financing of the study was provided by Biotropics Malaysia Berhad, the producer of Physta.

Similar fertility related results were also reported by Tambi et al. in 2010 (another "proprietary extract" ;-) and a handful of older and in some cases non-peer reviewed studies. As far as more physical culture related effects are concerned, a recent review by Chen et al. concludes that
"Eurycoma longifolia Jack, or 'tongkat ali', has not appeared to elicit any ergogenic effect on endurance performance in a limited number of studies of these herbs. However, future studies of this herb are definitely warranted because there might be a dose-dependent response and the supplementation duration of the previous studies might have been too short." (Chen. 2012)
It would therefore appear as if TA was more of "classic" libido & testosterone booster than an ergogenic. Something like tribulus and maca and just as those two probably of very dubious usefulness for young athletic men in the prime of their reproductive years.



Bottom line: That being said, Long Jack could be worth a try for everyone with already (or temporarily ;-) reduced testosterone levels, at least if we trust the judgement of Tami et al. who conclude their 2012 study into the effects of 1 month on 200g of a water-soluble TA extract with the words: "The standardised water-soluble extract of Tongkat ali proved to be a suitable herbal supplement in overcoming symptoms of LOH [late onset hypogonadism]." (Tambi. 2012)

The veterans among the SuppVerity readers may remember that I also covered the 2012 study by Tambi et al. on the usefulness of TA for men hypogonadal men (learn more)
If you still insist to try it, you should keep an eye on the eurycomanone and 13α(21)-dihydroeurycomaone content of whatever product you are buying, because these are the two fractions which will increase LH and FSH production and are thus probably responsible for jacking up your testosterone and sperm production (Low. 2013).

What? You cannot find a product that's standardized for those? Not even a supplement producer losing a word about their existence? Well, that's how this business works. Cite the studies and discard all the nasty details you don't like...


References:.
  • Chen CK, Muhamad AS, Ooi FK. Herbs in exercise and sports. J Physiol Anthropol. 2012 Mar 8;31:4. doi: 10.1186/1880-6805-31-4. Review.
  • Ismail SB, Wan Mohammad WM, George A, Nik Hussain NH, Musthapa Kamal ZM, Liske E. Randomized Clinical Trial on the Use of PHYSTA Freeze-Dried Water Extract of Eurycoma longifolia for the Improvement of Quality of Life and Sexual Well-Being in Men. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:429268.
  • Jiwajinda S, Santisopasri V, Murakami A, Hirai N, Ohigashi H. Quassinoids from Eurycoma longifoliaas plant growth inhibitors.Phytochemistry. 2001; 58:959–962
  • Low BS, Das PK, Chan KL. Standardized quassinoid-rich Eurycoma longifolia extract improved spermatogenesis and fertility in male rats via the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Feb 13;145(3):706-14.
  • Miyake K, Tezuka Y, Awale S, Li F, Kadota S.Quassinoids fromEurycoma longifolia. J Nat Prod. 2009; 72:2135–2140. 
  • Solomon MC, Erasmus N, Henkel RR. In vivo effects of Eurycoma longifolia Jack (Tongkat Ali) extract on reproductive functions in the rat. Andrologia. 2013 Mar 6.
  • Tambi MI, Imran MK. Eurycoma longifolia Jack in managing idiopathic male infertility. Asian J Androl. 2010 May;12(3):376-80. doi: 10.1038/aja.2010.7. Epub 2010 Mar 29.
  • Tambi MI, Imran MK, Henkel RR. Standardised water-soluble extract of Eurycoma longifolia, Tongkat ali, as testosterone booster for managing men with late-onset hypogonadism? Andrologia. 2012 May;44 Suppl 1:226-30.