Tongkat Ali, also known as Eurycoma longifolia or Malaysian ginseng, is an herbal supplement that has become popular for its potential benefits, like boosting testosterone levels and enhancing libido. However, some concerns have been raised about the possible side effects of Tongkat Ali, specifically regarding liver health. In this article, we aim to provide a comprehensive look at the existing research on Tongkat Ali’s impact on the liver and the steps you can take to reduce potential risks.
An Overview of Tongkat Ali
Tongkat Ali is a flowering plant native to Southeast Asia. The root has been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat various conditions and, more recently, has been studied for its ability to potentially:
- Increase testosterone levels
- Improve male fertility
- Enhance libido and treat erectile dysfunction
- Boost energy and relieve fatigue
- Build muscle mass and strength
- Reduce anxiety and improve mood
The active compounds found in Tongkat Ali that are thought to be responsible for these effects include eurycomanone, eurycomalactone, and eurycomalenol.
Tongkat Ali’s Potential Effects on the Liver
While Tongkat Ali has demonstrated some promising health benefits, there are concerns that it may also have adverse effects, particularly on liver health. Here’s an overview of what the research says so far:
- Elevated Liver Enzymes: Some clinical studies have found that using Tongkat Ali extracts for several weeks can raise liver enzyme levels in some individuals, indicating liver injury. However, enzyme elevations were generally mild.
- Risk of Toxicity: Tongkat Ali’s active compound, eurycomanone, has been shown in animal studies to cause toxicity at high concentrations potentially. This is likely due to its interactions with specific cytochrome P450 enzymes critical for metabolizing medications and toxins.
- Exacerbating Existing Liver Conditions: There is some evidence that Tongkat Ali could worsen pre-existing liver disorders like chronic hepatitis. However, research is limited in humans so far.
- Long-Term Effects Unknown: Very few studies have evaluated the long-term safety of Tongkat Ali supplementation. More research is needed to understand its effects with prolonged use of several months or years.
While these findings are cause for caution, the risks of liver injury appear to be relatively low, especially when Tongkat Ali is taken at recommended doses for short periods of time. But those with liver disorders should use it with extra care or avoid use altogether.
Steps to Reduce Potential Harm to Your Liver
If you plan to take Tongkat Ali, there are some precautions you can take to lower the chances of adverse liver effects:
- Consult your doctor: Discuss using Tongkat Ali supplements with your physician, especially if you have a liver condition, kidney disorder or take prescription medications. They can monitor your liver enzyme levels if needed.
- Stick to recommended doses: Follow dosage guidelines on supplements closely and do not exceed recommendations. Only take what is needed to achieve desired effects.
- Avoid long-term use: Limit Tongkat Ali use to cycles of a few weeks to a couple of months, taking breaks in between. Long-term safety is unknown.
- Watch for symptoms: Be aware of potential signs of liver injury like abdominal pain, dark urine or jaundice and report them to your doctor.
- Avoid alcohol: Do not drink alcohol while taking Tongkat Ali, as it may enhance the risk of liver toxicity.
- Select reputable brands: Purchase high-quality supplements from trusted manufacturers to minimize contamination risk.
The Bottom Line
Tongkat Ali continues to gain popularity as a natural testosterone booster and male enhancement supplement. But while it shows promise in improving libido and vitality, individuals should be aware of its potential to cause adverse effects on liver health, especially with long-term use or pre-existing liver conditions. Fortunately, steps like limiting use, avoiding alcohol, and monitoring liver enzymes can help reduce the risk of liver damage. As with any supplement, speak to your healthcare provider before using Tongkat Ali. While occasional short-term use is likely safe for most healthy adults, anyone with liver issues should exercise caution with this herbal extract.