Eurycoma longifolia

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Eurycoma longifolia
Singapore Science Centre 17, Jul 06.JPG
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Simaroubaceae
Genus: Eurycoma
E. longifolia
Binomial name
Eurycoma longifolia

Eurycoma longifolia (commonly called tongkat ali, pasak bumi, or longjack) is a flowering plant in the family Simaroubaceae. It is native to Indochina (Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam) and Indonesia (the islands of Borneo and Sumatra),[2] but has also been found in the Philippines.[3] The plant is a medium-sized slender shrub that can reach 10 m (33 ft) in height, and is often unbranched. The root of the plant has been used in folk medicine of the South East Asian region, and in modern times has common use as supplements, as well as food and drink additives.


Eurycoma longifolia is also known by the common names penawar pahit, penawar bias, bedara merah, bedara putih, lempedu pahit, payong ali, tongkat baginda, muntah bumi, petala bumi, bidara laut (all Malay-Indonesian); babi kurus (Javanese); cây bá bệnh (Vietnamese); tho nan (Laotian); lan-don, hae phan chan, phiak, plaa lai phuenk, tung saw (all Thai); "long jack" (US); langir siam (Bahrain). Many of the common names refer to the plant's medicinal use and extreme bitterness. Penawar pahit translates simply as "bitter charm" or "bitter medicine". Older literature, such as a 1953 article in the Journal of Ecology, may cite only penawar pahit as the plant's common Malay name.[4]

As mentioned above, E. longifolia is known by common names "tongkat ali" and "pasak bumi" in the South East Asian region, but these names are also used for the physiologically similar species Polyalthia bullata. The bark and root of E. longifolia is more white/yellow-ish compared to the darker-colored P. bullata, which has led to the former being known as "tongkat ali/pasak bumi putih" or "tongkat ali/pasak bumi kuning", and the latter as "tongkat ali/pasak bumi hitam". ("Putih" means "white", "kuning" means "yellow", and "hitam" means "black" in Malay/Indonesian.) Indonesia also has a red-coloured variety known as "tongkat ali/pasak bumi merah" ("merah" meaning "red"), which is being studied by researchers and has not had its species classified.[5]

Eurycoma longifolia is also known by the species name Eurycoma longifolia Jack, as this was the name used by botanist William Jack in his taxonomical description published in 1822.[6]


A medium size slender shrub reaching 10 m (33 ft), often unbranched with reddish brown petioles. Leaves compound, even pinnate reaching 1 m (39 in) meter in length. Each compound leaf consists of 30 to 40 leaflets, lanceolate to obovate-lanceolate. Each leaflet is about 15–20 cm (6–8 in) long, 1.5–6 cm (1–2 in) wide, and much paler on the ventral side.

Inflorecense axillary, in large brownish red panicle, very pubescent with very fine, soft, granular trichomes. Flowers are dioecious.[7] Petals are small, very fine pubescent. Drupe hard, ovoid, yellowish brown when young and brownish red when ripe.[8] The plant grows in the understorey of lowland forests, and survives on a variety of soils but prefers acidic, well-drained soil.[9]


Many purported health benefits have been attributed to Eurycoma longifolia. The plant is used in the traditional medicine of Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. In Indonesia and Malaysia, the root of the plant is boiled in water, and the water is consumed as a health tonic for post-partum recovery, as an aphrodisiac, as well as the relief of fever, intestinal worms, dysentery, diarrhea, indigestion, and jaundice.[9] In Vietnam, the flower and fruits are used to treat dysentery,[9] and the root is used for malaria and fever.[10] In Malaysia, a paste of the plant is applied topically to relieve headaches and stomach-aches.[9] There is a traditional belief that E. longifolia is an aphrodisiac.[9][11][12] Other health benefits attributed to this plant include antimalarial, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, antipyretic,[13] anti-dengue [14] and immunomodulation activities.[15] In Indonesia and Malaysia, E. longifolia has been widely commercialized. Its root, which is highly bitter,[11] has been used as the basis for supplements, as well as food and drink additives. In the US, the extract has self-affirmed generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status, as an ingredient.[16] As a supplement, it has been marketed for the supposed benefits of sexual health improvement, as an energy and stamina booster, for improving blood circulation,[9] to reduce stress,[17] and fat reduction.[18] In the drinks market, it is a common ingredient for coffee and beverages marketed as energy drinks.

It has been reported there is no clinical data supporting the effectiveness of Eurycoma longifolia for any health benefit.[19] However there have been papers published on the matter, including a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled, parallel group study, clinical trial of 109 males, and funded in part by Biotropics Malaysia Berhard, which showed significant improvements in libido, sexual performance, satisfaction, physical performance, sperm volume and sperm motility.[20] There has also been a clinical study by University of Malaya reported in 2021 on the effect of E. longifolia on increasing testosterone in young men,[21] and one by the Santa Catarina State University in Brazil on the effect of E. longifolia on muscle strength and cardiorespiratory fitness.[22]


Adulteration and contamination[edit]

There have been a number of cases of products falsely claiming to contain E. longifolia as an ingredient, as well as E. longifolia product contamination cases. In 2006 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned seven dietary supplement products that claimed to include E. longifolia as a principal ingredient, but which additionally contained prescription drugs and even analogues of prescription drugs that have not yet been tested for safety in humans, such as acetildenafil.[23]

In 2017, the FDA announced that two different brands of E. longifolia-containing coffee were recalled after being found to be adulterated with active ingredients from erectile dysfunction drugs.[24][25]

In Malaysia, there are over 200 registered E. longifolia products. However, a 2004 study determined, following quality testing, that 36% of these were contaminated with mercury beyond legally permitted limits.[26]


Products stating various E. longifolia extract ratios of 1:50, 1:100, and 1:200 are common on the market. However extracts based on this ratio system are often misleading and hard to verify. Scientific research done on herbal products in general indicates that in many cases the content of bioactive constituents varies between products.[27] One perception is that a higher extraction ratio indicates a stronger product, but higher extract ratio just means that more of everything else that was part of the original material was removed, and is not a measure of how much actual E. longifolia mass is present.

Another option is for extraction techniques to utilize standardization methods to monitor the bioactive content and quality of the extract against standardization markers. Among standardization markers that have been used for E. longifolia are eurycomanone, total protein, total polysaccharide and glycosaponin, which have been recommended in a technical guideline developed by the Scientific and Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia (SIRIM).[28]


An extract process and method of treatment for sexual dysfunction and male infertility was issued a U.S. patent in 2006,[29] with subsequent international filings in the EU and Japan.[30] Additional patent applications have been filed in the U.S. for various processes and indications, but as of August 2017 none have resulted in issued patents; the inclusion of three such patent applications follow this sentence.[31][32][33] An attempt to patent E. longifolia led to protests due to its being a natural product with widely-known traditional uses,[34] though the patent in question was allegedly meant only to cover a specific extraction process, rather than the plant itself.[35][36] One of the patent licensees, Biotropics, clarified that the patent does not claim the plant itself nor "traditional knowledge" over the plant, but covers only "new scientific uses" relating to the plant.[37]

Conservation and sustainability[edit]

E. longifolia is mainly used for its roots, which necessitates uprooting the entire plant when it is harvested. This has led to concerns over the long-term sustainability of its use.[38][39]

In Malaysia raw E. longifolia is banned from export,[40] and the plant itself been listed as one of the priority medicinal species for conservation, and the harvesting of wild trees is restricted according to Act 686 on International Trade in Endangered Species.[41][42][43] In 2016, Ahmad Shabery Cheek, the Malaysian Minister of Agriculture, said that the species may go extinct within twenty years if cultivation and replanting efforts are not made quickly.[44] Despite this, the Malaysian government has encouraged the commercialization of high-value herbal products based on this plant,[45] notably in its 2010 Economic Transformation Programme, where Tongkat Ali is listed among the top five herbs to be developed on a large scale until the year 2020.[46][47] To support this commercialization, the Malaysian government made attempts to encourage the long-term commercial cultivation of the plant, through the provision of grants for farmers, enabling agronomy research by MARDI, and the formation of cluster farms under the East Coast Economic Region.[48]

Chemical constituents[edit]

Eurycoma longifolia has been reported to contain the glycoprotein compounds eurycomanol, eurycomanone, and eurycomalactone.[49]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Eurycoma longifolia". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2008-03-14.
  2. ^ "Eurycoma longifolia Jack". Plants of the World Online. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 2019-01-27.
  3. ^ Palijon, Armando M. (2009). "Eurycoma longifolia Jack subsp. eglandulosa (Merr.) Noot. (Simaroubaceae): a new distribution record from Palawan Island, Philippines". Asia Life Sciences. 18 (2).
  4. ^ Wyatt-Smith, J. (August 1953). "The Vegetation of Jarak Island, Straits of Malacca". Journal of Ecology. 41 (2): 207–225. doi:10.2307/2257036. JSTOR 2257036.
  5. ^ Rachman, Taufik (2015-08-14). "UMP Teliti Pasak Bumi Merah". Retrieved 2016-04-11.
  6. ^ William Jack (1822). Malayan Miscellanies. Vol. II. Sumatran Mission Press.
  7. ^ Keng, Chan Lai; Sai, Su Tiing; Teo, Chris K.H. (2002). "A Preliminary Study on the Germination of Eurycoma longfolia Jack (Tongkat Ali) Seeds". Journal of Tropical Agricultural Science. 25 (1): 27–34.
  8. ^ Malaysian Herbal Monograph Technical Committee (1999). Malaysian Herbal Monograph. Vol. 1. Forest Research Institute Malaysia. ISBN 983987019X, 9789839870190
  9. ^ a b c d e f Samy, Joseph; Manickam, Sugumaran (2005). Herbs of Malaysia. Times Editions. pp. 104–105. ISBN 978-983-3001-79-8.
  10. ^ Maneenoon, Katesarin (2015). "Ethnomedicinal plants used by traditional healers in Phatthalung Province, Peninsular Thailand". Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine. 11 (43): 43. doi:10.1186/s13002-015-0031-5. PMC 4469324. PMID 26025447.
  11. ^ a b Chai, Paul (2006). Medicinal Plants of Sarawak. Lee Miin Press. p. 150. ISBN 978-9834325510.
  12. ^ Riviera, Gloria (2014-10-16). "Natural Remedy May Dramatically Transform Sexual Enhancement Market". Retrieved 2016-04-13.
  13. ^ Bhat, R; Karim, AA (2010). "Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia Jack): a review on its ethnobotany and pharmacological importance". Fitoterapia. 81 (7): 669–79. doi:10.1016/j.fitote.2010.04.006. PMID 20434529.
  14. ^ George, Annie (July 2018). "Antiviral Activity of A Standardized Root Water Extract of Eurycoma longifolia (Physta) against Dengue Virus". 34th International Conference on Natural Products.
  15. ^ George, Annie; Suzuki, Naoko (2016). "Immunomodulation in Middle-Aged Humans Via the Ingestion of Physta Standardized Root Water Extract of Eurycoma longifolia Jack—A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Parallel Study". Phytotherapy Research. 30 (4): 627–35. doi:10.1002/ptr.5571. PMID 26816234. S2CID 5207225.
  16. ^ Ulbricht, Catherine; Conquer, Julie; Flanagan, Kelly; Isaac, Richard; Rusie, Erica; Windsor, Regina C. (2013). "An Evidence-Based Systematic Review of Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia) by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration". Journal of Dietary Supplements. 10 (1): 54–83. doi:10.3109/19390211.2012.761467. PMID 23419023. S2CID 41416936.
  17. ^ "Guide To Tongkat Ali: It's Benefits, Side Effects, Dosage". Prohormones. Retrieved 2022-07-14.
  18. ^ "Nu Prep Lelaki Takes You Further". ETP Malaysia (media room). 2013-09-21. Retrieved 2018-02-15.
  19. ^ Ulbricht, Catherine; Conquer, Julie; Flanagan, Kelly; Isaac, Richard; Rusie, Erica; Windsor, Regina C. (2013). "An Evidence-Based Systematic Review of Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia) by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration". Journal of Dietary Supplements. 10 (1): 54–83. doi:10.3109/19390211.2012.761467. PMID 23419023. S2CID 41416936. Clinical data in support of Eurycoma longifolia are lacking for any indication.
  20. ^ Ismail, Shaiful Bahari; Wan Mohammad, Wan Mohd Zahiruddin; George, Annie; Nik Hussain, Nik Hazlina; Musthapa Kamal, Zatul Mufiza; Liske, Eckehard (2012). "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". Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2012: 429268. doi:10.1155/2012/429268. PMC 3518798. PMID 23243445.
  21. ^ Chan, Kai Quin; Stewart, Claire; Chester, Neil; Hamzah, Sareena; Yusof, Ashril (February 2021). "The effect of Eurycoma Longifolia on the regulation of reproductive hormones in young males" (PDF). Andrologia. 53 (4): e14001. doi:10.1111/and.14001. PMID 33559971. S2CID 231868035.
  22. ^ Erwig Leitāo, Alice; de Carvalho Souza Vieira, Melissa; Almeida Gomes, Diogo (2021). "Exercise associated or not to the intake of Eurycoma longifolia improves strength and cardiorespiratory fitness in men with androgen deficiency". Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. 42: 101301. doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2020.101301. PMID 33445146. S2CID 231612964.
  23. ^ FDA Warns Consumers About Dangerous Ingredients in seven "Dietary Supplements" promoted for sexual enhancement
  24. ^ "Recall of Caverflo Natural Herbal Coffee due to the Presence of Undeclared Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient". 2017-05-25. Retrieved 2017-08-03.
  25. ^ "Bestherbs Coffee LLC found with Viagra-like ingredient recalled after FDA discovery". Retrieved 2017-07-13.
  26. ^ Ang, Hooi-Hoon; Lee, Ee-Lin; Cheang, Hui-Seong (2004). "Determination of Mercury by Cold Vapor Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer in Tongkat Ali Preparations Obtained in Malaysia". International Journal of Toxicology. 23 (1): 65–71. doi:10.1080/10915810490269654. PMID 15162849. S2CID 3062564.
  27. ^ "Guidance on equivalence of herbal extracts in complementary medicines". Australia: Department of Health - Therapeutic Goods Administration. 20 February 2011. Retrieved 2016-08-17.
  28. ^ Phytopharmaceutical Aspect Of Freeze Dried Water Extract From Tongkat Ali Roots (MS 2409:2011). Malaysia: Scientific and Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia. 2011. Archived from the original on 2016-08-18. Retrieved 2016-08-17.
  29. ^ U.S. Patent 7,132,117 Inventors: T.G. Sambandan, ChoKyun Rha, Azizol Abdul Kadir, Norhaniza Aminudim, Johari Md. Saad. Assignees: Government of Malaysia, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  30. ^ EU Patent Application 131349 link
  31. ^ US Patent Application 20100221370 A1 link
  32. ^ US Patent Application 20070224302 A1 link
  33. ^ US Patent Application 20180153950A1
  34. ^ Ong, Justin (August 6, 2019). "PSM sounds alarm over Putrajaya's patent on 'Tongkat Ali' extract".
  35. ^ Evening Edition (2019-08-06). "Putrajaya Roots for Tongkat Ali". BFM (Podcast). The Business Station. Event occurs at 02:35. Retrieved 2020-04-13.
  36. ^ Hemingway, Chris (2020-03-12). "A case for strong IP rights". The Sun Daily. Malaysia. Retrieved 2020-04-13.
  37. ^ "Tongkat Ali patent for 'new scientific uses', says manufacturer". MalaysiaKini. Malaysia. 2019-08-06. Retrieved 2020-04-13.
  38. ^ Mien, Rifai (2009). "Germplasm, Genetic Erosion, and the Conservation of Indonesian Plants". Conservation of Medicinal Plants. Cambridge University Press. pp. 281–283. ISBN 9780521112024.
  39. ^ "Flaccid outlook for Tongkat Ali" (PDF). New Sunday Times. 2009-01-25. Retrieved 2016-06-08.
  40. ^ "Prosedur Operasi Piawaian: Pemeriksaan Konsainan Herba yang Dieksport" [Standard Operating Procedure: Consignment Inspection for Exported Herbs] (in Malay). Malaysian Quarantine and Inspection Services (MAQIS). July 2014. Archived from the original on 2017-03-20. Retrieved 2017-03-20.
  41. ^ Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Malaysia (2009). 4th Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Government of Malaysia. p. 91.
  42. ^ Lee, Soon Leong (2009). "Status of Malaysia's forest genetic resources — their conservation and management practices". Forest Genetic Resources: Conservation and Management. Bioversity International. p. 75. ISBN 9789675221217.
  43. ^ "International Trade in Endangered Species". Act No. 686 of 14 February 2008 (PDF). Retrieved 2016-04-14.
  44. ^ "Pokok Tongkat Ali pupus 20 tahun" [Tongkat Ali trees extinct within 20 years]. Harian Metro (in Malay). Malaysia. 2016-02-24. Retrieved 2016-08-11.
  45. ^ "Malaysia's government to boost economy with biotech". CCT4 America. 2016-07-01. Retrieved 2016-07-25.
  46. ^ "EPP 1 High-Value Herbal Products". Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU). Archived from the original on 2016-08-06. Retrieved 2016-06-08.
  47. ^ Prime Minister's Department, Malaysia (2017). Malaysia Productivity Blueprint: Driving Productivity of the Nation. Economic Planning Unit. pp. 4–32. ISBN 978-967-5842-10-8.
  48. ^ "Malaysia's lucrative herb market". DailyExpress. 2013-12-28. Retrieved 2016-06-08.
  49. ^ Tran, Thi Van Anh; Malainer, Clemens; Schwaiger, Stefan; Atanasov, Atanas G.; Heiss, Elke H.; Dirsch, Verena M.; Stuppner, Hermann (2014). "NF-κB Inhibitors from Eurycoma longifolia". Journal of Natural Products. 77 (3): 483–488. doi:10.1021/np400701k. PMC 3971761. PMID 24467387.