By Vince Kreipke, CSCS and Mike Ormsbee, PhD, CSCS, CISSN. As Alphas, we are all joined together by common bonds: Crushing weight, fast cars, faster women, and (of course) our never ending quest for anything that will raise our T count. We search relentlessly for good reason. The benefits of T include everything that we strive for as alphas: 1) improved muscular performance11, 2) increased muscle mass3,6, and 3) decreased fat mass6. Not to mention, improved bedroom drive and performance1. Add all that up, and you just became a GI JOE with a weapon of mass destruction… and the ability to use it… often. But as the rule stands, with good news comes bad news. And the bad news is bad… Turns out, that as males we naturally produce about 35 to 70mg of T per week7, depending upon age and level of activity. Extremely high T dosing can lead to liver toxicity or tumors, increased blood pressure, severe acne or possible skin disease, erythrocitosis, testicular atrophy and infertility, benign prostatic growth and gynecomastia2. The scary part is that these findings were not found with super huge doses of T. Most research has shown these side effects with as little as 300-600 mg/ week. These levels are mere drops in the bucket to the levels that are being used in locker rooms today.
Outside of physical changes, keep in mind that they are illegal and jail time is possible if you are caught with them. Or in the case of professional baseball players, you will just go in front of congress, be ostracized from your sport, and then write a best-selling book. Any way you juice it, the government is going to be a very significant part of your life. And even if you do get caught with them and don’t spend any time in the slammer, most professional and collegiate associations have an anti-steroid stance. Which means, if you test positive… the game is over… quite literally. Because of these repercussions, we Alphas continue to search for other options to boost natural T count. As such, many herbal supplements have surfaced with the promise of “natural” T boosting abilities. A new and upcoming herbal remedy is Longjack Root. Yes… we know what you are thinking… “A root is going to get my T up? Yea right.” And we totally agree and would never suggest something without some solid science behind it. So let’s take a look at what it is and how it is supposed to work.
What is longjack root? – Longjack, aka Eurycoma Longifolia aka Tongkat, is a plant native to Indonesia and Malaysia. The supplement, as its name states, is simply just the root of the plant, which contain quassinoids. Yes… Yes… We hear you “Quass-WHAT ???”Just hang on and stay with us. A quassinoid is a group of natural chemicals that is found in plants that are in the same family of longjack root and are the active ingredient thought to raise your T count. They are also what give the plant its bitter taste (so if whatever you are drinking doesn’t taste bitter… you didn’t buy longjack) .
What does it do? – The anterior pituitary gland makes luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) which are precursor hormones that stimulate the downstream process to synthesize T and estrogen. As both T and estrogen build up in the blood stream, the body responds with a negative feedback signal to slow down the process and make sure that levels stay within normal values (about 35 to 70mg of T per week7 ). This is where longjack comes into play. Longjack down regulates the levels of estrogen produced after being stimulated by LH and FSH. Keep in mind that your body is smart and will detect these low estrogen levels and respond by pumping out more of the LH and FSH stimulatory hormones. Because, both T AND estrogen are ultimately produced from LH and FSH, the theory is that you will make T but keep your levels of estrogen low8. This is the ultimate goal: keep T high and estrogen low.
Now, we have to be honest, the exact mechanism is not completely clear for either the increase in T production or the blocking of estrogen. However, there is speculation that it acts in the testes4 and binds with G-protein coupled receptors (similar to the way LH would) and induces a spike in T production8. It has also been shown to heighten testicular function and protect against estrogen’s suppression of spermatogenesis even in a state with clinically heightened estrogen levels11.
The evidence – I know what you are thinking now… “Ok, that is great in theory, but where is the proof that it works? I have spent WAY too much on “Alpha male” products promising new astronomical PR’s and a libido that would put Charlie Sheen to shame.“
Well, in mice seems to work well. One study suggested an increase in serum T levels after just six days of supplementation13. As a bonus, the root seems to also increase sex drive and performance. Research in animal models has gone on to suggest higher quality and concentrations of sperm8. This could be due to the elevated levels of LSH and FSH, which are not only responsible for the formation of T and estrogen, but also for the formation and quality of sperm.
We know that second part might gross some of you out and that you are only here read about your T levels, but we are here to disclose all information… not to sell a product.
Some more good news, some these findings have recently been replicated in humans as increases in both blood10 and salivary 9 T levels have been reported. These findings are coupled with improved mood states in stressed individuals such as tension, anger, and confusion9.
Side effects – Studies have suggested that there aren’t any. Organs harvested from the animal models did not display any abnormalities as compared to the animals that did not receive longjack. Once again, gross, but important and educational. This root does not appear to have any negative qualities that might be associated with actual T or synthetic steroid abuse8.
What’s the catch? – This is too good to be true.” Here it is: most of these studies have been done in men and animals with low T levels or significant levels of stress. This might suggest that the root might only work in men with low T counts or our over stressed brethren. It is also important to note that the dosing is not always the same across the studies. These varying ratios can have an effect on how the root affects you. When looking at the product you are buying you should ask yourself two things. 1) What color is the supplement you are taking? You are looking for a dark brown color, yes because it is a root. It all makes sense; earthy things come in earthy colors, unless, of course, the company has decided to dye your supplement. 2) Does your supplement taste bitter? Remember the quassinoids give it a bitter taste. The more bitter it tastes the more longjack you have in the supplement you are taking. It has been suggested that you shoot for 200mg/day10 to 300mg/day5 for optimum results. But more dosing schemes need to be tested in order to get it exactly right.
It is also important to note that if it does work, longjack probably will not shoot your T levels past the normal ranges like a direct injection of T will. Despite the rise in T counts in these studies, research on the strength performance benefits of longjack supplementation non-existent. As of now, we can only suggest greater PR’s due to possible rise in T – but no promises here.
Bottom line – All of that being said, the research that is out there seems promising. Longjack has a lot of potential and further research in different populations is being conducted to ensure we get the most out of this root. Keep your ear to the ground fellow brothers in iron — we may be on the verge of finding a safe and easy way to increase our already Alpha status.
Until then, Train Hard and Train Often.
Read the cool science references below please
- Ang HH, Lee KL. (2002) Effect of Eurycoma longifolia Jack on libido in middle-aged male rats. J Basic Clin Physiol Pharmacol. 13(3):249-54.
- Bassil N, Alkaade S, Morley JE.( 2009). The Benefits and Risks of Testosterone Replacement Therapy: a Review. Ther Clin Risk Manag.. 5(3), 427-48.
- Brodsky IG; Balagopal P, Nair KS. (1998). Effects of testosterone replacement on muscle mass and muscle protein synthesis in hypogonadal men- a clinical research center study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 81(10), 3469-75.
- Chan KL, Low BS, Teh CH, Das PK (2009) The effect of Eurycoma longifolia on sperm quality of male rats. Nat Prod Commun.4(10):1331-6.
- 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
- Katznelson L, Finkelstein JS, Schoenfeld DA, Rosenthal DI, Anderson EJ, Klibanski A.(1996). Increase in bone density and lean body mass during testosterone administration in men with acquired hypogonadism. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 81(12):4358-65.
- Persky H, Smith KD, Basu GK. (1971) Relation of psychologic measures of aggression and hostility to testosterone production in man. Psychosom Med.33(3):265-77.
- Low BS, Das PK, Chan KL.( 2013). Standardized quassinoid-rich Eurycoma longifolia extract improvedspermatogenesis and fertility in male rats via the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. J Ethnopharmacol.145(3), 706-14.
- Talbott SM, Talbott JA, George A, Pugh M. (2013) Effect of Tongkat Ali on stress hormones and psychological mood state in moderately stressed subjects. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 26;10(1):28
- Tambi MI, Imran MK, Henkel RR.(2012) Standardised water-soluble extract of Eurycoma longifolia, Tongkat ali, astestosterone booster for managing men with late-onset hypogonadism?. Andrologia. 44 Suppl 1, 226-30.
- Wahab NA, Mokhtar NM, Halim WN, Das S. (2010) The Effect of Eurycoma Longifolia Jack on Spermatogenesis in estrogen-treated rats. Clinics (Sao Paulo). 65(1):93-8
- Wang C, Swerdloff RS, Iranmanesh A, Dobs A, Snyder PJ, Cunningham G, Matsumoto AM, Weber T, Berman N. (2000.) Testosterone Gel Study Group. Transdermal Testosterone gel improves sexual function, mood, muscle strength and body composition parameters in hypogonadal men. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 85(8), 2839-53.
- Zanoli P, Zavatti M, Montanari C, Baraldi M.(2009) Influence of Eurycoma Longifolia on the copulatory activity of sexually sluggish amdimpotent male rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 126(2):308-13