What are the active ingredients of Tongkat Ali

A Malaysian producer of tongkat ali extract has heavily promoted their product with claims of a scientific standardization.

As if this were of scientific relevance, they stated that their product is composed of 40% glycosaponins, 22% eurypeptides and 30% polysaccharides. [1] [2] [3]

Judging from the wide circulation of their product, it seems to be easy indeed to fool people by using scientific-sounding terms.

The active components of tongkat ali (Eurycoma longifolia Jack) have of course been scientifically established.

There is an excellent, impartial, not product-oriented scientific source on the Internet:

Unfortunately, the page loads inconsistently. But here a printscreen.

Only the term “polysaccharide” is found on the page, listing the active components of Eurycoma longifolia Jack (tongkat ali), but NOT as an active chemical. A polysaccharide has been used to induce fever in lab animals on which the fever-lowering effect of tongkat ali was tested.

So what are “40% glycosaponins, 22% eurypeptides and 30% polysaccharides”?

Let’s start with “eurypeptides” because that was the term I didn’t know when I first red the claims made by the Malaysian tongkat ali producer. It was also the term that made me suspicious in the first place.

When you run a general Google search for “eurypeptides”, thousands of pages are offered. However, they all seem to refer only to the LJ 100 extract. [4] [5] [6]

You can also try your search on Medline, the huge website of the US National Library of Medicine. The Medline website is:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi

No “eurypeptides”.

It’s obvious that “eurypeptides” is a made-up word. Sounds good, though. Reminds of neuropeptides, which indeed have a very important biochemical functions in the human body.

But eurypeptides?

OK, how about glycosaponins? “Glyco-” basically means sugar, and indeed, many chemical substances can be combined with sugars, and they are then referred to as glyco-somethings.

Saponins are found in many plants. The term, however, isn’t very specific. Basically, it means that the substance is somehow soapy. If you want to know more about saponins in general, look at this page on Google:

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=define%3Asaponin&btnG=Google+Search

Now, is the Sugar-Soap which the promoters of LJ100 tout as doing the LJ100 magic more real than the eurypeptides?

Try to search on Medline and Google Scholar.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi
http://scholar.google.com/

The search results show that the term is only promoted in the context of Malaysian tongkat ali.

And now for the third scientific term that has been used in connection with the marketing of LJ100:

“30% polysaccharides”

You know what polysaccharides are: sugars that are too heavy to be sweet: starch, cellulose, and the like.

If you want to know it more precisely, check this Google link:

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&q=define%3Apolysaccharide&btnG=Search

If the claim is serious, does it mean that their extract is 30 percent cellulose?

The manufacturers probably realized that the “30% polysaccharides” reference didn’t really support their claim to have a superior standardized extract. I didn’t see it when I checked their site while writing this article. However, a Google search for LJ100 brings up many marketing sites that still list the “30% polysaccharides”.

In spite of, or probably because of, the pseudoscience applied in its marketing, LJ100 today seems to be the most widely distributed tongkat ali product. It’s amazing that even a physician with a generally good knowledge of herbal medicines, Ray Sahelian, MD, has fallen for their tricks.

Please note: I do not find anything wrong with genuine tongkat ali. It definitely is the closest, nature has come to develop an aphrodisiac, as well as a supplement to increase muscle mass in men. Both effects have been established in genuine science. [7] [8] [9]

However, the above-described case has added to my doubts on Malaysia as a source country for tongkat ali. Not only is tongkat ali a protected plant in Malaysia, and not only has Malaysian tongkat ali been found to have been contaminated with heavy metals. [10] [11] [12] Malaysian companies have also been on record for spiking tongkat ali with bootleg pharmaceuticals. Compared to that, sales techniques like the one described in this article are still a minor issue.

References:

1 HP Ingredients, About LJ100, Press Releases 2016

2 Annie George, Yuuki Kawasaki, Azreena Abas, Eurycoma longifolia extract and its use in enhancing and/or stimulating immune system, Patents, US 14/840,869, Mar 10, 2016

3 Ray Sahelian, M.D., Composition, what’s in it, what are the active ingredients?, December 23, 2015

4 Jesse, What is Eurycoma Longifolia Jack really?, Best Natural Testosterone Boosters, June 3, 2014

5 Herbal Powers, LJ100® Standardized Tongkat Ali Extract (22% EuryPeptides®, 40% Glyco Saponins), Herbal Powers 2016

6 Mark POHL, EURYPEPTIDES – Trademark Details, Justia Trademarks, Serial Number 78396583

7 S Hamzah, A Yusof, The ergogenic effects of eurycoma longifolia jack: a pilot study, Department of Exercise Physiology, Sports Centre, University of Malaya

8 Rajeev Bhat, A.A. Karim, Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia Jack): A review on its ethnobotany and pharmacological importance, Science Direct, Fitoterapia Volume 81, Issue 7, October 2010, Pages 669–679

9 Mohd Ismail Bin Mohd Tambi1, M. Kamarul Imran, Eurycoma longifolia Jack in managing idiopathic male infertility, Asian Journal of Andrology (2010) 12: 376–380

10 MOHD FUAT A RAZAK, KOFI E AIDOO, TOXICITY STUDIES OF EURYCOMA LONGIFOLIA (JACK)­BASED REMEDIAL PRODUCTS, Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research Vol. 4, Issue 3, 2011

11 H H Ang, E L Lee, K Matsumoto, Analysis of lead content in herbal preparations in Malaysia, Sage Journal, Human Experimental Toxicology, August 2003 vol. 22 no. 8 445-451

12 H.H. Ang, K.L. Lee, Contamination of mercury in tongkat Ali hitam herbal preparations, Science Direct, Food and Chemical Toxicology Volume 44, Issue 8, August 2006, Pages 1245–1250