Testosterone is a hormone found in all mammals. In men, it is acknowledged to be essential in the development of male reproductive tissues, secondary sexual characteristics, the prevention of osteoporosis, and for general good health. However, testosterone levels decline gradually as human beings age. This has led to the increase in usage of testosterone supplementation through pharmaceutical avenues. Several natural products have also been found to be effective such as the tongkat Ali extract. Tongkat Ali is a flowering plant (genus: Eurycoma Species E. longifolia) commonly found in Indonesia and Malaysia, and has been used by locals for increase in sexual desire and performance, as well as to treat erectile dysfunction.
Effects of medically induced testosterone supplementation
One should always check with the physician before consuming hormone-altering drugs in particular. Tongkat has several side effects, including:
- Increased aggression
- Weakens immune function by slowing and weakening the response of T-lymphocytes (hence should not be used by people with weakened immune systems)
- May decrease blood sugar levels (Consult your doctor before consumption if you take insulin)
Men with heart disease, sleepapnea, liver disease, breast or prostrate cancer, kidney disease (especially kidney transplant patients), or diabetes should generally not consume Tongkat. Apart from this, one must always watch out for spurious or adulterated products that claim to contain Tongkat extract.
Testosterone plays several physiological roles in the body such as:
- Regulates both physical and cognitive energy.
- Regulates the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis, which being a major part of the neuroendocrine system, regulates the immune system, energy storage and expenditure, digestion, moods/emotions and sexuality.
- Prevents muscle atrophy.
- Regulates fight or flight response.
- Increases lean body mass.
- Decreases visceral fat mass.
- Decreased total cholesterol.
- Glycemic control.’
The last four points indicate the importance of testosterone in maintaining cardiovascular health. In fact it has been found that men with slightly above average testosterone levels are less susceptible to experiencing a heart attack, be obese, or having high blood pressure.
Hormone supplements like tongkat are also used by people looking to build muscle mass or lose weight. Producers of the product claim that the first week of the consumption cycle sees a noticeable increase in sex drive. The second and third weeks bring an increase in strength and increased rates of recovery after training accompanied with a generally heightened sense of well-being. Weeks 4, 5 and 6 include reduction in body fat, greater confidence and gains in lean muscle mass.
There exists preliminary evidence suggesting a correlation between the possibility of Alzheimer’s type’s dementia and low testosterone levels. However studies on the subject imply that excessive testosterone levels have a negative impact on cognition as well.
Risk of adulteration
The United States Drug and Food Administration (USFDA) has caught and banned the selling of several products that claim to use the Tongkat Ali extract as the key ingredient. Instead, these products have been found to contain illegal prescription drugs, some of which have not been through a human trial yet. There are many spurious Tongkat ali impersonators as well in the market. So beware!