Tongkat Ali Buyers Guide
What to look for and things to avoid.
This is the Buyers Guide, if you would like to view the "Tongkat Ali Facts" educational guide to learn more about the plant itself, click HERE.
Below you will find various information about fake products and scams and learn what is important and what isn't when it comes to looking for a genuine product. Links to independent sources of information and evidence have been provided when possible to show the information is not made up or bias.
Major stores sold fake herbal products!
A recent independent test done in Canada proved beyond doubt that a 3rd of the supplements on the market today,even those which are cheap and common, are often just substituted with something else, meaning they are fake and you do not have any way of knowing what you are buying. About 60% of the products had also been adulterated. See the link HERE.
Even major stores like Walmart, GNC and Target have falsely labeled herbs, see links below...
(links open in a new tab)
Products may even contain pharmaceuticals!
Some products that where adulterated and later caught can be found below...
Amazon is just as bad, proving good reviews are worthless!
A recent independent study by the Journal of Applied Sciences tested 41 products being sold on Amazon and other sites being sold as Tongkat Ali, some with an extract ratio and some without, for the presence of eurycomanone. If it did not contain any eurycomanone then it was 100% fake, as it is simply not possible for Tongkat Ali to not contain eurycomanone, since it is a part of the plants biology.
Out of these 41 products, 17 of them contained no eurycomanone at all, 12 of which were purchased from Amazon and some were from known brands with good reviews that were registered with the Malaysian health department and/or FDA, proving that registration does not mean a product is real or tested and neither do good reviews.
Out of the 24 that did contain eurycomanone, 10 contained less than 0.8% which means they were incredibly low quality. In Malaysia 0.8% is the bare minimum a Tongkat Ali extract must possess.
Just 14 products out of the 41 had above 0.8% eurycomanone.
One product in the study, Nu Prep Lelaki, actually tested at 8%, although rather disappointingly that product was not standardized to 8% and states 0.8% - 2% on the bottle, so it may just have been a fluke, and 8% is not guaranteed in any future batches.
The product also contains just 100mg of Tongkat Ali per capsule, the other 250mg is a filler that will do nothing for you. This means that even if it did contain 8%, 8% of 100mg is only 8mg of eurycomanone and just 92mg of other active constituents per capsule, so not really worth it. Also, the entire bottle only contains 60 tablets which is equal to 6 grams of extract in total, making it even more of a bad deal.
You can read the above mentioned independent study yourself HERE
Common Tongkat Ali Scams /Tricks
Chinese Tongkat Ali can be purchased from 50 dollars a kilo, so astronomical profits can be made selling these so called Tongkat extracts even at low prices. In most cases though, if it looks too good to be true it is!
The raw powder trick.
One way to make large profits is grind Tongkat Ali root in to a fine powder and then encapsulate it and label it as "Pure Tongkat Ali" or "Tongkat Ali Powder" so it looks like a good deal and a usable supplement in capsules. Or they will sell it as loose powder, but let you assume it can be taken as it is.
What they don't tell you is that because it is just ground powder and not an extract, you have to boil the powder in water for a few hours and then remove the water and consume the small amount of left over powder for it to be effective, which is basically extracting it yourself in a very traditional manner.
Some will even write "Extract" on the label even though it isn't!
The none root scam.
Another way sellers trick you is to create an extract using parts of the plant such as the leaves or trunk / root bark, instead of the actual roots. Whilst technically this is a Tongkat extract, only the roots are effective so you basically waste your money.
The substitute scam.
Some dishonest manufacturers don't use Tongkat at all and instead use a cheaper substitute herb with a similar taste, then label it as Tongkat or Longjack Extract to trick you.
Side by side, Tongkat Ali and extracts such as Tribulus look identical, the shade may sometimes vary but that is normal with both herbs. They both taste bitter and are both reported to raise libido, so if someone has never tried real Tongkat Ali before they may think the Tribulus was indeed Tongkat.
Those who have tried both may be able to tell the difference as the taste and smell is different, although not vastly, but people often do not open the capsules to find out and the incredible bitterness of both plants can mask the taste anyway.
Only buy standardized extracts!
To find out what a standardized extract is, read the Tongkat Facts page HERE.
If the extract you are purchasing is standardized to an active constituent that is only found in that plant you are purchasing, such as eurycomanone in the case of Tongkat, or has been tested after extraction to ensure it contains it, then the chances are it is genuine.
2.4% Eurycomanone is ideal for Tongkat Ali, since there are over 90 active constituents within the plant and going any higher would require the percentage of these to be lowered more than is needed and remove some of the plants efficacy.
Beware of brands that claim high percentages such as 10%+ at a low price, since if they really did contain that much they would be considerably more expensive. These sellers I believe buy their extracts from suspicious China based manufacturers which can be found on sites like alibaba offering for example 10% eurycomanone extracts for just $300 a kilo, so they take advantage of that knowing a small fine is all they will receive if caught and they can just blame the manufacturer and act like they didn't know. The FDA never test dietary supplements unless safety issues arise either, as detailed HERE, so the chances of being caught are almost zero and the profits far outweigh the punishment.
In the case of Tongkat Ali, make sure the extract is incredibly bitter, because real Tongkat that is effective and contains eurycomanone and other quassinoids will be incredibly bitter. Just one 400mg capsule can make a liter of water taste so bad you may want to throw up! Quassinoids are very bitter as discussed HERE, possibly one of the most bitter substances I have ever tasted, you simply can't disguise the taste. Of course other herbs such as Tribulus are also very bitter, so being bitter alone does not guarantee it is real, but not being bitter does mean it's fake.
FDA and other health organization registration numbers are NOT proof a product is real.
The most common tactic used by a seller of a fake product is to show you an FDA registration number or The Health Ministry of Malaysia registration number or similar, or to display them in a prominent place on their site as if they actually mean something. Neither is recognized by the actual FDA or Malaysian Health Ministry as proof of a genuine product.
The FDA does NOT test any herbal product before it goes to market or after, unless someone is harmed by the product or reports an adverse side effect (by which time it is to late).
The FDA will routinely inspect food and herbal facility's, but they will only make sure the facility is up to hygiene and safety standards and that accurate records, batch numbers, etc are kept, things like that, they will not test the actual supplements being produced to see if they are real without good reason, such as people reporting strange or adverse side effects.
See the below links for evidence of this...
Anybody anywhere in the world can obtain an FDA reg number for free HERE.
Numbers are issued by a computer automatically and not after any kind of inspection is done.
COA stands for "Certificate Of Analysis" NOT "Certificate Of Authenticity".
A COA will show the results for whatever the substance submitted was tested for, e.g. Salmonella, Heavy metals, etc. It does not prove a product is "Authentic". Send a similar looking herb for analysis and write Tongkat Ali on the package, and the COA will come back with Tongkat Ali printed on it. The lab is testing for harmful substances, that is all.
An HPLC test or a similar type of test is the only sure way to know for sure if a product is real and potent or just fake/weak, but most COA's do not contain any HPLC information as they only have the bare minimum of legal tests carried out.
Avoid liquid extract as it's mostly just water or ethanol etc.
Liquid extracts are weaker than a true herbal extract in the case of Tongkat Ali and most other herbs, and this is why...
To remove the active ingredients from the TKA plants root a liquid must be used, e.g. water or alcohol. Traditional methods involve soaking the roots in this liquid for hours and then repeatedly boiling it. This releases the extract from the roots into the liquid.
Once this is done the roots are removed from the liquid which is then evaporated, which removes the ineffective liquid and also other pointless constituents such as cellulose etc, and a concentrated extract is all that remains in the form of crystal-dry flakes. These flakes are then milled, spray dried or freeze-dried into a pure fine powder which is basically a very concentrated extract.
Liquid extracts are just overpriced extracts which still contain the water or alcohol liquid that hasn't been evaporated, or more likely one or two capsules worth of extract have been dissolved in to a small glass tincture, so that it can be sold as a liquid extract by dishonest sellers looking to make absolutely massive profits from buyers who think liquid extract is better because they have never properly researched what they are buying. It only takes one or two capsules of real Tongkat Ali to turn a tincture full of water the color of the extract, and it will taste very bitter, so do not be fooled by sellers claiming their liquid extract is good just because it is bitter either.
Whilst it may be true that liquid extracts are often better than a herbal powder (which is just a herb that has been dried and pulverized into powder) they are NOT better than a powdered EXTRACT. Powdered herbs and powdered extracts are entirely different things.
The truth about Tongkat Ali 1:200 extract ratios.
Extract ratios mean very little at all in the case of Tongkat Ali and many other herbs, they are not a gage of potency despite popular belief. 1:200 supposedly means a whopping 200 kilos of extract is used to product just 1 Kilo, and the rest is wasted. Given the fact that Tongkat is a very rare tree that takes years to harvest and there is no way of testing or confirming an extracts ratio without watching it being made, I find it hard to believe people would do this and then use it in a cheap supplement.
The manufacturer that claims to have invented the 1:200 extract and was the first to ever market it, Sumatra Pasak Bumi, who for a long time supplied most companies with their 1:200 extract until they were revealed as being one of the dishonest suppliers in the Tongkat industry, say it is made by using higher temps and for longer periods of time than a normal extract, which removes a lot of constituents in the plant, leaving behind only the most heat resistant, which apparently are more effective.
These more heat resistant constituents, according to SPB, are less likley to cause stomach related side effects when taken in large quantities as they are easier to digest, allowing people who wish to consume large amounts, such as athletes, to do so.
They didn't say it was better or stronger than a normal extract, they just let people presume it was based on the higher number. They didn't explain which constituents were removed and which were left over either. Then their re-sellers started marketing it as if it were better, causing other manufacturers to start claiming 1:200 on the label just to compete with SPB, despite it being just a standard extract, because everyone was asking for 1:200.
Here at poweroftheherb we didn't sell 1:200 extract to begin with and sold 1:50 instead, and even explained on site why lower extracts were better as they were full spectrum and contained more active constituents, but people wanted 1:200 anyway, so it was stocked due to demand despite me warning people against it.
Eventually most people bought 1:200 and moved away from lower ratio extracts. After this we switched from using SPB directly to World A.B.S, who sold SPB's 1:200 extract under their own brand name, simply because it was easier in terms of logisitics, as they did all the importing and shipping for us.
Around a year later the quality of SPB went downhill and batches became inconsistent. Some batches were almost pitch black, like charcoal, and tasted more of ash than anything else. SPB didn't do much to rectify this and tried to blame it on their re-sellers whenever anyone mentioned it, despite many of the affected re-sellers buying it directly from SPB in sealed bottles and never opening them. This caused World A.B.S along with most of SPB's re-sellers at the time, to find different suppliers as they simply could no longer be trusted.
This review, which can still be found on amazon, is a prime example of what was going on...
World A.B.S moved to a European based supplier that was able to standardize the extract and use more modern and efficient techniques, and it's been this way ever since! The extract sold now is vastly superior to whatever it was SPB where supplying in the end. Others are now slowly following suit.
One award wining and seemingly respected Chinese company, "Naturalin Bio" actually admitted that they have to lie about their extract ratios because if they did not, nobody would buy from them!
The COA for their extract stated 1:200, but surprisingly they told me it was actually just 1:35 when I asked why all of their extracts were seemingly exactly the same despite claiming different ratios. I also suspected it was just Tribulus or at least cut with it, as that is exactly what it tasted like to me.
Screen-shot of the email below...
I can happily forward the email and the full details, i.p address, etc, to anyone that wants it as I do realize some people may think the screen-shot is fake.
My personal opinion now is that 1:200 extract does not and never has existed and it was all just bizzare marketing dreamt up by SPB that got out of hand and is still causing confusion today. If it's cheap stay away from it. If it's expensive still stay away from it as it can't be verified and has no benefits over a standardised extract.
Sumatra Pasak Bumi's false comments about standardization.
Nowadays, in a seemingly desperate attempt to regain customers, SPB are making bizzare claims about standardization, something the herbal industry has used for many years now, saying it's basically a scam and doesn't exist...
The fact that standardization is a well known, common and accepted method worldwide of ensuring herbs are real and potent and is used in many many herbal products, seems to have eluded them, and their complete refusal to catch up to the modern-day world and better themselves and their product is rather sad, since they have access to an abundance of the plant on their doorstep.
On their website, they say that to make an extract standardized to a percentage of eurycomanone you would need to produce eurycomaonone on an industrial scale and it would cost thousands, because if you had, for example, Tongkat with only 1% eurycomanone, you would need to add another 1% to it if you wanted to make it 2%.
THIS IS NOT TRUE AT ALL!
If I have 3 red balls, and 4 blue balls, and I want to make it 50% red and 50% blue, I do NOT need to add another red ball, I simply have to take a blue ball away! And this is how it works, if your extract has 1% eurycomanone and you want to make it 2% you simply remove a very small percentage of other constituents, of which there are many, until it reaches 2% eurycomanone. This is a very common method of standardizing a product, and in my opinion SPB know this and are trying to miss-lead people.
SPB themselves claim that to make their claimed 1:200 extract they remove certain active constituents to make it easier to digest than a 1:50 extract, hence why in their case it apparently takes 4x the amount of raw extract to produce compared to 1:50. Standardization during the manufacturing phase works with the same principle, some things are removed if needed (but not completely) to increase the percentage of others. No manufacturing eurycomanone on an industrial scale or adding it is ever needed!
Below is a screen capture of the page on their site that contains their false comments...
At the end of the above screen-shot SPB go as far as claiming other companies could just sell flour or sawdust, and nobody can check this. If it was flour or sawdust I think it would be very obvious as it would not be incredibly bitter like it should be, or be effective at all, and would taste exactly like flour or sawdust, so everybody could check this!
Another false statement that they have now added to a few sites they own, seemingly to try and discredit standardization further, is that it doesn't even exist for natural products????...
The main reason standardisation exists at all is so that that companies who run tests such as double-blind placebo tests on both natural herbal products and meds can ensure each batch is the same, with the same percentage of constituents and ingredients they are testing, so the results are accurate and each person takes exactly the same amount of everything.
Some links to prove this below...
Yet more nonsense from SPB is that HPLC testing itself is rare and expensive and takes a long time to achieve. This is not the case, it is incredibly cheap and very fast in this day and age, it can be done in just a few days from request and thousands of companies exist globally that can do it, not just a handful at high prices like they make out.
www.Chromadex.com¬†for example has low prices and a 5 day turn around, and a few seconds of googling will show you many many more companies worldwide.
Thanks for reading!
I hope all of the above has been useful and allows you to make a more informed purchase in the future, whether that be from here or elsewhere.