Cistanche Vs Tongkat Ali: The Comprehensive Comparison

Tongkat Ali is renowned for its ability to enhance male sexual desire and address various health conditions. Meanwhile, Cistanche, although less familiar, also boasts numerous benefits. While both herbs share similar healing properties, they differ in their unique advantages. Join us as we delve into the world of Cistanche vs Tongkat Ali in this enlightening article.


Cistanche vs Tongkat Ali - Key Differences

The Origin of Cistanche Tubulosa and Tongkat Ali

Tongkat Ali, native to Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia, has gradually gained popularity worldwide as a prominent herbal medicine. It has mainly gained recognition in European and American countries.

Cistanche, a resilient shrub-like plant, is indigenous to Japan, Indonesia, China, and Malaysia. Its unique appearance resembles a blend of pine and pineapple trees originating from the desert regions of Mongolia and northern China.

The Population and Scientific Studies

Tongkat Ali, or Eurycoma Longifolia Jack, has garnered significant attention from researchers due to its potential benefits. Numerous studies have provided evidence of its effectiveness.

Tongkat ali is beneficial for sexual health and appears to improve erectile dysfunction and fertility. Besides, this plant also has the effect of fighting stress, anxiety, and inflammation. [1]

In contrast, Cistanche needs more research and attention.

Traditional Use

For centuries, Tongkat Ali has been utilized in traditional medicine to address male reproductive health concerns, boost energy levels, and reduce stress.

Similarly, in Chinese medicine, Cistanche has a rich history of use in improving sexual health, supporting kidney and liver function, and enhancing overall energy levels.

both tongkat ali and cistanche help to reduce stress

The Active Compounds

Tongkat Ali contains several critical bioactive compounds, including quassinoids, canthin-6-one alkaloids, β-carboline alkaloids, and bioactive steroids. [2]

Among these, the quassinoid compounds are a significant part of the Eurycoma longifolia root. These compounds contribute to various health benefits of Tongkat Ali, such as increased energy, improved sexual performance, and overall vitality.

Recent scientific research has revealed that Cistanche deserticola contains various chemical constituents, including phenylethanoid glycosides, iridoid glycosides, lignans, polysaccharides, amino acids, and volatile compounds. [3]

These compounds are recognized for their remarkable antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, contributing to the potential health benefits associated with Cistanche.

Read more: Is Combining DHEA And Tongkat Ali Together A Good Idea?

The Comparison Between Cistanche and Tongkat Ali Benefits

Improved Athletic Performance and Muscle Development

A study conducted in 2015 on 40 men revealed that Tongkat Ali can enhance circuit training performance by improving muscle strength and overall power output. The participants consumed 400mg of Tongkat Ali daily for 8 weeks, making notable improvements. [4]

Tongkat Ali has been scientifically proven to boost athletic performance thanks to its powerful adaptogenic and anabolic properties.

These properties aid in Tongkat Ali's testosterone levels effects and restore energy to optimal levels during physical activity. [5]

Moreover, research has indicated that consuming Cistanche Deserticola can help reduce muscle damage, delay lactic acid buildup, and improve energy levels. The extract of Cistanche Deserticola also promotes the storage of glycogen in the muscles after exercise.

Glycogen is the stored form of glucose and is a vital energy source for our cells. Increasing glycogen levels in the muscles facilitates faster recovery and reduces post-workout soreness. [6]

Both Cistanche tubulosa and Tongkat Ali provide valuable support and contribute significantly to improving overall health and well-being.

Tongkat Ali and Cistanche improve athletic performance

Optimized Adrenal Function and Effective Stress Control

Cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, plays a crucial role in various bodily functions such as stress control, metabolism, immune response, blood pressure regulation, and the body's fight-or-flight response.

However, chronically elevated cortisol levels due to prolonged stress can harm human health.

Tongkat Ali supplementation demonstrated a significant 11% reduction in cortisol levels in a study involving subjects with everyday stress levels. This suggests that Tongkat Ali supplementation may have potential applications in regulating cortisol levels.

This finding holds promise for managing stress-related health concerns. [7]

By optimizing cortisol levels, we can positively impact our overall well-being and support the body's natural balance.

According to a previous report, 48 weeks of Cistanche extract supplementation at 300 mg/day improved cognitive function in subjects with moderate Alzheimer's disease (16).

These data suggest a hypothesis: combining Cistanche (300 mg) and ginkgo (120 mg) may alleviate mental fatigue in subjects. Moreover, higher doses (a 50% increase) could further enhance the beneficial effects. [8]

cognitive function benefits of cistanche and tongkat ai

Scientific research has demonstrated that Tongkat Ali supplementation in human trials has exhibited promising outcomes in reducing fatigue, enhancing energy levels, and alleviating stress.

Tongkat Ali is also utilized to address issues such as lethargy, low libido, depression, and fatigue.

Moreover, it shows significant potential in restoring hormonal balance, specifically in cortisol and testosterone levels, and enhancing mood states in response to modern stressors like aging, dietary factors, and exercise stress. [9]

A 2017 study investigated the antidepressant effects of herbal decoctions derived from Cistanche Deserticola Y.C.Ma and Cistanche.

The research revealed that the herbal Cistanche decoction enhanced nervous excitability while lowering serum corticosterone (CORT) levels.

These findings suggest that the rats experienced reduced stress levels and imply that Cistanche herb possesses potential as a complementary and alternative therapy for depression. [10]

Also read: Shilajit Vs Tongkat Ali - Difference vs Surprised Combination

Side Effects Need To Be Aware

Both herbs may have possible adverse effects.

In human studies of Tongkat Ali, daily doses ranging from 200 to 600 mg have shown minimal side effects, primarily affecting the stomach.

These effects are generally mild and may include mild digestive symptoms and itching [11]. However, the occurrence of side effects is uncommon [12].

Regarding Cistanche, any potential clinical reactions are generally mild and may include symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and dizziness [13].

Additionally, there is a lack of research on the impact of Cistanche and Tongkat Ali on children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding women. As a result, the safety of this treatment for these specific groups remains uncertain.

side effects of tongkat ali and cistanche

Differences On Dosage

For most healthy adults, a daily dose of 200–400 mg of Tongkat Ali seems safe. [14]

As per the 2021 report by the Council on Nutrition, Novel Foods, and Food Allergens of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the consumption of high doses of Tongkat Ali (2,000 mg/kg body weight) may result in DNA damage to the tissues of the stomach and duodenum. [15]

Due to a lack of extensive clinical trials on Cistanche, determining the optimal dosage has proven challenging.

A study on animals discovered that administering 50 mg/kg of Cistanche yielded significant anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and cognitive protective effects in rats.

According to the conversion chart for dosage between animals and humans, this translates to a recommended daily dose of Cistanche ranging from 400mg to 800mg for most individuals.

These findings highlight the potential benefits of Cistanche and its potential application in promoting overall well-being. [16]

Cistanche Vs Tongkat Ali: Choosing The Right One

Both Cistanche and Tongkat Ali possess properties that promote human health. While Tongkat Ali is primarily recognized for its potential to increase testosterone levels, Cistanche is renowned for its cognitive-enhancing and adaptogenic effects.

Tongkat Ali may be the preferred choice when addressing hormonal imbalances due to its ability to regulate cortisol and testosterone levels.

On the other hand, Cistanche's remarkable anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties make it a suitable option for individuals seeking to enhance overall brain health.

Regarding safety, Tongkat Ali has undergone extensive human trials with few reported side effects. However, due to the limited research on Cistanche, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional before incorporating it into your daily routine.

Ultimately, the selection between Tongkat Ali and Cistanche will depend on the individual's specific health needs and preferences.

Can You Combine Cistanche and Tongkat Ali?

Indeed, Tongkat Ali and Cistanche can yield a potent blend. These remarkable herbs serve as testosterone boosters and can complement each other perfectly. When taken together, they have shown no negative interactions to date.

This herbal fusion holds immense potential in enhancing testosterone levels, increasing energy production, and promoting optimal mental well-being. It is a powerful synergy that can unlock numerous benefits for optimizing their health and vitality.


Cistanche and Tongkat Ali are two potent herbs that offer various health benefits. Tongkat Ali is known for its potential to address hormonal imbalances, while Cistanche may enhance brain health and cognitive function.

Nevertheless, it is essential to be aware of the possible side effects associated with these herbs. Adhering to the recommended dosage is crucial. Prioritizing consultation with a healthcare professional is always advised.

This ensures that you can fully harness the potential of these herbs and enhance your overall quality of life.


[1] Shaheed Ur Rehman, Kevin Kyungsik Choe, & Hye Hyun Yoo. (2016). Review on a Traditional Herbal Medicine, Eurycoma longifolia Jack (Tongkat Ali): Its Traditional Uses, Chemistry, Evidence-Based Pharmacology and Toxicology. Molecules, 21(3), 331–331.
[2] Lee, E. L., & Barnes, J. (2022). Tongkat Ali/Long Jack. Journal of Primary Health Care.
[3] Cheng, N., Wang, H., Huang, H., Rahman, F.-U., & Zhang, Y. (2023). Research progress on polysaccharide components of Cistanche deserticola as potential pharmaceutical agents. European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, 245, 114892–114892.
[4] Foong Kiew Ooi, Mohamed Husna Afifah, Chee Keong Chen, & Mohd Asnizam Asari. (2015, March 15). Combined effects of Eurycoma longifolia Jack supplementation and a circuit training programme on bone... ResearchGate; unknown.
[5] Henkel, R., Wang, R., Bassett, S., Chen, T., Liu, N., Zhu, Y., & Mohd. (2013). Tongkat Ali as a Potential Herbal Supplement for Physically Active Male and Female Seniors-A Pilot Study. Phytotherapy Research, 28(4), 544–550.
[6] Cai, R., Yang, M., Shi, Y., Chen, J., Li, Y., & Qi, Y. (2009). Antifatigue activity of phenylethanoid-rich extract from Cistanche deserticola. Phytotherapy Research, 24(2), 313–315.
[7] View of Effect of Eurycoma longifolia standardised aqueous root extract– Physta® on testosterone levels and quality of life in ageing male subjects: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled multicentre study | Food & Nutrition Research. (2023).
[8] Guo, Q., Zhou, Y., Wang, C.-J., Huang, Y.-M., Lee, Y.-T., Su, M.-H., & Lu, J. (2013). An Open-Label, Nonplacebo-Controlled Study on Cistanche tubulosa Glycoside Capsules (Memoregain®) for Treating Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease. American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Dementias®, 28(4), 363–370.
[9] Talbott, S., Talbott, J. A., George, A., & Pugh, M. (2013). Effect of Tongkat Ali on stress hormones and psychological mood state in moderately stressed subjects. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10(1).
[10] Wang, D., Wang, H., & Gu, L. (2017). The Antidepressant and Cognitive Improvement Activities of the Traditional Chinese HerbCistanche. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2017, 1–9.
[11] Leisegang, K., Finelli, R., Sikka, S. C., & Manesh. (2022). Eurycoma longifolia (Jack) Improves Serum Total Testosterone in Men: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials. Medicina-Lithuania, 58(8), 1047–1047.
[12] Surachai Kotirum, Ismail, R., & Nathorn Chaiyakunapruk. (2015). Efficacy of Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia) on erectile function improvement: Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 23(5), 693–698.
[13] Gu, C., Yang, X., & Huang, L. (2016). Cistanches Herba: A Neuropharmacology Review. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 7.
[14] Ismail, R., Mohd, W., George, A., Hussain, N., Kamal, M., & Liske, E. (2012). Randomized Clinical Trial on the Use of PHYSTA Freeze-Dried Water Extract ofEurycoma longifoliafor the Improvement of Quality of Life and Sexual Well-Being in Men. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012, 1–10.
[15] NULL AUTHOR_ID, Turck, D., Bohn, T., Castenmiller, J., Stefaan De Henauw, Karen Ildico Hirsch‐Ernst, Alexandre Maciuk, Mangelsdorf, I., McArdle, H. J., Androniki Naska, Peláez, C., Pentieva, K., Siani, A., Thiès, F., Tsabouri, S., Vinceti, M., Cubadda, F., Frenzel, T., Heinonen, M., & Miguel Prieto Maradona. (2021). Safety of Eurycoma longifolia (Tongkat Ali) root extract as a novel food pursuant to Regulation (EU) 2015/2283. EFSA Journal, 19(12).
[16] Nair, A. B., & Jacob, S. (2016). A simple practice guide for dose conversion between animals and human. Journal of Basic and Clinical Pharmacy, 7(2), 27–27.
This article synthesizes information from studies conducted by experts and researchers worldwide. The studies from the researchers below have contributed significantly to the article's content, aiming to provide reliable information to readers.
Shaheed Ur Rehman
Expert Shawn Talbott Nutrition Expert Shawn Talbott
Ralf Henkel
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Ralph S. Albert, with over 10 years of expertise in nutrition and research, now heads the Research division at Vinatura Supplements. His dedication and extensive knowledge ensure top-quality articles on nutrition and health, collaborating with a skilled team. He has successfully completed The VINATURA Expertise Research Training Program, underscoring his commitment to Vinatura's mission. Ralph has also published numerous articles and conducted valuable research in the field, making him a trusted resource for individuals on their wellness journey.

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