Ashwagandha vs Tongkat Ali | A Complete 2024 Breakdown

Ashwagandha vs Tongkat Ali | A Complete 2024 Breakdown

Increasingly, there is a belief that herbal products can help prevent or treat various diseases and support fitness or other health goals. Among these herbal products are ashwagandha and tongkat ali.

However, you might wonder what the evidence says about the purported claims of these herbs and whether one is better.

This article provides a complete analysis of ashwagandha vs. tongkat ali, explaining how they compare and which you should choose based on your health or fitness goals.

Overview of Ashwagandha


Ashwagandha has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine — a traditional Indian medicine system — where its roots have been used as aphrodisiac, diuretic, tonic, and stimulant (1),

Today, ashwagandha remains popular for its purported adaptogenic and anti-anxiety effects. As an adaptogen, ashwagandha is believed to increase the body's resilience to stress and fatigue. Through these effects, ashwagandha supplementation may help reduce stress, enhance cognitive function, and enhance athletic performance.

Additionally, there is evidence to suggest that ashwagandha supplementation may improve sleep quality, increase testosterone levels, and enhance fertility (1).

Among the various benefits associated with ashwagandha supplementation, the current evidence is strongest for its anxiety- and stress-relieving effects. Through these effects, the herb can also improve sleep quality.

Much of the benefits associated with ashwagandha relate to its rich content of biologically active compounds, with withanolides and alkaloids like somniferin being the most important (1).

Overview of Tongkat Ali

Tongkat ali, or longjack, is one of the most well-known herbal folk medicines in Southeast Asia where water decoctions of its roots have been used to improve sexual health, energy, strength, and manage various conditions like diabetes, cancer, and anxiety (2).

As a dietary supplement, taking tongkat ali is purported to improve various aspects of men's health by boosting testosterone and alleviating erectile dysfunction. Like ashwagandha, tongkat ali supplementation may also offer adaptogenic effects by combating stress and fatigue. For this reason, tongkat ali is also known in Malaysia as Malaysian ginseng.

Additionally, tongkat ali supplementation may increase muscle strength and, because of its adaptogenic properties, positively influence cortisol levels and improve mood.

Among the various biologically active compounds present in tongkat ali's roots, a class of compounds called quassinoids is believed to be responsible for most of the herb's potential health benefits (2).

Comparative Analysis

While some of their potential health benefits overlap, ashwagandha and tongkat ali are generally supplemented for different reasons. As such, there are no studies to date that directly compare the two herbs for the reasons they are typically supplemented.

Therefore, it's best to choose one based on your health or fitness goal. Here's an overview of why you might want to choose ashwagandha over tongkat ali and vice versa based on your goals.

Who Should Choose Ashwagandha?

If managing stress and anxiety and improving sleep quality is most important to you, ashwagandha is the best choice.

For example, a review of 12 studies comprised of over 1,000 participants found that ashwagandha supplementation significantly reduced anxiety and stress levels compared with placebo when supplemented between 300 and 600 mg per day (3).

Another review, this time of five trials containing 400 participants, found a small but significant beneficial effect on sleep with a dose of 600 mg per day or higher for at least eight weeks. This effect was more prominent in those diagnosed with insomnia (4).

Owing to its adaptogenic effects, ashwagandha has also been shown to improve various measures of strength and power, cardiorespiratory fitness, and fatigue and recovery. These effects were demonstrated with lower doses (around 300 mg) in sedentary people or those with little training experience, and with 600 to 1,000 mg daily in trained people and athletes (5).

Most studies demonstrating these benefits of ashwagandha used an extract standardized for its withanolides content, such as KSM-66.

Who Should Choose Tongkat Ali?

If boosting testosterone production and enhancing erectile function is on your list of priorities, tongkat ali is the better choice.

In support is a review of five trials that demonstrated a significant improvement in total testosterone levels in men following supplementation with 100 to 600 mg of tongkat ali daily for as few as three days and up to six months. While the increase in testosterone was observed in both healthy men and men with low testosterone, those with low levels demonstrated the greatest increase following supplementation (6).

A different review assessing the effects of tongkat ali supplementation on erectile function found significant improvements when supplemented at a dose of 200-300 mg for 12 weeks but only in men with self-reported mild to moderate erectile dysfunction (7).

Additionally, while studies in humans are necessary before any conclusions can be made, animal and test tube studies suggest that tongkat ali can improve various parameters of sperm health, including count, motility, and vitality while also promoting male sexual performance (8, 9).

Nearly all trials assessing tongkat ali's effects on sexual and male hormone health have used a standardized extract called Physta (also known as LJ100).

Can You Combine Ashwagandha and Tongkat Ali?

Oftentimes, targeted supplementation is a better — and more cost-effective — approach to managing a certain health condition or for supporting a health or fitness goal as it ensures you get more of what you need and nothing that you don't or might not benefit from.

Doing so also makes it easier to determine whether that specific supplement is effective since supplementing with multiple herbs makes it more difficult to discern which ingredient is responsible for the effects — or lack thereof — you're after.

The same is true for combining ashwagandha and tongkat ali — it's probably best to choose the one with the most evidence backing its use for your chosen goal or problem.

That's not to say you can't combine the two herbs as doing so may be complementary, but understand that because no study has directly compared the two herbs or examined their concurrent use, the efficacy along with safety remains unknown.

Concerning safety, however, tongkat ali and ashwagandha are generally well-tolerated and scientific evidence suggests that adverse reactions occur infrequently, and when they do, they tend to be minimal and digestive in nature.

But because these herbs haven't been widely studied in pregnant or breastfeeding women or people with chronic health conditions like heart disease or diabetes, their use in these populations is generally discouraged without consultation from a medical provider.


Ashwagandha and tongkat ali are two popular herbal supplements promoted for various health benefits and fitness goals.

Though many of their benefits are related to enhancing the body's resilience to stress and fatigue and on male hormone health, each is generally supplemented for specific reasons individually rather than together.

You may consider choosing ashwagandha if your goal is to manage anxiety and its detrimental effects on sleep and other aspects of life. The optimal dose for these goals appears to be around 600 mg daily of a standardized extract for at least eight weeks.

Conversely, if increasing testosterone production or erectile function are priorities, taking 200-600 mg of a standardized tongkat ali extract for at least six weeks is a better choice. But, bear in mind that tongkat ali may have limited effects in men with normal testosterone levels or with mild erectile dysfunction.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It OK to Take Tongkat Ali and Ashwagandha Together?

It's usually best to take specific supplements to address specific health conditions or goals, and the same is true for tongkat ali and ashwagandha. There are no data to date that have examined the efficacy or safety of both herbs together, but it's possible that you can do so safely based on the current data of their use individually.

Does Tongkat Ali Increase Cortisol Levels?

Tongkat ali is unlikely to increase cortisol levels but may instead have the opposite effect due to its adaptogenic properties (10).

Does Ashwagandha Mess with Hormones?

Some research suggests that ashwagandha can influence the endocrine system, which influences reproductive health, stress responses, and mood.

Is Ashwagandha or Tongkat Ali Hard on the Liver?

Both ashwagandha and tongkat ali appear to be safe for the liver and kidneys. There have been case reports suggesting liver toxicity with ashwagandha, but this toxicity is likely related to contaminants or other adulterants present in the supplement rather than ashwagandha itself.

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