Read an Excerpt
Nature's Proven Sex Boosters for Men and Women
By Chris Kilham
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2004 Chris Kilham
All rights reserved.
THE OLDEST FOREST
In densely shaded greenery on a steep hill in the oldest rain forest in the world, I stood soaking wet from a mad downpour. Before me, three Orang Asli — Malaysia's aboriginal people — chopped a mature Tongkat Ali root, one of the most powerful aphrodisiac plants on earth, out of dense soil on a dangerous slope. I kept a watchful eye for deadly snakes: red-headed kraits and king cobras in particular. That morning, one of our party had spotted two adult tigers crossing a road. Researching sex-enhancing plants often puts me in remote places with indigenous people who know the harvesting, preparation, and uses of the native botanical pharmacopoeia. In this instance, the trail led me to Malaysia to research Tongkat Ali.
Tongkat Ali is a popular folk name for Eurycoma longifolia, a medium-size slender tree reaching ten meters in height. The name Tongkat Ali means "Ali's walking stick." Another folk name for the plant is Longjack. By any moniker, Tongkat Ali is native to Malaysia, lower Burma, Thailand, and Indonesia. The plant thrives in shade and flourishes under the canopy of the rain forest. The root is employed as a traditional remedy for the treatment of malaria, high blood pressure, fevers, fatigue, loss of sexual desire, and impotence. Tongkat Ali enjoys a long history of traditional use and a growing body of serious science corroborating its effectiveness. The plant is a natural wonder. In Malaysia, Tongkat Ali is a national treasure and the object of a sexual potency craze. It is also an ingredient found in more than three hundred products, from root chips to herbal syrups, capsules, and popular soft drinks. Southeast Asian men and women enjoy Tongkat Ali in a plethora of forms, for its sex-enhancing properties.
Nobody knows how long Tongkat Ali has been employed for medicinal purposes, but its documented use dates back to the 1700s. My journey to the Malaysian peninsula was inspired by Annie Eng, who first briefed me about the plant at a natural products convention a few years ago. Annie grew up in Penang state in Malaysia, and eventually moved to Chicago to study business and finance. She worked as a successful stock broker for years, but Malaysia's most famous plant, Tongkat Ali, stuck in her mind. She made connections with scientists and processors in Malaysia, started a company called Herbal Powers, and began to sell a concentrated extract of Tongkat Ali called LJ100 in the U.S. market. And she persistently chased down anybody who she sensed might advance her cause.
Annie gave me samples of Tongkat Ali to try. She called. She sent e-mails. She mailed me studies. Over time, I paid increasingly close attention, gave keen consideration to what she had sent me, and realized that she was onto something very big. After more than a year and a half of conversations, after swallowing innumerable samples, and reading studies and any available literature on Tongkat Ali, I found myself on a jet with Annie Eng, heading toward the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.
With the Original People
In Malaysia we traveled with an entourage of at least ten, including scientific and business contacts associated with Annie, and a television production crew called Taiping Broadcasting. We had arranged to shoot the entire research trip as a documentary to air on Malaysian television. I was the on-air protagonist, a medicine hunter on the trail of one of nature's most potent sex-enhancing herbs. Our group moved about in a Land Cruiser, a pickup truck and van combined, making our way from city to country. We packed a small mountain of photographic, video and sound equipment, drinking water, clothing, and personal effects.
The trail led us up north in Perak state near the town of Gerik to an Orang Asli village. The original inhabitants of peninsular Malaysia, today about 80,000 Orang Asli remain scattered throughout the country. Though many have moved to cities and towns, have married non-aboriginals, and have been assimilated into modern culture, a number of Orang Asli choose to live in settlements and villages in the forest, leading simpler lives absent of most modern amenities. The Orang Asli are intimately familiar with the Malaysian rain forest. They know the plants, the animals, the weather, and the various skills required to survive and thrive in the dense jungle. Thanks to arrangements made by Malaysian medicinal plant expert Dr. Azrae Idris, we were scheduled to meet with a group of Orang Alsi who had agreed to guide us into the forest, to find a mature Tongkat Ali tree, and to harvest the root. Our aim was to see and film the traditional way that Tongkat Ali is harvested in the wild.
Once our convoy arrived at the village, we met the village head man, Haliban. At Haliban's direction we would travel into the forest to harvest Tongkat Ali. One of our crew, Nazar, dispensed candy to a giggling and excited throng of Orang Asli children. We spent an hour or so videotaping and shooting photographs of the village people and our crew. Our visit was a big event for them, with our cameras and microphones and gear, and meeting the Orang Asli people were an equally big event for us. They were our much-needed guides and allies in unfamiliar terrain. After a time, Haliban gave an approving nod, then along with five other native men led us into the woods.
Hiking into the oldest rain forest in the world proved breathtakingly beautiful, if challenging. A roasting equatorial sun kept the temperature hovering in the mid 30s C (high 90s F). Humidity hung in the air like a wet towel at about 98 percent, so we were drenched with streaming sweat from the very onset of our hike. As we moved into the steep hills of the forest with the Orang Asli in the lead, tripper vines by the hundreds wrapped around our ankles and impeded our progress. We remained vigilant for poisonous snakes, though they'd be almost impossible to spot in the dense undergrowth. The Malaysian rain forest is home to over twenty species of highly poisonous snakes, including a few that are are deadly and aggressive, like the Russell's viper and the king cobra. We also kept a sharp lookout for toxic giant centipedes, fist-size black scorpions, fire ants, and sharp bamboo. What looked like useful handholds often bore sharp spines and spikes. Many vines and small trees were attached to nothing, so we had to test each one before hanging on and hoisting ourselves up slippery inclines. The forest is home to wild elephants, tigers, and the occasional black leopard, but we were not fortunate enough to catch even a glimpse of those beautiful and elusive animals.
Despite the slow and arduous hike, the rain forest proved to be a spectacle of natural beauty, featuring the greatest diversity of plant life of any forest on earth. The smells were rich: the greenery of the forest, along with decomposing plant material on the forest floor, created complex aromas, ranging from floral to fecal. As we walked along we encountered thousands of dragonflies and heard the calls of many birds. Along the way we stopped to admire giant wild ginger and exotic blossoms. We heard monkeys making a cacophonous racket faraway.
After a full morning of hiking we came upon a small Tongkat Ali tree. Dr. Azrae, who knows a great deal about the growth of Tongkat Ali, figured that the little tree was about three years old, and therefore unsuitable for our purposes. A Tongkat Ali tree needs to be at least five years old before it is ready for harvesting, so we moved on. Soon after, Dr. Azrae spotted, on a very steep hillside, a Tongkat Ali tree with a trunk about five inches in diameter, which he estimated to be at least fifteen years old. It was a perfect specimen to harvest and would yield a root of at least ten kilos in weight. Our practical problem would be to arrange ourselves and the video camera to avoid tumbling down the sharp and dangerous incline into a ravine of snakes, thorns, and razor bamboo.
To clear some of the foliage from above the Tongkat Ali tree, an Orang Asli named Din removed his sneakers and scampered up the slender trunk as easily as if it were a flight of stairs. He climbed to a height of about twenty feet, balancing himself with one foot on the Tongkat Ali tree and the other on another tree. With both trees swaying back and forth, he worked with a machete, hacking away at overhead branches as easily as if he were working on flat, level ground. For most modern people, climbing a tree in such a manner would be completely out of the question but to some of the Orang Asli, climbing trees with such agility is a natural ability acquired and mastered early in life. Many indigenous native people possess extraordinary natural skills and can survive and thrive in environments in which more modernized people would perish.
Before we could get set up, we heard the sound of rain moving toward us very quickly. The shower hit overhead, and the downpour became intense. Soon we were soaked through our underwear and socks. The rain felt marvelously refreshing, and I was disappointed when it stopped only ten minutes after it began.
Once the branches overhead were cleared, three of the Orang Asli began harvesting the Tongkat Ali root. Using only a small pick and a chopping blade, the men dug away soil from around the base of the Tongkat Ali tree. The root was as big around as a man's leg and about four feet long. This made for hard labor in the sweltering forest. The Orang Asli typically earn about $4 Ringhitt (3.8 RM equals about a $1.50 U.S.) per kilo of root for their labor. And keep in mind, they have to hike out of the forest, and carry the freshly harvested Tongkat Ali root with them. And yet, the activity is profitable for them, and they harvest Tongkat Ali to garner cash for clothing and other goods.
The difficulty of harvesting Tongkat Ali in the wild is one very good reason to cultivate the trees in plantations, but there's a more important reason to cultivate Tongkat Ali. As this traditional plant remedy becomes more popular, supplies of Tongkat Ali in the wild will inevitably decrease. Over time, this tree could become endangered. To preserve the natural environment and to protect remaining wild specimens of Tongkat Ali, Malaysia will need to establish large plantations of this tree. At present, the country's largest oil palm producer, Golden Hope, is establishing a ten thousand acre plantation of Tongkat Ali. Smaller plantations are also in process of starting up, but many more will be needed. In order to ensure a consistent supply of Tongkat Ali for the future, hundreds of thousands of acres will need to be dedicated to its cultivation. The Malaysian government is enthusiastic about the future of Tongkat Ali and is already providing economic support for its development.
The Testosterone Builder
Tongkat Ali is more than just a pretty name. It is a scientifically studied plant whose powers hold up brilliantly under close scrutiny. The root contains a plethora of beneficial compounds, including potent protective antioxidants that inhibit cellular aging. Other phytochemicals in Tongkat Ali are antiviral, antimalarial, and anticarcinogenic. Still others combat high blood pressure and quell dysentery. Compound called quassinoids in the root prove twice as potent as aspirin against fevers. The root is a natural medicine chest, suitable for broad use. A scientific collaboration between Malaysian researchers and drug chemists in the United States has identified significant anticancer activity in Tongkat Ali, presumably due to certain quassinoids and alkaloids. The root's powerful antiviral compounds are the subjects of ongoing close investigation and drug development as well.
Even with its other medical applications, what excites most people about Tongkat Ali is that the root significantly boosts sex drive and function in men and women, by increasing testosterone. Agents identified as glycoproteins are believed to be the sex-promoting ingredients in the plant. This discovery, the result of years of painstaking research, is the work of Dr. Johari Saad, who is known as the "King of Tongkat Ali." A brilliant scientist, inventor, engineer, and former professor at the University of Malaysia, Dr. Johari, or Joe, as he is called, has conducted the definitive animal research on Tongkat Ali and developed a novel and proprietary method of extracting the beneficial compounds from the root. Joe and I spent many long hours discussing Tongkat Ali and other Malaysian medicinal plants as our convoy made its way on the medicine trail.
"In our studies, we looked at what was happening with animals when we gave them a water soluble extract of Tongkat Ali," Joe explained to me. "It basically came down to four categories: increased testosterone; increased energy; inhibition of SHBG, which is sex hormone binding globulin; and increased muscle mass." His four discoveries are highly significant and have greatly advanced knowledge of the biological effects of this extraordinary plant.
When given Tongkat Ali extract, animals copulate three to four times more frequently than normal. This is due, as it turns out, to a significant increase in testosterone. In fact, testosterone levels in animals given Tongkat Ali increase an unprecedented three to four times on average. This is an astounding increase in the sex hormone most closely associated with libido. Though animal results do not always guarantee identical activity in people, I later discovered that the same testosterone-boosting effect does occur in human studies. In laboratory tests on human testicular tissue, Tongkat Ali extract increased the formation of testosterone fourfold.
Increasing testosterone is the key factor in increasing sex drive. Testosterone is the most important of the male sex hormones, known as androgens, produced in the gonads. Testosterone plays a key role in the development and maturity of male sex organs. The hormone promotes secondary sex characteristics including the appearance of facial hair, enlargement of the larynx (producing a deeper voice), sexual desire, and sexual behavior. Testosterone also stimulates metabolism, promotes lypolisis (burning of fat), increases the formation of red blood cells, and accelerates muscle growth. But testosterone is not just a sex booster for men. Women also produce testosterone, about 5 to 10 percent the amount produced in men. In women, this vital hormone also stimulates sex drive.
There is a problem relative to testosterone, and Tongkat Ali offers a solution. From age thirty or so, blood levels of the hormone decline at a rate of about 2 percent per year. By age forty-five, a man may have only 60 percent of the testosterone he had at age twenty-five. By age fifty, the level is around 55 percent. The level will vary from one person to another. A man who exercises is likely to keep a somewhat higher level of testosterone. Those who smoke or drink heavily will lose more of this hormone more quickly. As testosterone decreases in the body, muscle tone, energy, and sex drive all begin to decline. The same decline in testosterone occurs in women, though the amounts of testosterone involved are lower than in men. In both sexes, sex drive, sexual function, rate of fat metabolism, and energy decline into middle age.
What if you could boost your testosterone levels to more youthful levels? With Tongkat Ali extract you can. And that makes Tongkat Ali a sexual fountain of youth. Dr. Johari also found that Tongkat Ali extract inhibits sex hormone binding globulin. By inhibiting this agent, more free testosterone remains in the blood. This additional testosterone slows the aging process, improving energy and sexual function, helping to reduce body fat, and reducing risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease. Consuming a properly made extract of the plant increases testosterone significantly in both animals and humans.
What About Women?
If you stick with me through this book, you will learn a lot about natural botanical aphrodisiacs. There are fewer sexual studies with women than with men. The reason for this is a systemic bias that runs across cultures and continents. I once read that if men menstruated, there would be a U.S. Department of Dysmenorrhea. Men tend to run countries, governments, and economies, they care a great deal more about male sexual issues and needs than those of women. A number of studies on men show that various hot plants work to build libido and to improve sexual function. But comparable studies on women do not exist. With Tongkat Ali, for example, clinical studies of men demonstrates what this plant does and why. To make the same case for women, we must examine two factors: mechanism of action and long-term cultural use.
In terms of mechanism of action, Tongkat Ali works in the body as a testosterone builder. In women as in men, testosterone is extremely important to sexual function and pleasure. This powerful hormone is the key to a proactive sex drive in women. Testosterone is not only a trigger of women's libido, it is also essential to pleasure. Testosterone produces erotic sensitivity of the clitoris, breasts, and nipples. Testosterone flips the pleasure switches on women's erogenous zones. Testosterone also acts in women as an antidepressant and confidence-boosting agent. Though women produce far less testosterone than men, it is the active agent for their sex drive. Testosterone levels decline in women after age thirty as they do in men, which is why Tongkat Ali can provide a major boost to a woman's sexual desire and pleasure.
Excerpted from Hot Plants by Chris Kilham. Copyright © 2004 Chris Kilham. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.