Both maca and Tongkat Ali have long been used as herbal supplements to enhance sexual strength, sexual desire and sexual performance.
But let’s make sure we get the right one for us.
In this article, I’m going to discuss 7 differences between maca and Tongkat Ali.
What I’ll be discussing
- Quick background on maca and Tongkat Ali
- Maca vs Tongkat Ali on Testosterone
- Maca vs Tongkat Ali on Cortisol
- Maca vs Tongkat Ali on Libido
- Maca vs Tongkat Ali on Erections
- Maca vs Tongkat Ali on Lean muscle mass
- Maca vs Tongkat Ali on Dopamine
- Maca vs Tongkat Ali on male Fertility
- Side effects
Quick background on maca and Tongkat Ali
Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is a Peruvian plant of the Brassicaceae family cultivated for more than 2000 years, which grows exclusively in the central Andes between 4000 and 4500 m altitude.
A few of Maca’s beneficial effects include:
- Improving sexual dysfunctions
- Protecting against osteoporosis
- Helping reduce benign prostatic hyperplasia
- Improving memory and learning
- Protecting skin against ultraviolet radiation
Traditionally, after being harvested, maca is dried naturally and can thus be stored for many years. The dried hypocotyls are hard as stone.
After being naturally dried, maca hypocotyls can be eaten. Before eating, the hypocotyls need to be boiled in water to obtain a soft product that can be consumed as juice, which is the most frequent form of use.
Maca root is cooked, baked, fermented as a drink and made into porridge.
In the last twenty years, maca was introduced onto the global market and demand has sky-rocketed. As a result, it’s now been grown in bulk in China with the use of fertilizers and pesticides.
The important thing to take into consideration is that the soil in China and in the Andes is different. Meaning, all the studies showing the benefits of maca used Pervurian Maca. It’s very likely that the active components in these two sources of maca will be very different.
Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia jack), is a common shrub found along the slopes of hilly terrains of the Malaysian rainforest (Southeast Asia). A water extract of the root of Tongkat Ali is a well-known traditional supplement for the enhancement of sexuality and fertility and is also used as an anti-aging tonic.
Some benefits of Tongkat Ali include anti-malarial, anti-ulcer, anti-tumor, anti-parasitic and anti-pyretic activities (R).
The best Tongkat Ali is sourced from Malaysia. If your supplier doesn’t specify the source (location) or eurycomanone content (the main active ingredient), it would be better to get another more reliable source.
Maca vs Tongkat Ali on Testosterone
Testosterone is known to influence libido. Low testosterone leads to low libido and sexual dysfunction. Using TRT almost also boosts libido.
Maca on testosterone
Maca has been used for centuries to improve sexuality and fertility.
There are 3 kinds of maca; red maca, yellow maca, and black maca. When it comes to sexuality, it doesn’t matter which one you use. The reason people tend to like black maca more is because it has more macamides than red maca. But, most of the studies on libido, sexual function and testosterone used red maca.
The effective dose of maca
There are quite a few human and animal studies looking at the effects of maca on hormones. And each time maca didn’t affect LH, testosterone production or estradiol (R).
Dosage: anything over 1.5g will do the trick.
This study found that in normal men, there wasn’t a difference between 1.5 and 3g (R).
A caveat to this is PSSD (Post-SSRI induced sexual dysfunction). If someone has PSSD, then higher doses will work better.
According to this study, maca improved SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction. 1.5g was not effective, but 3g was. There appears to be a dose-dependent effect, so you can take higher doses for better effects (R). If you don’t feel much from 3g, then try 5g or even higher.
Tongkat Ali on testosterone
Studies have shown that Tongkat Ali can increase testosterone levels in humans (men) in a dose-dependent manner.
Meaning, 200mg of Tongkat Ali can increase testosterone by about 25-50ng/dl, whereas 600mg daily can increase testosterone by 120ng/dl on average.
The cool thing about Tongkat Ali is that it can increase testosterone in young, healthy males, with already high testosterone.
According to this clinical trial, 600 mg of Tongkat Ali extract (1.45% eurycomanone; 8.5mg total) increased young (average age 24 years) males’ total testosterone from 802 to 924ng/dl in just 14 days.
In summary, use at least 8mg+ eurycomanone per day for a good increase in testosterone.
I do think that a lot of people are underdosing Tongkat Ali. This animal study found that Tongkat Ali increased total and free testosterone in a dose-dependent manner (R).
50mg/kg for a rat is 8.11mg/kg. That would be 729.73mg for a 90kg man.
800mg/kg in rats is 129.73mg/kg in humans. That would be 11675.68mg for a 90kg man.
Most people are taking 200-400mg, which can give you a bump of 25-50ng/dl in testosterone. If you really want to see change, then take 1g+.
Maca vs Tongkat Ali on Cortisol
Chronically high cortisol is a sure libido killer and will over time contribute to erectile dysfunction.
Maca on cortisol
There are not many studies on maca and cortisol.
One animal study found that maca significantly lowered cortisol in animals, but another found that maca didn’t lower cortisol in post-menopausal women (R). It could be because these women didn’t have high cortisol, therefor it didn’t lower it more.
On the flip side, maca increased ACTH. ACTH is a peptide created from POMC. ACTH stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol. ACTH also converts to α-MSH, which acts on the melanocortin receptors.
Activation of the melanocortin receptors helps increase energy levels as well as libido and sexual function.
Tongkat Ali on cortisol
Tongkat Ali is a great adaptogen that’s been shown to:
- Reduce tension (−11%)
- Reduce anger (−12%)
- Reduce confusion (−15%)
- Lower salivary cortisol (−16%)
- Increase salivary testosterone (+37%) and
- Improve the cortisol:testosterone ratio (−36%) (R).
In the dieting and overtraining arena, Tongkat Ali has been shown to:
- Reduce fatigue
- Boost energy levels and mood
- Improve stress resilience
- Improve the sense of well-being
- Prevent the decrease in the metabolic rate and testosterone from dieting
- Help to maintain the normal cortisol:testosterone balance to prevent overtraining syndrome
- Enhance body composition and accelerate postexercise recovery (R, R).
Maca vs Tongkat Ali on Libido
Maca on libido
Maca has been used for centuries to improve libido and sexual function.
This study found that using 3g of maca daily significantly increased biweekly sexual attempts from 3.1 ± 2.4 to 4.6 ± 3.7. Sexual enjoyment also saw significant improvements (R). From 3 sessions per 2 weeks to 4.6 sessions per 2 weeks.
300mg Physta (water extract of Tongkat Ali) increased sexual libido by 14% after 12 weeks (R). It also increased sexual frequency by 14%, which isn’t too bad.
One of the questions in the questionnaire used in the study was: Over the last 4 weeks, as compared to the previous 4 weeks, have you had sexual dreams?”. On average, this increased by 24.4% (R).
By increasing testosterone and dopamine and improving erections, you can expect a big boost in libido.
Maca vs Tongkat Ali on Erections
In a randomized 12-week study by Gonzales et al, gelatinized Maca was unable to improve penile erection in apparently healthy adult men (R).
However, combining Maca with Chinese chive seed in a 1:1 ratio led to (R):
- A 45-fold greater increase in macamides
- Significantly higher ejaculation frequency (horny AF with a short refractory period).
- Better erections due to an increase in nitric oxide (NO) and cGMP.
Tongkat Ali on erections
In Malaysia, Tongkat Ali is taken to improve strength and power during sexual activities (R).
According to this study, the combination of 200mg of Tongkat Ali and 100mg of Polygonum minus significantly improve erectile function after 12 weeks (R). The supplement group reported that they were able to achieve harder erections firm enough for penetration as well as staying hard long enough for the whole encounter. Overall, sexual satisfaction more than doubled after 12 weeks.
In this 2021 study, older adults used 200mg Tongkat Ali and did concurrent training for 6 months. This significantly improved the blood flow and erectile function of men with low testosterone more than exercise alone (R).
Maca vs Tongkat Ali on Lean muscle mass
Maca on muscle mass
There is no human studies showing that maca high help build muscle, but there is an in vitro study showing that maca might be anabolic to muscle tissue.
The in vitro study added yellow maca to muscle cells and found that maca may promote muscle hypertrophy, differentiation, and maturation, potentially via the muscle hypertrophic signaling pathways such as Akt and mTOR (R).
Additionally, maca has an anti-fatigue effect, thus you can train harder. More volume usually equals more muscle.
Tongkat Ali on muscle mass
A few studies have also found that Tongkat Ali increases muscle mass and strength, reduces fat mass and improves athletic performance (R, R). However, don’t expect miracles from it in that regard. For proper muscle and strength gains and fat loss, a proper training program and meal plan and the guidance and assistance of an expert in the field will get you there.
Tongkat Ali also has an anti-fatigue effect.
Maca vs Tongkat Ali on Dopamine
Dopamine is one of the main neurotransmitters that boost libido and sexual function. Dopaminergic agonists used to treat Parkinson’s disease or hyperprolactinemia commonly cause hypersexuality.
Maca on dopamine
One of the main mechanisms how maca boosts libido is by increasing dopamine and noradrenaline.
Maca extract (250 and 500 mg/kg) has antidepressant effects which are related to the activation of both noradrenergic and dopaminergic systems, as well as reducing free radicals and oxidative stress in the brain (R).
It doesn’t seem like there is a dose-dependent effect as 125mg/kg was just as effective as 500mg/kg. (NE is noradrenaline and DA is dopamine. The control group is the animals that didn’t get maca.
Additionally, maca works on the endocannabinoid system, which is also involved in libido and pleasure.
- Inhibit fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) (the enzyme that breaks down macamides).
- Are neuroprotective by restoring dopaminergic neuronal loss
- Might be endocannabinoid receptor agonists
- Inhibit endocannabinoid uptake, thus strengthening their effects.
In short, macamides are structurally very similar to endocannabinoids, they inhibit the uptake on anandamide and inhibit the breakdown of endocannabinoids (R).
Tongkat Ali on dopamine
Tongkat Ali increases dopamine similar to maca.
According to this study, the water extract of Tongkat Ali increased brain cortical and hippocampus dopamine content with no significant effects on serotonin or noradrenaline content.
Brain cortex and hippocampus are important structures in the sexual reward system. Serotonin is thought to be a contributor to feelings of satiety, complacency and (futile) patience. Excess serotonin blunts libido due to the “satiety” effect.
The fact that Tongkat Ali boosts only dopamine and not serotonin makes it a great aphrodisiac.
Maca vs Tongkat Ali on male Fertility
Maca on fertility
Clinical trials have shown that maca is effective at increasing sperm count and motility (R).
Black maca and in minor proportion yellow maca are apparently the most effective at increasing sperm count and sperm motility whereas red maca had no effect (R).
In this study, 1.5 and 3g of maca (type wasn’t specified) significantly improve various semen variables.
Tongkat Ali on fertility
200mg Tonkgat Ali has been shown to significantly improve sperm quality, allowing for 11 (14.7%) spontaneous pregnancies. In the graph below you can see the improvements.
1 cycle is 3 months long. So 3 cycles are 9 months. You can see that these men kept on improving over this 9-month period. No need to cycle Tongkat Ali for fertility.
Most healthy adults can tolerate Maca supplements with minimal fuss, although Peruvian natives recommend boiling fresh Maca root, as it may have adverse effects.
Also, people with thyroid issues should consult a doctor before taking Maca as it contains goitrogens, which are compounds that can interfere with thyroid gland function.
One of my friends started using black maca (among other supplements) and noticed that his throat in the thyroid area started feeling uncomfortable and swollen. I told him that it could be the maca and that he should cut it out. Soon after cutting it out, the sensations went away.
In general, Tongkat Ali is very well tolerated. The most commonly reported adverse effects are insomnia, irritability and restlessness. This is because Tongkat Ali increases dopamine and noradrenaline, which, in excess, can make you feel overstimulated. However, that’s also how it boosts energy, libido, muscle strength and physical performance.
If this happens to you, just take a lower dose.
The ideal dose for libido is 1.5-3g daily. Most maca products on the market have 0.6% macamides. That gives you a total of 9-18mg macamides.
Nootropics depot has a 5% macamide extract. Thus for each 200mg serving, you get 10mg macamides. Which makes it a perfect starting dose.
Start with 1 cap daily.
Tongkat Ali increases testosterone in a dose-dependent manner. So far, the highest dose used in a study was 600mg with an 8mg eurycomanone content. Using higher doses will likely increase testosterone even more and give you better results.
Nootropics depot has a 10% eurycomanone product (which is one of the best Tongkat Ali supplements on the market today). So for each 100mg serving, you get 10mg of eurycomanone, which is a perfect starting dose to support healthy testosterone levels.
Start with 1 cap daily.
Tongkat Ali and maca have many similar benefits as well as unique benefits.
In summary, Maca:
- Increases libido by increasing dopamine, noradrenaline and α-MSH
- Promotes good mood and pleasure by potentiating the endocannabinoid system
- Improves fertility
In summary, Tongkat Ali:
- Increases dopamine
- Boost testosterone levels
- Lowers cortisol levels
- Improves fertility
I’d say it would be best to combine Tongkat Ali and Maca rather than use either one alone. Ideally, try each one alone for 30 days before combining just so that you know how you respond to each individually.
Read these articles, because they’ll help you optimize your testosterone and DHT.
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