Comparing Maca Root vs. Tongkat Ali: Which Is Better?
Updated: Dec 16, 2022
Tongkat Ali and Maca Root have often been compared as natural supplements to enhance sexual function and fertility. It is easy to conflate the two herbs and use them interchangeably, but they actually have distinct differences and serve different purposes.
Maca Root, also known as Peruvian Ginseng, is a nutritional powerhouse that originated in the Andes. Similar to Tongkat Ali, it is also a traditional treatment for different illnesses. But its more notable function is that it has been frequently used as an aphrodisiac to improve sexual function for both sexes. The root is also used to treat fertility issues. Maca root is rich in vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, and also has high levels of potassium, iron, and calcium.
Tongkat Ali (also known as Malaysian ginseng) is an herbal supplement derived from the shrub Eurycoma longifolia and is commonly used as a traditional remedy in Southeast Asia. This herb is utilized for various ailments, including malaria, male infertility, and erectile dysfunction. These therapeutic properties are likely due to its content of antioxidants (compounds that help to fight cellular damage). It has also received attention for its alleged ability to improve physical strength.
Knowing The Differences
Even though Maca Root and Tongkat Ali have similar characteristics, it’s relatively easy to compare each of their distinct benefits and down sides. It’s significant that you know the areas in which one can compare the difference between the two, and figure out which will work best for you. Let's see how these two stack up in the following categories:
How It Helps With Stress
Health Benefits of Maca Root
Maca helps enhance sexual function in both men and women
Unlike Tongkat Ali, maca can work well for improving the sexual function of both men and women. For men, maca’s more popular benefits include improving sperm count, increasing one’s libido, and boosting sexual performace and stamina.
There is evidence that maca can help men—studies like this one reported that maca had fertility-enhancing properties in men because participants who took maca for 12 weeks showed improvements in sperm concentration and sperm motility. One study found that women who were experiencing sexual dysfunction had significantly improved libido and sexual function after consuming a maca supplement for 12 weeks.
Maca may improve mood and energy, and lower stress
Native Peruvians have long used maca as a source of energy and stamina. Maca is an adaptogen—a natural substance that helps your body adapt to existing conditions. When you are stressed out and overwhelmed, adaptogens help to calm you down and boost your energy without overstimulation so that your body can respond to the stress in a healthy manner.
One non-human study showed that consuming maca helped to control cortisol levels and keep them from rising. Maca’s energy-producing effects were also detected in a study on humans, which reported that taking maca daily helped to improve mood and energy scores compared to taking a placebo.
Maca may help menopausal women
Maca is gaining attention as a potential solution for treating a variety of menopausal symptoms. It has been shown to help hot flashes and depression symptoms, as well as improve sexual function in women with low libido. Studies have shown that maca can significantly reduce follicle-stimulating hormone levels, which in turn helps to improve menopausal symptoms (hot flashes, fatigue, mood swings, PMS, and weight gain) and alleviate menopausal discomfort.
Health Benefits of Tongkat Ali
TA may boost testosterone levels and male libido
Increasing libido is Tongkat Ali’s most well-known and well-documented health benefit. In one study, patients suffering from late-onset hypogonadism (a condition in which sex glands produce insufficient sex hormones) were given Tongkat Ali for a month—results showed a significant improvement in testosterone levels for some of the patients. For men, testosterone is crucial for having a healthy sex drive, and having low testosterone levels is linked to a reduced libido.
TA may improve fertility
Another well-publicized health benefit is that Tongkat Ali may help to boost male fertility in terms of improving sperm motility and concentration. There are some studies to back this up—such as this one, which reported an improvement in sperm quality after taking the Tongkat Ali extract for three months.
TA may improve physical performance
Tongkat Ali has also been marketed as a tonic to boost physical strength and stamina. The herb is said to contain compounds called quassinoids that have remedial properties including increasing muscle strength and endurance, and reducing fatigue.
There isn’t a lot of evidence for this, but one study conducted on physically active seniors (57-72 years) reported a significant increase in muscular force for both men and women after 5 weeks. Keep in mind that this study was conducted on an elderly age group, so you may not experience these improvements if you are significantly younger.
This is evident in another study conducted on nine healthy young male cyclists—the study reported that drinking an herbal drink infused with Tongkat Ali during exercise had no discernible effect on the cyclists’ physical performance.
TA may combat stress
The bioactive compounds in Tongkat Ali are also said to help reduce anxiety and stress. There is very little research on this effect, but one study done on 63 adults reported that after taking an extract of Tongkat Ali for 4 weeks, there were improvements in tension, anger, and confusion. There was also 16% less cortisol (a stress hormone) found in the saliva of those who had taken the extract compared to those who had taken the placebo. However, this aspect of Tongkat Ali is still very under-researched.
Downsides of Tongkat Ali vs. Maca Root:
Studies on the health benefits of both Tongkat Ali and Maca root are relatively limited and there isn’t extensive research on the precise side effects of each supplement. Granted, this is the case with many traditional herbal supplements that are beginning to receive wider attention. Generally, both are considered safe, but only if the product comes from legitimate sources. In the case of Tongkat Ali, there are a lot of unregulated products flooding the market, that it can be hard to determine the reliability and safety of the supplement.
One thing to note is that you should be careful to choose maca products that use maca grown in its native Peru. In the market these days, there are maca root supplements that use maca that has been grown in China. These are planted under conditions that are not ideal particularly having been grown in altitudes that are too low to produce the most potent maca. Peruvian maca is the best and most formidable to utlize.
Another concern is how your maca supplement has been prepared. In Peru, maca root is never consumed in its raw form because maca is a cruciferous vegetable, meaning that raw uncooked maca is a goitrogen—it can contribute to hypothyroidism. However, many maca supplements on the market use raw uncooked maca, so you should always check that your product uses gelatinized maca extract. The heating process of gelatinization helps to reduce the goitrogenic properties of maca.
A major downside for Tongkat Ali is that this particular herb isn’t well-regulated as a health supplement. There are many, many Tongkat Ali products out there and it can be hard to differentiate the legitimate ones from the unreliable and dangerous ones. These suspicious products are often adulterated with other ingredients and chemical substances that can cause serious health consequences for the unknowing consumer.
One study analyzing the mercury content of 100 different Tongkat Ali products from Malaysia found that 26% of these products actually exceeded the recommended level of mercury (and some of these non-compliant products had actually been registered with the Drug Control Authority in Malaysia). Mercury is a toxic metal, and consuming too much of it can be dangerous. Mercury is just one example of the potential contaminants that unregulated Tongkat Ali products may contain. Since many of these products do not come from trustworthy sources, you cannot always rely on the label to give you accurate information about the product.
Here's a quick rundown of the differences between the two:
So which is better—Maca or Tongkat Ali?
For over a thousand years, Maca has been used as a superfood to improve sexual function, stamina, immunity, and resistance to disease, especially in men.
To this day, modern scientific studies suggest that Maca helps enhance sexual desire in men, as well as boost sperm count. Maca root functions as a natural supplement for fertility, energy, & nutrition. Studies have shown that it is high in protein & Vitamins, Iron, and Zinc.
In boosting a woman’s libido, alleviating menopausal symptoms, and improving a woman’s fertility, maca is the better option in terms of its traditional usage. Maca is also a superfood and an adaptogen with many holistic beneficial effects on the body for both men and women, with studies indicating that maca can improve mood and energy levels for both sexes.
There is also more research (such as this study and this study) supporting maca’s positive effect on those experiencing symptoms of depression. Tongkat Ali has also been used to reduce stress, but its effect on reducing cortisol levels is quite minimal.
After Comparing Maca Root vs. Tongkat Ali: This Is What Worked For Me:
Finally, on balance, it is easier to select a trustworthy Maca product compared to a Tongkat Ali product, simply because there are so many unreliable Tongkat Ali products saturating the market.
In my search for a better supplement that contains these 2 powerhouses, I found that the one that contains Peruvian Maca Root is better overall compared to the one that employs Tongkat Ali.
The Purest Co’s Maca Ashwa Powerjuice takes the best spot for me as it has proven itself to improve sexual function, enhance stamina, and may even protect against ailments. Production-wise, this supplement utilizes 1000mg of premium Maca root extract, harvested from the Andean region, so I know that this product’s Maca Root extract is grown naturally and in ethical conditions.
The 3 Best Maca Supplements
The Superfood Reviews team tried and have compiled a list of top 3 maca root supplements based on their qualities and components after doing a thorough search for the best supplements. The team's testing method includes examining a range of dietary supplements in a number of different form factors, including softgels, capsules, foods, and beverages.
The criteria is as follows:
1. The Purest Co Maca Ashwa Powerjuice
Key differentiators: Superior ingredients, large & safe dosage of maca
Contains premium MacaPro® Maca Root extract
Formulated with KSM66 Ashwagandha, L-Arginine, Zinc
With 1mg of black pepper extract BioPerine®
Tastes just right, sweetened with real fruit juice
Liquid easy-to-drink format
30-day, 100% satisfaction guaranteed or money back
Free SG delivery on all orders
The Purest Co’s Maca Ashwa Powerjuice is a natural blend, has a potent and vegan-friendly formulation, and the taste is lightly sweetened with real fruit juices. The product distinguishes itself from other maca supplements in the market because its key ingredients’ individual dosages are higher while remaining within the safe & recommended daily dosage of maca. The team observed distinct improvements in energy levels, stamina, and sexual energy after trying it for a day. As for our female takers, they noted great efficacy to relieving them of mood swings.
Additionally, the Maca Ashwa Powerjuice’s ingredients list boasts premium-patented ingredients such as MacaPro® - Maca root extract, KSM-66® - Ashwagandha, and Kyowa® L-arginine - and all of this fit our studies, clinical trials, and research-based preferences when it comes to supplements.
2. NaturaLife Labs Organic Maca Capsules
Key differentiator: Pure organic maca with no binders or fillers
Pure organic maca with no binders and fillers
30-day money-back guarantee
NaturaLife’s maca supplement is made from a combination of red, yellow, and black maca. The supplements’ effects include reproductive health support, natural energizing contents, and mood & hormonal balance support. However, the type and brand of maca isn’t explicitly shared on their website and Amazon listing. These capsules are cellulose-based so they are vegetarian friendly. Takers might encounter difficulties in swallowing this format, and capsules can be less fast-acting than liquids when it comes to taking in maca effects. The Organic Maca Capsules by Naturalife is certified organic and comes with a 30-day money back guarantee, a good sign that the company stands behind their products and that they are committed to fulfilling their promised effectiveness.
3. Nature's Superfoods Organic Maca Powder
Key differentiator: Beneficial for hormonal-related conditions
Doesn’t contain preservatives and it’s gluten free
No sugars nor sweeteners
Nature's Superfoods Maca Root Powder is a blend of yellow, red and black Maca roots from the high elevations of the Peruvian Andes. One of their online listings noted that the maca they utilized are sun-dried and not oven-dried, and milled at low temperatures into a fine powder. They also stated that this supplement is formulated to be beneficial for various hormonal-related conditions including PMS and lack of energy and stamina.
The team notes that the brand’s maca powder came through when it comes to sustaining energy throughout the day, however, its taste leaves much to be desired when taken with water alone. When it comes to the convenience of taking this, it falls behind on the on-the-go standard and might discourage takers who live a fast-paced lifestyle to stick to their regimen.
There’s limited information on this product on their website and online store listings, so consumers are advised to conduct their own product research and dig around the internet for reviews. This is to ensure that the brand commits to their supplement’s efficacy and benefits.
With Maca, you know exactly what indications to look out for (gelatinized extract rather than raw maca, and maca grown in native Peru rather than in China), whereas with Tongkat Ali the market, it may get a lot more confusing as there are vague and misleading information about their products and supplements.