Characteristics of Pasak Bumi Tree (Eurycoma longifolia) in the Wild

Eurycoma longifolia
Pasak bumi or Tongkat ali are flowering plants in the Simaroubaceae family, which originated from Indochina including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

The pasak bumi tree grows as small trees that can reach 10 meters in height, and often do not have branches. This tree root has been used in traditional medicine in Southeast Asia, and in modern times such as it currently has general use as a supplement, as well as food and beverage additives.

 
BENEFITS OF PASAK BUMI TREE

  • The pasak bumi tree has been hereditary used in traditional medicine in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam. In Indonesia and Malaysia, the roots of the pasak bumi are boiled in boiling water, which is then consumed as a health tonic for recovery after childbirth, as an aphrodisiac, overcoming fever, intestinal worms, dysentery, diarrhea, digestive disorders, and jaundice.
  • In Vietnam, pasak bumi flowers are used to treat dysentery, then the roots are used to treat malaria and fever.
  • Other health benefits associated with this plant include antimalarial, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, and antipyretic activity. In Indonesia and Malaysia, pasak bumi trees are widely commercialized. Its very bitter roots are used as a basis for supplements, as well as food and beverage additives.
  • In the United States, the extract of the pasak bumi tree is safe for consumption according to Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS), as a food or beverage supplement.

INFO: There are no clinical data to support the effectiveness of the pasak bumi tree for any health benefit.

 
The pasak bumi tree has many names that are known such as Penawar pahit, Penawar bias, Bedara merah, Bedara putih, Lempedu pahit, Payong ali, Tongkat baginda, Muntah bumi, Petala bumi, Babi kurus, Bidara laut, Bidara laut (Indonesian), Malaysian ginseng (Malaysia), Cây bá bệnh (Vietnam), Tho nan (Laos), Lan-don, Hae phan chan, Phiak, Plaa lai phuenk, Tung saw (Thailand), Langir siam (Bahrain), and Long jack (Amerika Serikat). Many names refer to the use of its roots as medicine and its extraordinary bitter taste.

As has been mentioned for generations, the name of the pasak bumi or tongkat ali tree in Southeast Asia is also used to refer to plant species that are physiologically similar to pasak bumi tree, namely Polyalthia bullata. However, the bark and roots of the original pasak bumi tree are whiter than the darker colored Polyalthia bullata tree. Thus, a distinguishing name is called at the end of the original name such as “White pasak bumi” or “Yellow pasak bumi”. Indonesia also has a red variety known as a “Red pasak bumi”, which is currently being studied by researchers and has not yet classified its species.

 

Characteristics of Pasak Bumi Leaf

Eurycoma longifolia Leaf
Source : flickr.com/Lão Hạc

Pasak Bumi leaves are compound, consisting of 30 to 40 leaflets, lanceolate to obovate-lanceolate. Each leaflet has a length of about 15-20 cm and a width of 1.5-6 cm.

 

Characteristics of Pasak Bumi Flower

Eurycoma longifolia Flower
Source : flickr.com/Cerlin Ng

The flowers are dioecious, have small petals and good pubescence. Drupe hard, ovoid, yellowish-brown when young and brownish red when ripe.

 

Characteristics of Pasak Bumi Fruit

Eurycoma longifolia Leaf
Source : flickr.com/Cerlin Ng

The fruit is small, clustered, and reddish-orange.

 

Characteristics of Pasak Bumi Tree

Eurycoma longifolia Tree
Source : flickr.com/Cerlin Ng

The pasak bumi tree grows in lowland forests, and is tolerant of various types of soil, but prefers acidic, slightly moist and well-drained soils. The tree is commonly found in small forests along the banks of rivers or swamps.

Roots and other parts of pasak bumi tree have been widely marketed for their benefits that can improve sexual health, energy, stamina, blood circulation, and fat reduction.

Unfortunately, the benefits that exist in the pasak bumi tree are located at the root, which requires pulling out the entire tree when harvested. This raises concerns over the long-term sustainability of their use.

In Malaysia, raw pasak bumi trees have been banned for export, and the tree itself has been listed as one of the priority drug species for conservation, and the harvesting of wild trees is restricted according to Law 686 on International Trade in Endangered Species.

In 2016, Ahmad Shabery Cheek, Malaysian Minister of Agriculture, said that the pasak bumi tree will become extinct within the next 20 years if large-scale planting and cultivation efforts are not carried out quickly.

Nonetheless, the Malaysian government has encouraged the commercialization of high-value herbal products that use extracts from this tree. The pasak bumi has been registered as one of five selected herbal trees that will be cultivated on a large scale in 2020.

To support this commercialization, the Malaysian government is making efforts to encourage long-term commercial planting of the crop through grants to farmers, enabling agronomic research by the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI), and establishing cluster farming under the East Coast Economic Region (ECER).

 

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