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Heavy metals in Malaysian tongkat ali

Mark Fisher

As Malaysia is on its way of becoming a newly industrialized nation, it is no surprise (and has been known for some time) that a degradation of the natural environment happens at a pace even faster than that of the country´s industrialization. And while in the West, governments have imposed strict emission controls for heavy metals such as lead (and even banned it from gasoline), the governments of developing countries often feel that environmental protection is a luxury they can´t afford yet.

One particular concern, at least in the West, are lead residues in natural produce destined for direct human consumption, as an excessive intake of lead can cause neurological damage and plays a role in many other medical conditions.

A team of Malaysian scientists has recently examined the lead content of Malaysian herbal supplements and found that some Malaysian tongkat ali products have such a high lead content that even on the Malaysian market, their sale is actually violating the law.

The lead content of a good number Malaysian tongkat ali products has been found to range from 10.64 to 20.72 ppm (parts per million). For comparison, the Indonesian company Sumatra Pasak Bumi has published laboratory test results showing that their own tongkat ali has a lead content of just 0.08 ppm (

This means that every gram of the Malaysian tongkat ali named in the abstract of the scientific study contains more than 100 times, and in some cases more than 250 times the amount of lead that is found in Indonesian tongkat ali.

The scientific study to which I refer was published in the scientific journal Food and Chemical Toxicology Volume 44, Issue 8, August 2006, Pages 1245-1250. An abstract of the study can be read at the following URL:

Printscreen of this document.

Previously, the same study was published in the Journal Human & Experimental Toxicology, issue of August 2003.

Printscreen of the page of the journal Human & Experimental Toxicology

Read here about the risk of heavy metal poisoning from traditional medicines:

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The fact that Malaysian herbal supplements have a high level oc heavy metal contamination has been known for many years.

You can see a scientific warning published 1995 in the Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry here:

A printscreen of the above file is here:

Trace elements in Malaysian medicinal plants