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Yohimbe



Background

Yohimbe is an evergreen tree native to western Africa. It has a compound called yohimbine in its bark. The bark is used to make extracts, tablets, and capsules.

In parts of Africa, tea made from yohimbe bark has been used as an aphrodisiac (to increase sexual desire).

Yohimbe is used as a dietary supplement for impotence, athletic performance, weight loss, chest pain, high blood pressure, diabetic neuropathy, and more.

Yohimbine hydrochloride, a standardized form of yohimbine, is available in the United States as a prescription drug for erectile dysfunction. This is a different product than dietary supplements made from the bark of the tree.

How Much Do We Know?

There is very little research in people on the effects of yohimbe as a dietary supplement. But studies have documented the risks of taking it.

What Have We Learned?

The amount of yohimbine in dietary supplements may vary; some yohimbe products contain very little yohimbine.

Yohimbe sold as a dietary supplement may not work like the prescription medication that contains yohimbine.

What Do We Know About the Safety?

Yohimbe has been associated with heart attacks and seizures.

Yohimbe caused stomach problems, tachycardia (a rapid heartbeat), anxiety, and high blood pressure, according to a study comparing calls about yohimbe and other substances made to the California Poison Control System between 2000 and 2006. People calling about yohimbe were generally more likely to need medical care than other callers.

Most yohimbe products don’t say how much yohimbine they contain. The amount may vary a lot among products, according to a recent analysis of 49 brands of supplements labeled as containing yohimbe or yohimbine for sale in the United States. Some of the yohimbine was either synthetic or from highly processed plant extract.

Keep in Mind

Tell all your health care providers about any complementary or integrative health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

Key References

  • Betz JM. Yohimbe. In: Coates PM, Betz JM, Blackman MR, et al., eds. Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements, 2nd ed. New York, NY: Informa Healthcare; 2010:861-868.
  • Cohen PA, Wang Y-H, Maller G, et al. Pharmaceutical quantities of yohimbine found in dietary supplements in the USA. Drug Testing and Analysis. 2016;8(3-4):357-369.
  • Kearney T, Tu N, Haller C. Adverse drug events associated with yohimbine-containing products: a retrospective review of the California Poison Control System reported cases. Annals of Pharmacotherapy. 2010;44(6):1022-1029.
  • Yohimbe. Natural Medicines Web site. Accessed at naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/ on April 14, 2015. 

-NIH



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