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Yohimbe

Botanical name: Pausinystalia yohimbe

Parts used and where grown

Yohimbe is a tall evergreen forest tree native to southwestern Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, and the Congo. The bark of this African tree is used medicinally. There are concerns, however, that the tree may be endangered due to over-harvesting for use as medicine.

Active constituents

The alkaloid known as yohimbine is the primary active constituent in yohimbe, although similar alkaloids may also play a role. Yohimbine blocks alpha-2 adrenergic receptors, part of the sympathetic nervous system. It also dilates blood vessels. Yohimbine inhibits monoamine oxidase (MAO) and therefore may theoretically be of benefit in depressive disorders. However, it does not have the clinical research of other herbs used for depression, such as St. John’s wort. Yohimbine has been shown in double-blind trials to help treat men with erectile dysfunction, although negative studies have also been reported.

How much is usually taken?
Yohimbe should be used under the supervision of a physician. Yohimbe, standardized to contain the following amounts, has been shown in scientific studies to be effective for:

• Erectile Dysfunction
15 to 30 mg a day of yohimbine
Yohimbine appears to increase blood flow and dilate blood vessels.

• Obesity
Take under medical supervision: enough to supply 5 mg of yohimbine four times per day 
Yohimbine may help weight loss by raising metabolic rate, reducing appetite, and increasing fat burning.

• Athletic performance
Read label directions
Yohimbine has shown an ability to stimulate the nervous system, promote the release of fat from fat cells, and affect the cardiovascular system.

Historically, yohimbe bark was used in western Africa for fevers, leprosy, and coughs. It has also been used to dilate pupils, for heart disease, and as a local anesthetic. It has a more recent history of use as an aphrodisiac and a hallucinogen.

Are there any side effects or interactions?

Patients with kidney disease or peptic ulcer, and pregnant or breast-feeding women should not use yohimbe. Standard amounts may occasionally cause dizziness, nausea, insomnia, anxiety, increased blood pressure, and rapid heart beat, though all of these are rare. Using more than 40 mg of yohimbine per day can cause dangerous side effects, including loss of muscle function, chills, and vertigo. Some people will also experience hallucinations when taking higher amounts of yohimbine. Taking 200 mg of yohimbine in one case led to a brief episode of hypertension, palpitations, and anxiety. People with post-traumatic stress disorder and panic disorder should avoid yohimbe as it may worsen their condition.

Foods with high amounts of tyramine (such as cheese, red wine, and liver) should not be eaten while a person is taking yohimbe, as this combination may theoretically cause severe high blood pressure and other problems. Similarly, yohimbe should only be combined with other antidepressant drugs under the supervision of a physician, though at least one study suggests it may benefit those who are not responding to serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as fluoxetine (Prozac).


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