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What is yohimbe? What is it used for?

Yohimbe is a species of evergreen tree found in Cameroon, Gabon and the French Congo. Once found throughout western Africa, the plant’s future is in some doubt due to severe harvesting for use as a local medicine. The bark is used medicinally.

The active constituent in yohimbe is yohimbine, an alkaloid that dilates blood vessels and blocks alpha-2 adrenergic receptors located in the reproductive organs. For these reasons, yohimbe has often been used to treat male sexual dysfunction. Traditionally, it was used to treat fevers, coughs and leprosy; modern uses include the treatment of cardiovascular disease and pupil dilation. It may also be of some benefit to patients with clinical depression, and is considered an aphrodisiac by some African cultures.

How much yohimbe should I take?

Most practitioners recommend 15-30 milligrams of yohimbe per day. It is recommended that only products using standardized amounts of yohimbe be used.

What forms are available?

Yohimbe bark tinctures can be found at some specialty stores and African markets. Standardized yohombine extracts are also available.

What can happen if I take too much yohimbe? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Using more than 40 milligrams of yohimbine per day can bring about numerous negative side effects, including loss of muscle function, chills, dizziness, nausea, increased blood pressure and vertigo. Higher amounts can cause palpitations, anxiety and hallucinations. It should not be taken by pregnant or lactating women, patients with kidney disease or peptic ulcers, or patients taking heart medication or antidepressants.

Foods with high amounts of tyramine (such as cheese, red wine and liver) should not be eaten while taking yohimbe, as they may theoretically cause high blood pressure or other conditions. Some medications (such as brimonidine, bupropion and fluxovamine) may interact negatively with yohimbe.

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  • Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 382—3.
  • Bremner JD, Innis RB, Ng CK, et al. Positron emission tomography measurement of cerebral metabolic correlates of yohimbine administration in combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder. Arch Gen Psychiatry 1997;54:246—54.
  • Cappiello A, McDougle CJ, Maleson RT, et al. Yohimbine augmentation of fluvoxamine in refractory depression: a single-blind study. Biol Psychol 1995;38:765—7.
  • Drug Facts and Comparisons. St. Louis: Facts and Comparisons, 1998, 3659.
  • Goldberg KA. Yohimbine in the treatment of male erectile sexual dysfunction–a clinical review. Today’s Ther Trends J New Dev Clin Med 1996;14:25—33.


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