Yohimbe, also spelled johimbe, is a botanical supplement derived from the bark of a tree (Pausinystalia yohimba) native to West Africa. This tall tree, originally described as Corynanthe yohimbe by botanists, is found in Zaire, Cameroon and Gabon, where it has been used for generations as an ingredient for a variety of traditional therapies, including for impotence. The inner bark is steeped in hot water to make a bitter tea, the effects of which were found to provide increased sexual vigor in men.
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Ethnobotanists have found that the bark was traded as far away as East Africa, where the Masai were known to use it. In the 1930s, European biochemistry researchers who studied this tree bark identified 55 bioactive alkaloids, including one that was named yohimbine hydrochloride. This alkaloid, which accounts for as much as 20% of the entire alkaloid content of the yohimbe bark, was isolated and began to be used commercially as a remedy for sexual dysfunction in Europe.
Although yohimbine requires a prescription for use in the United States, yohimbe bark is available as an herbal extract. This supplement, which is not the same as the yohimbine prescription product is provided in a powdered form in capsules, in soft gel form or as a liquid based extract. Most preparations of the supplement usually provide it as a single ingredient, but some brands formulate a combination of yohimbe bark with other botanical extracts, particularly ginko leaf and ginseng root.
Does Yohimbe Work?
As an herbal supplement, yohimbe has not been studied for its effects on both men and women. It is not clear that the natural product, yohimbe, has the same benefits on sexual dysfunction as the prescription drug yohimbine.
Is Yohimbe Safe?
Before beginning a course of yohimbe bark supplements, consult a physician. Side effects from use of yohimbe bark may include skin flushing, rash, agitation, anxiety, insomnia, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, headache, nausea, vomiting, and increased urination. Side effects that are more serious may include chest pain, heart attack, heart rhythm problems like atrial fibrillation, kidney failure and seizures. As with any other supplement containing bioactive compounds, yohimbe extract may interact with other medications or pre-existing conditions. This product should not be taken if you are taking an MAO (monoamine oxidase) inhibitor. Many other products interact with yohimbe bark so please consult your pharmacist or physician prior to taking any yohimbe product.