What Is It?
Extracted from the bark of a West African evergreen tree (Pausinystalia yohimbe), yohimbe has a long and controversial history as a sexual stimulant. Folk healers brewed a tea from the bark to also help reduce prostate inflammation, treat menstrual pain, and anesthetize skin for minor surgical procedures.
Then, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, European researchers placed the bark under the microscope and isolated a compound that supports the traditional use of yohimbe for enhancing sexual performance. Dubbed yohimbine, this isolated alkaloid increases blood flow into the penis. It does this by increasing adrenal output of norepinephrine, a hormone needed for erections. The popular impotence pill Viagra works its magic in a similar way.
Because elevated levels of norepinephrine can raise blood pressure and heart rate, the FDA requires that a doctor write a prescription for this concentrated extract. Not surprisingly, “male potency” products claiming to contain yohimbine are also widely available (illegally) over the Internet. However, none are likely to contain sufficient yohimbine to be effective. In addition, products containing yohimbe bark and/or yohimbine are routinely sold in health-food stores; they too probably contain too little of the key substances to be effective.
To ensure results, men who suffer from impotence, otherwise known as erectile dysfunction (ED), should get a prescription for yohimbine from their doctor.
Rumors aside, there’s no evidence that yohimbe or yohimbine will actually increase sexual desire.
Check with your doctor before using yohimbe (or yohimbine) in combination with conventional antidepressants or mood-altering drugs. Adverse drug reactions may result.
Yohimbe is classified as a monoamine-oxidase (MAO) inhibitor, a type of medication that should not be taken at the same time as tyramine-containing foods, such as certain types of red wine, aged cheeses, or dark chocolate.
Don’t take yohimbe with diet aids or nasal decongestants containing phenylpropanolamine (PPA); serious adverse reactions could develop.
Note: For information on interactions with specific generic drugs, see our drug library on Yohimbine.
If you’re seriously interested in taking yohimbe bark, consult your doctor for a prescription formula containing yohimbine. Be sure to mention any prescription medications you take because potentially hazardous interactions could result.
Follow prescription directions carefully. Serious side effects have been associated with yohimbe bark and its alkaloid, yohimbine. Reactions can develop by taking even small, recommended doses; these can include anxiety, nervousness, nausea and vomiting, high blood pressure, fast heart beat, and tremors.
Don’t take yohimbe or yohimbine if you suffer from heart disease, liver or kidney problems, low blood pressure, or prostate inflammation.