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Yohimbe

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This fact sheet provides basic information about yohimbe—common names, usefulness and safety, and resources for more information.

 

Common Names:  yohimbe, johimbe

Latin Name: 
Pausinystalia 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.

NCCIH Clearinghouse

The NCCIH Clearinghouse provides information on NCCIH and complementary and integrative health approaches, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.

Toll-free in the U.S.: 
1-888-644-6226
TTY (for deaf and hard-of-hearing callers): 
1-866-464-3615

PubMed®

A service of the National Library of Medicine, PubMed® contains publication information and (in most cases) brief summaries of articles from scientific and medical journals. For guidance from NCCIH on using PubMed, see How To Find Information About Complementary Health Approaches on PubMed.

Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), National Institutes of Health (NIH)

ODS seeks to strengthen knowledge and understanding of dietary supplements by evaluating scientific information, supporting research, sharing research results, and educating the public. Its resources include publications (such as Dietary Supplements: What You Need to Know), fact sheets on a variety of specific supplement ingredients and products (such as vitamin D and multivitamin/mineral supplements), and the PubMed Dietary Supplement Subset

Email: 

Key References

This publication is not copyrighted and is in the public domain. Duplication is encouraged.

NCCIH has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider(s). We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by NCCIH.

* Note: PDF files require a viewer such as the free Adobe Reader.

NCCIH Publication No.: 
D356
Updated: 
September 2016

This publication is not copyrighted and is in the public domain. Duplication is encouraged.


NCCIH has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advise of your primary health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by NCCIH.


U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

nccih.nih.gov

This page last modified December 01, 2016