Yohimbe is an evergreen tree that is native to western and central Africa. People have used compounds in the bark as an aphrodisiac, to treat erectile dysfunction, and for improved athletic performance.
Although it is widely available as a supplement, there is limited evidence to support many manufacturers’ claims about yohimbe.
Keep reading for more information on yohimbe, including its uses and the possible side effects.
Yohimbe is a type of evergreen tree. Its scientific name is Pausinystalia yohimbe.
The yohimbe tree’s bark contains a compound called yohimbine. Manufacturers make yohimbe bark into capsules, extracts, and tablets.
Some drug companies use a compound called yohimbine hydrochloride as part of their erectile dysfunction medications. This product is different than the commercial supplements.
As with all supplements, the Food and Drug Association (FDA) do not regulate the quality of yohimbe supplements. As a result, the strength and quality of different products may differ.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), people have long used yohimbe bark to make teas as an aphrodisiac.
In addition, people use yohimbe as a dietary supplement for:
- athletic performance
- erectile dysfunction
- diabetic neuropathy
- chest pain
- high blood pressure
- weight loss
- as a stimulant
According to the NCCIH, the prescription medications that use the plant generally contain yohimbine hydrochloride, which is not an ingredient in over-the-counter supplements.
The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center note that newer medications have replaced the use of yohimbe-based medication for erectile dysfunction.
Both the NCCIH and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center indicate that there is limited-to-no evidence to support yohimbe supplements’ purported uses.
Potential side effects of yohimbe include:
- stomach problems, such as diarrhea and nausea
- high blood pressure
- tachycardia (rapid heartbeat)
Other side effects may include:
- psychiatric symptoms, such as feeling anxious or nervous
- urinary problems
- cardiotoxicity, or damage to the heart muscle
- irregular heartbeat
The NCCIH indicate that people who called poison control officials about yohimbe supplement side effects were more likely to need medical intervention than people who sought poison control help for other substances.
People should stop using yohimbe supplements if they notice any negative side effects. If the side effects are severe, it is important to call Poison Control or seek emergency medical help.
People considering taking yohimbe supplements should talk to their doctor before doing so. A doctor may be able to offer a safer regulated alternative.
People should also approach selecting a yohimbe supplement with caution. The label may or may not list the amount of yohimbe present in the product, which can vary among brands.
A 2016 study found that only 2 of 49 brands available in the United States reported both the amount of yohimbine in their product and the known adverse effects.
Yohimbe could increase the risk of dangerous health issues, including heart attacks and seizures.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not take yohimbe supplements due to the risk of serious adverse effects.
In addition, people with the following conditions should not take yohimbe supplements:
- heart disease
- psychiatric disorders
- Parkinson’s disease
- stomach ulcers
- kidney, thyroid, or liver disease
- sexual organ inflammatory disorders
- high blood pressure
- seizure disorders
- an enlarged prostate
Yohimbe can interact negatively with several drugs. According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, a person should not use yohimbe supplements if they are taking antidepressants, decongestants, or diet aids.
A person taking any of the following medications should avoid taking yohimbe supplements:
- clonidine (Catapres)
- methamphetamine (Desoxyn)
- bupropion (Wellbutrin)
- drugs for anxiety
- strong pain relievers called opioids
- other drugs for lowering blood pressure
Yohimbe supplements have many possible side effects, warnings, and potential medication interactions.
As a result, a person should talk to their doctor before purchasing or using yohimbe supplements.
A person who is currently taking yohimbe should let their doctor know. Anyone who notices adverse side effects while taking these supplements should discontinue their use immediately or call an emergency number for severe reactions.