Yohimbe: Uses, Benefits, and Side Effects

The dietary supplement known as yohimbe became popular for its aphrodisiac effects. However, its consumption carries some risks.

Last update: September 27, 2021

The yohimbe, with a scientific name Pausinystalia johimbe, it is an evergreen tree that comes from central and western Africa. Its bark is characterized by its concentration of alkaloid substances, such as yohimbine, used in the manufacture of drugs and supplements for the treatment of erectile dysfunction.

Today, it is also popular with bodybuilders, as it is credited with inducing fat loss. Even so, experts warn of the dangers of its consumption and of the lack of evidence on its effectiveness. Do you want to know more about it? Here is more information about its properties and risks.

Uses and benefits of yohimbe

As collected by an article shared on National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), yohimbe is a product traditionally used as an aphrodisiac and to enhance sexual performance. Similarly, it is believed to help treat erectile dysfunction, angina pectoris, high blood pressure, diabetic neuropathy, and weight loss.

This same entity clarifies that pharmaceutical companies use a compound called "yohimbine hydrochloride" in the manufacture of drugs for erectile dysfunction. However, this is different from commercial supplements derived from the plant.

Commercial presentations of yohimbe are usually made with extract from the bark of this tree. For their part, others have yohimbine as an active ingredient. But it is important to note that products with synthetic yohimbine hydrochloride They are not legal for sale as a dietary supplement in the United States. The reason? There are doubts about its safety and efficacy.



What does the research say?

The active compound in yohimbe, yohimbine, stimulates blood flow and nerve impulses in the genital area. That is why it has a long history as an adjunct to treating erectile dysfunction and the sexual side effects caused by some drugs, such as those used in depression.

Regarding this, a meta-analysis published in The Journal of Urology reported that yohimbine medication it was more effective than a placebo in treating erectile dysfunction. Another study shared in International Journal of Impotence Research revealed similar results.

The latter determined that yohimbine can treat organic erectile dysfunction in some men. However, it exposes the need to identify in which populations it causes positive effects. In turn, he adds that it will never be a first-line drug to combat this sexual health problem, although it can be useful in mild cases or with few risk factors.

Erectile dysfunction can be approached from different fronts. One of them is naturopathy.

Yohimbine and weight loss

The popularity of yohimbine among bodybuilders and amateur athletes is due to its alleged ability to increase physical performance, promote weight loss and improve body composition. In relation to this, the results are mixed.

In a study shared by Israel Journal of Medical Sciences, obese women who took yohimbine had a greater weight loss than those who took a placebo; 3.6 kilos versus 2.2 kilos in 3 weeks on a 1000 calorie diet.

Meanwhile, a randomized controlled trial in Research in Sports Medicine determined that yohimbine can reduce the percentage of body fat in athletes, but it does not alter body mass or sports performance.

Despite these findings, yohimbe is not recommended as a weight loss supplement, as studies are limited and there are warnings about its side effects. Even a clinical trial in Journal Pharmacol Pharmacother conclude that "Yohimbine does not increase lipolysis and is not an effective treatment for obesity."

The benefits of yohimbe are in doubt

Although yohimbe has been used as an ally for health for many years, the truth is that its benefits are in doubt. The research that has been done to date is limited, are outdated or inconclusive.

In this vein, entities such as the US corporation WebMD They add that there is not enough evidence to use yohimbe in the following cases:

  • Sexual problems caused by antidepressants.
  • Anxiety and depression.
  • Athletic performance.
  • Dry mouth
  • Overweight and obesity.
  • Erectile dysfunction.
  • Low blood pressure.

Risks and possible side effects of yohimbe

Yohimbine available as a medicine is suggested by prescription. In this case, the doctor will indicate a safe dose according to the case. Yohimbe bark or yohimbine hydrochloride supplements are available over the counter, and many do not clearly state how much yohimbine is concentrated.

This is quite worrying, as it can lead to the intake of high doses that put health at risk. Usually, its oral consumption in typical doses can cause the following side effects:

  • Stomach ache.
  • Excitement.
  • Shaking.
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Anxiety or agitation.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Sinus pain.
  • Irritability.
  • Headache.
  • Frequent urination
  • Swelling.
  • Rash.
  • Nausea and vomiting

Meanwhile, high doses increase the risk of complications, such as shortness of breath, paralysis, very low blood pressure, heart conditions, allergic reactions, kidney failure, and death.



Contraindications

The following are considered contraindications of the compound:

  • Heart disease.
  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Parkinson's disease.
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Kidney, thyroid, or liver disease.
  • Inflammatory disorders of the sexual organs.
  • Arterial hypertension.
  • Enlarged prostate.
  • Seizure disorders
Heart patients should not consume yohimbe, as the risks outweigh the potential benefits.

Risk of interactions

Its simultaneous intake with certain medications should be avoided. Through Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center indicate that it should not be consumed if you are taking antidepressants, decongestants or dietary aids. Neither with drugs to lower blood pressure or opioids.

What is there to remember about yohimbe?

Yohimbe supplements are available in the form of extracts or tablets in many online stores and herbalists. However, because its side effects may outweigh the benefits, its consumption is discouraged. Even in some countries its distribution is prohibited.

Therefore, it should not be a first option if you want to treat erectile dysfunction. Nor to lose weight or prevent other conditions. In these cases, it is best to go to the doctor to learn about other safer and more effective approach options.