Compilation by Armando Gonzalez Stuart, PhD.
Other Common Name:
Johimbe, Liebesbaum, Lustholz, Potenzbaum, adjadjo, djombe, gabo, belemi.
Where is it found?
This tree is native to tropical western and central Africa, including Congo, Cabinda, Cameroon, Nigeria, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea (EFSA, 2013; Quattrocchi, 2012; Mabberley, 2008).
Parts of the plant used:
How is it used?
An extract obtained for the bark is drunk as an aphrodisiac. For physical and sexual asthenia (fatigue), a small amount of the pulverized bark is eaten daily, but too much can be dangerous and harm the brain. The bark is chewed, macerated in water and drunk or a decoction in water can be taken as a tea to increase libido. Sometimes kola fruit is added to yohimbe bark to increase stimulation. A decoction of the bark is drunk to relieve pelvic pain (Neuwinger, 2000).
What is it used for?
The tree bark contains various active ingredients, but the most important alkaloid is known as yohimbine. Yohimbine has been applied in prescription medications for the treatment of impotence due to psychogenic, vascular or diabetic origin (Van Wyk and Wink, 2014; Khan and Abourashed, 2010).
The bark of the tree, alone or in combination with other plants, has diverse physiological properties, including tonic, against sexual impotence, against drowsiness, to treat sterility, as a stimulant, antalgic, against asthenia, and adrenergic–blocking actions (Quattrocchi, 2012; Khan and Abourashed, 2010; Neuwinger, 2000).
There is some clinical evidence that yohimbine may be useful for the treatment of erectile dysfunction, although more controlled studies are necessary in order to fully assess its effects (Peak et al., 2015; Van Wyk and Wink, 2014).
A comprehensive report mentions that various dietary supplements of yohimbe bark are commercially available that purportedly augment sexual performance and enhance sexual pleasure. Certain weight loss supplements also contain yohimbe bark in combination with other stimulant substances, such as caffeine, for example (EFSA, 2013).
Myers and Barrueto (2009) described the case of a 42-year-old male patient who presented with a severe case of intractable priapism (painful erection) after ingesting an over the counter yohimbe extract.
Haller et al. (2008) undertook a 1-year prospective surveillance study of dietary supplement-related poison control center calls in 2006. The results of the study showed that sympathomimetic toxicity was the most commonly reported problem. Caffeine-containing products accounted for 47%, of the cases, while supplements containing yohimbe comprised 18% of supplement-related symptomatic cases
Safety / Precautions
- Side effects of over-the-counter supplements containing yohimbine can include increased blood pressure, tachycardia, anxiety, frequent urination, headache, agitation, rash, and gastrointestinal upset (Khan and Abourashed, 2010; Myers and Barrueto, 2009).
- Yohimbine ingestion in high doses may cause an increase in blood pressure and may interact with antihypertensive as well as antidepressant medications (Gardner and McGuffin, 2012; Khan and Abourashed, 2010).
- Avoid ingestion during pregnancy and lactation (De Smet, 1997).
- Avoid use in patients with inflamed prostate (Khan and Abourashed, 2010).
- The use of yohimbe bark and its preparations have been banned in foods or food supplements in several countries around the world including Belgium, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand (EFSA, 2013).
- People with preexisting heart, liver or kidney disease should consult a healthcare professional before taking any supplement containing yohimbine.
Before you decide to take any medicinal herb or herbal supplement, be sure to consult with a health care professional first. Avoid self-medication and self-diagnosis: Always be on the safe side!
De Smet P.A. Adverse Effects of Herbal Drugs, Vol. 3 Berlin: Springer-Verlag; 1997.
EFSA. European Food Safety Authority. Scientific Opinion on the evaluation of the safety in use of Yohimbe (Pausinystalia yohimbe (K. Schum.) Pierre ex Beille.
EFSA Journal 2013; 11(7):3302
Gardner Z, McGuffin M (Editors). Botanical Safety Handbook 2nd ed.
Boca Raton, FL; CRC Press; 2013; pp. 633-636.
Khan I, Abourashed E. Leung’s Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients 3rd ed.
New York: Wiley; 2010; pp. 631-633.
Haller C, Kearney T, Bent S, Ko R, Benowitz N, Olson K. Dietary supplement adverse events: report of a one-year poison center surveillance project. J Med Toxicol. 2008; 4(2):84-92.
Mabberley D. Mabberley’s Plant Book 3rd ed.
London: Cambridge University Press; 2008; p. 638.
Myers A, Barrueto F Jr. Refractory priapism associated with ingestion of yohimbe extract.
J Med Toxicol. 2009;5(4):223-5.
Neuwinger H.D. African Traditional Medicine.
Stuttgart: Medpharm Scientific Publishers; 2000; p. 382.
Peak TC, Yafi FA, Sangkum P, Hellstrom WJ. Emerging drugs for the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Expert Opin Emerg Drugs. 2015; 20(2):263-75.
Quattrocchi, U. World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants, Vol 4.
Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2012; pp. 448-449.
Van Wyk E, Wink M. Phytomedicines, Herbal Drugs, and Poisons.
Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press: 2014; p. 214 .