What Is Yohimbe And Should You Use It?

Yohimbe is a popular ingredient in performance boosters, but it is not without its risks.

Medically reviewed by Serena Benali, RDN Serena Benali Serena BenaliRDN linkedin_icon
Written by , MSc (Biotechnology), Certified Diet & Nutrition Coach Varsha Patnaik MSc (Biotechnology), Certified Diet & Nutrition Coach linkedin_icon Experience: 2 years
Edited by , BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health Ravi Teja Tadimalla BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health linkedin_icon Experience: 8 years
Fact-checked by , MSc (Biotechnology), Certified Health & Nutrition Life Coach Payal Karnik MSc (Biotechnology), Certified Health & Nutrition Life Coach linkedin_icon Experience: 2.5 years
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Yohimbe is an herbal supplement that not only helps improve sexual performance but also helps with weight loss. Yohimbe benefits have a long history in West African traditional medicine. Its supplements, in the form of pills, could effectively treat certain health issues. But is this supplement safe? What are the risks associated with its consumption? This article explores yohimbe’s mechanism of action, its health benefits, potential drug interactions, and risks associated with its intake. Keep reading further to know more.

protip_icon Know Your Ingredient: Yohimbe

What Is It?
An evergreen plant that contains an alkaloid compound yohimbine, a herbal supplement, used in medicines.

What Are Its Benefits?
Yohimbe may help improve libido, treat erectile dysfunction, and support weight loss.

Who Can Use It?
Athletes and males experiencing erectile dysfunction.

How Often?
Maximum of 30 mg per day.

Those taking hypertension medications should avoid it. High doses may cause rapid heart beat, high blood pressure, stomach ache, and anxiety.

What Is Yohimbe?

Yohimbe is an evergreen plant from the Rubiaceae family native to Western Africa. Yohimbe bark contains, among other chemical substances, an organic alkaloid called yohimbine, which is used to make medicines and supplements. Traditionally, yohimbe bark has been used as a stimulant tonic for men, as a performance enhancer for athletes, and as an aphrodisiac. The prescription drug for the treatment of erectile dysfunction uses a form of yohimbine called yohimbine hydrochloride that is made in the laboratory (1).

Food supplements using yohimbine hydrochloride as their active ingredient are banned in the USA. Hence, this article focuses on yohimbe supplements that use yohimbe bark extract or yohimbine.

protip_icon Trivia
Yohimbine is approved as a drug in veterinary medicine to counter the effects of xylazine (used for sedation or as an analgesic) in dogs and deers.

In the next section, let us understand how yohimbe works.

How Does Yohimbe Work?

Yohimbine, the most important bioactive alkaloid in yohimbe bark, is an alpha-2-adrenoceptor antagonist that works on the central and peripheral nervous systems. Alpha-2 adrenoceptors are located at various places within the body and play a role in managing heart rate, blood pressure, and central nervous system functions, among others (1). They also may contribute to erectile dysfunction. Yohimbe blocks the alpha-2-adrenoceptor and may help treat erectile dysfunction. However, further studies are essential to completely understand the mechanism of action and its efficacy (2).

Yohimbe also may block the alpha-2-adrenoceptors in fat cells. It helps break down stored fat and makes it readily available as fuel for the body (3), (4).

Studies on yohimbe bark extract and yohimbine in food supplements are still nascent. But yohimbe does seem to have some benefits. Let us understand them in detail.

Benefits Of Yohimbe: Looking At Claims And Evidence

Yohimbe may aid weight loss
Image: Shutterstock

Yohimbe has been used in traditional medicine for ages. While the most widely claimed benefit is its action as a stimulating tonic for men, it may have other potential uses.

1. May Resolve Sexual Problems Arising From Certain Medications

Yohimbe may treat sexual problems
Image: Shutterstock

Some medications that are used to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or anxiety, often cause sexual impotence as a side effect. A study supports the effectiveness of yohimbine as a treatment for improving libido and sexual function. However, more controlled studies are required to accurately understand the dosage and safety of yohimbine in this regard (5).

Also, while the study mentions yohimbine, it is unclear if it is yohimbine in its organic form or yohimbine hydrochloride that is used. Talk to your healthcare provider for more information in this regard.

2. May Help Treat Erectile Dysfunction

You have probably heard about yohimbe supplements as a solution for erectile dysfunction. While supplements are not regulated by the FDA and may vary in terms of their yohimbine content, there is some evidence to suggest that yohimbine could be a potential solution to this problem. Studies suggest that the benefits of yohimbe medication can outweigh its risks. Serious adverse effects were rare, and they could be reserved even if they occurred (6).

Yohimbe extracts in the form of yohimbine hydrochloride are available as prescription medications for treating erectile dysfunction. Speak to a healthcare professional before taking any such medications.

3. May Support Weight Loss

Combining exercise with yohimbe may promote weight loss. This because yohimbine, a natural alpha-2 adrenoceptor antagonist present in yohimbe supplements, helps break down the stored body fat so that it gets used up. This holds true especially if you are in a fasted state (where your body is looking for fuel to feed on) or when you are involved in physical exercise (4).

A study conducted to observe the changes in body composition (and performance) in soccer players found that those taking a specific dose of yohimbine saw significant body fat loss (6).

On the contrary, another study found a lack of efficacy in yohimbine for the treatment of obesity (8). Hence, more concrete research is warranted to understand the role of yohimbe in aiding weight loss.

4. May Improve Performance In Athletes

Yohimbe may boost athletic performance
Image: Shutterstock

Yohimbe extract and bark and the over-the-counter supplements are commonly used for their potential action as an energy enhancer (9). However, there is not enough evidence to suggest that yohimbe can improve athletic performance and stamina.

A study conducted on soccer players given specific doses of yohimbine revealed that there was no marked difference in their performance as compared to the group that received a placebo (7). Also, an article published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements suggests that there is no conclusive evidence for the drug to enhance physical performance (10).

The graph indicates the gains in muscle thickness between two groups of healthy young men who participated in a 12-week resistance training program. One group took whey protein, while the other consumed a placebo made mainly of carbohydrates. Ultrasonography was used to gauge the size of the biceps, triceps, and quadriceps. Both groups participated in a regimen of supervised exercise, but improvements in the muscle thickness in the group that took yohimbe were noticeably bigger than those in the placebo group.

Repetitions To Failure (Repetitions) For Each Of The Three Sets And Total Accumulated Repetitions

Source: Repetitions to failure (repetitions) for each of the three sets and total accumulated repetitions

Yohimbe has potential as medicine with certain benefits that you may be interested in. However, yohimbe dietary supplements are unregulated and may be inconsistent with their labels, ingredients, composition, safety, and efficacy. Let us look at some of the reported yohimbe side effects.

Yohimbe Side Effects and Potential Allergies

Excessive sweating is a side effect of yohimbe
Image: Shutterstock

Yohimbe may cause some side effects when used to reduce sexual side effects of depression medications. These may include (5):

  • an increase in anxiety
  • excessive sweating
  • a wound-up feeling

Excess intake of yohimbe as a drug for treating erectile dysfunction may cause (11):

  • increased frequency of urination
  • high blood pressure
  • mild anxiety

In a study, a young girl taking yohimbe for weight loss experienced a few severe side effects that included (12):

  • alcohol and cocaine-seeking behavior
  • changes in defensive behavior
  • suicidal tendencies

Another case study looking at two yohimbe-related deaths compiled some more reported side effects of the drug. These side effects were observed at different doses of yohimbine, beginning with as low as 0.2 g. The side effects included (13):

  • anxiety
  • hypertension or high blood pressure
  • tremors
  • nausea
  • headache
  • rash
  • dissociative reactioni  A mental disorder in which the patient suffers from incoherent and inconsistent thoughts and memories leading to delusion.
  • drowsiness
  • confusion
  • retrograde amnesiai  A form of amnesia usually caused by brain injury where facts and memories prior to the injury are obliterated.
  • atrial fibrillationi  A condition characterized by an erratic heartbeat or arrhythmia that raises the risk of cardiac arrest.
  • unconsciousness
  • priapism, or prolonged erection not connected to sexual stimulation
  • seizures
  • sinus tachycardiai  A common anxiety-driven condition characterized by a brief, sudden increase in heart rate owing to a traumatic situation.
  • renal failure
  • death

Allergic reactions to yohimbe bark extract and yohimbe medication have been reported (1). Immediately consult a doctor in case you experience the following severe allergic reactions after taking yohimbine:

  • rash
  • breathing difficulty
  • swelling in face/throat/tongue
  • severe dizziness

Andy, a blogger, tried yohimbe as part of his weight loss diet and shared his experience on his blog: “I don’t really like the effects of yohimbe either – it makes my skin tingle (not in a nice way). However, I’ve read numerous other bloggers state this side effect too, without any other negative side effects (i).”

These are the potential risks of yohimbe. Avoiding the supplement altogether or follow certain precautions to reduce the risks of side effects. Let us understand more in the following section.

What Are The Precautions To Consider Before Using Yohimbe?

Yohimbe is very commonly available as a street drug, over-the-counter pill, and herbal supplement. It is often used without prescription as an aphrodisiac and weight loss pill. Research on yohimbe bark extract used in dietary supplements is insufficient and the supplements themselves are unregulated by the FDA.

Yohimbe extract, purified in the lab to form yohimbine hydrochloride, has some research to support its use as a prescription drug for erectile dysfunction. Given the potential adverse effects of yohimbe, you need to consider certain precautions before using it personally:

  1. Most yohimbe products do not contain sufficient or accurate information on their labels. In an analysis of yohimbe supplements spread across 49 brands, only 2 out of the 49 brands of the supplement had accurate information about the quantity of yohimbine as well as the potential adverse effects of the product. It was also found that 39% of the customers used either highly processed or synthetic yohimbine. Most of the labels on the supplements were inaccurate, and the quantity of yohimbine used in them ranged from 23 percent to 147 percent (14). Be aware of this, as such supplements may either be ineffective or cause side effects when taken in excess.
  2. Yohimbe products can induce psychiatric adverse effects in healthy people. They may also exacerbate psychiatric conditions in people with diagnosed or undiagnosed psychiatric conditions, including anxiety (15).
  3. Yohimbe has not been studied for safety in pregnancy and lactation. Hence, pregnant or breastfeeding women must avoid yohimbe-related products (1), (16).
  4. You should not take yohimbe if you have renal and hepatic problems, hypertension, glaucoma, and cardiac impairment (17).

Yohimbe Drug Interactions

Yohimbine may adversely interact with certain prescription drugs. According to a scientific opinion on the evaluation of the safety of yohimbe, some interactions are listed here (1), (16).

  • You should not take yohimbe supplements with MAO inhibitors.
  • Yohimbine may interact with drugs for hypertension.
  • Yohimbe may interact with tricyclic antidepressants and phenothiazinesi  A class of drugs that act as antipsychotics to inhibit dopamine hyperactivity and aid in the treatment of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. .

Yohimbe is also known to interact with alcohol. Mixing the two may impair one’s driving ability (17).

protip_icon Trivia
Phenelzine (Nardil) and tranylcypromine (Parnate) are two commonly used monoamine oxidase inhibitors (a type of antidepressant drug) that can potentially have drug interactions with yohimbe.

With the important precautions taken into consideration, here is some more information if you want to proceed with yohimbe.

How To Use Yohimbe

Woman taking prescribed yohimbe pill for good health
Image: Shutterstock

Yohimbe is available as prescription pills and an intravenous drug, as well as in the form of herbal supplements for oral use. For use as a fat loss aid, you may use it in a fasted state or before exercise (4). There is no standardized yohimbe dosage as it is a dietary supplement not regulated by the FDA. Use caution and your doctor’s advice before using any product containing yohimbe extract.

Yohimbe is a plant that produces an alkaloid called yohimbine, which can potentially help improve symptoms of erectile dysfunction and may aid weight loss. While yohimbine hydrochloride, a processed form of yohimbine, is approved for use as a prescription medicine to treat erectile dysfunction, the herbal supplements containing yohimbe extract have not been studied widely. The potential adverse effects of yohimbe, some of which are severe, have raised questions regarding its safety and efficacy. Hence, always consult your doctor before using yohimbe.

Infographic: 4 Major Benefits Of Yohimbe

Yohimbe clearly has much to offer. No wonder it has been used in West African traditional medicine for decades. Check out the infographic below to learn the top 4 benefits of this herbal supplement that can improve your overall health. Scroll down now!

4 major benefits of yohimbe(infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Yohimbe is an herbal supplement with medicinal properties. It has been primarily used to treat erectile dysfunction. The many benefits of yohimbe can be attributed to its antioxidant compound, yohimbine. The use of this dietary supplement may resolve erectile dysfunction and support weight loss. However, excess intake of this supplement may cause high blood pressure, increase urination frequency, and lead to mild anxiety. In addition, yohimbe bark extract may cause allergic reactions in some people. Hence, consult a healthcare professional before using it. If you experience any adverse effects, stop using it and immediately consult your doctor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does yohimbine increase dopamine?

As per research, yohimbine increases dopamine release in the brain and affects the serotonini  A neurotransmitter that acts as a messenger between nerve cells regulating various bodily functions such as sleep, respiration, etc. system as well (19).

Does yohimbine increase heart rate?

Yes, as per studies, yohimbine is known to cause a dose-dependent increase in heart rate (20).

Does yohimbine affect sleep?

Yes, studies on men suggest that yohimbine can affect the sleep-wake cycles (21).

Key Takeaways

  • Yohimbe is an herbal supplement that is widely used in West African traditional medicine.
  • Yohimbine, the alkaloid in yohimbe, works on the central and peripheral nervous systems.
  • It is known to improve sexual performance, treat erectile dysfunction, and accelerate weight loss.
  • Yohimbe may cause severe adverse reactions, including psychiatric effects, renal problems, hypertension, and cardiac impairment.
Yohimbe Benefits

Image: Stable Diffusion/StyleCraze Design Team

Uncover the weight loss potential of yohimbine in this informative video. Discover the natural benefits of this supplement and its role in helping you achieve your desired physique.

Personal Experience: Source


Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. (Pausinystalia yohimbe (K. Schum.) Pierre ex Beille)
  2. Yohimbine in Erectile Dysfunction: The Facts
  3. Plasma Catecholamine Levels and Lipid Mobilization Induced by Yohimbine In Obese And Non-Obese Women
  4. Alpha 2-antagonist compounds and lipid mobilization: evidence for a lipid mobilizing effect of oral yohimbine in healthy male volunteers
  5. Yohimbine treatment of sexual side effects induced by serotonin reuptake blockers
  6. Yohimbine for erectile dysfunction: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials
  7. Yohimbine: the effects on body composition and exercise performance in soccer players
  8. [Lack of efficacy of yohimbine in the treatment of obesity]
  9. Selected herbals and human exercise performance
  10. Yohimbine Use for Physical Enhancement and Its Potential Toxicity
  11. Yohimbine: a clinical review
  12. [Psychiatric effects and side effects of the alpha-2-antagonist yohimbine: a review of literature and case report]
  13. Case Study: Two Fatal Case Reports of Acute Yohimbine Intoxication
  14. Pharmaceutical quantities of yohimbine found in dietary supplements in the USA
  15. Adverse Psychiatric Effects Associated with Herbal Weight-Loss Products
  16. Yohimbe
  17. Scientific assessment of yohimbe (Pausinystalia yohimbe)
  18. Yohimbine treatment of organic erectile dysfunction in a dose-escalation trial
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Serena Benali is a Registered Dietitian with over 3 years of experience and is also the founder of In Good Nutrition. Before opening the doors to her private practice, Serena worked as a culinary arts instructor, teaching people of all ages how to create delicious, nutritious meals and adopt a love for food and cooking.

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Varsha Patnaik
Varsha PatnaikHealth & Wellness Writer
Varsha holds a master's degree in biotechnology from Ravenshaw University, Cuttack, and is a certified diet and nutrition coach with two years of experience. She combines her scientific knowledge and her passion for writing to produce research-backed content in the health and wellness domain.

Read full bio of Varsha Patnaik
Ravi Teja Tadimalla
Ravi Teja TadimallaSenior Editor
Ravi Teja Tadimalla is a senior editor and a published author. He has been in the digital media field for over eight years. He graduated from SRM University, Chennai, and has a Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition & Research from Wageningen University.

Read full bio of Ravi Teja Tadimalla
Payal Karnik
Payal KarnikSenior Health & Wellness Writer
Payal Karnik is a senior health and wellness writer and a Certified Health and Nutrition Life Coach. She is a biotechnology graduate from the University of Mumbai with a keen interest in writing and a natural curiosity for science.

Read full bio of Payal Karnik
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