PAUSINYSTALIA YOHIMBE (SCIENTIFIC LATIN NAME) OR YOHIMBE (ENGLISH) OR ƊAN KAMARU (HAUSA): THE USE OF THIS PLANT SUPPLEMENT MAY BRING MORE HARM THAN BENEFITS TO MEN
Yohimbe is an evergreen tree that grows in West African countries, including Nigeria, Cameroon, the Congo, and Gabon. The bark of the tree contains the active compounds called alkaloids.
The main alkaloid is called yohimbine. Other alkaloids, including corynanthine, rauwolscine (also known as α‐yohimbine), ajmalicine are also present in the yohimbe plant. A powder derived from the bark of this plant is included in a Nigerian herb supplement called “Burantashi”, which is used as a food additive to barbecued meat (suya).
It is a prescription drug in the United States for the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Its popularity has waned since the introduction of Viagra.
Its bark extracts are also sold in health food stores and online. In Germany and other EU countries, it is not approved for use.
YOHIMBE CAN CAUSE A DANGEROUS RISE IN BLOOD PRESSURE, AS WELL AS ANXIETY AND OTHER SIDE EFFECTS. Traditionally, yohimbe has been used in Africa for fever, coughs, leprosy, and as an aphrodisiac. So far, scientific evidence supporting the potential benefits of yohimbe in human clinical studies for low libido or erectile dysfunction is lacking.
Most clinical studies have looked at the drug yohimbine and not the herbal extract yohimbe.
Studies on the effectiveness of yohimbine have had conflicting findings. For organic erectile dysfunction (erectile dysfunction due to a physical problem), one small uncontrolled study found that yohimbine was beneficial for men with organic erectile dysfunction.
Another study found it was no more effective than a placebo.
A German study examined whether 30 mg/day of yohimbine for four weeks would help men with erectile dysfunction not due to a physical problem. Yohimbine was found to be more effective than placebo (71 percent vs 45 percent).
WEIGHT LOSS: Yohimbine has been found in preliminary research to increase lipolysis (breakdown of storage fat) by increasing the release of norepinephrine available to fat cells and blocking alpha-2 receptor activation.
However, a controlled study found that 43 mg/day yohimbe had no effect on body weight, body mass index, body fat, fat distribution, and cholesterol levels.
DEPRESSION: Yohimbe has been promoted as an herbal remedy for depression because it blocks an enzyme called monoamine oxidase. However, this is only found in higher doses (over 50 mg/day), which is potentially unsafe.
POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS
Despite the purported benefits of yohimbe, it should not be taken given the serious health risks. It is imperative that you consult your physician if you are still considering using yohimbe.
In Germany, yohimbe is on the Commission E (the country’s herbal regulatory agency) list of unapproved herbs because of concerns about the herb’s safety and effectiveness.
In the United States, the FDA has had a number of reports of seizures and kidney failure following the use of yohimbe.
Side effects of normal dosages may include dizziness, nausea, insomnia, anxiety, rapid heartbeat, and increased blood pressure.
As little as 40 mg a day can cause severe side effects, such as dangerous changes in blood pressure, hallucinations, paralysis, liver, kidney, and heart problems, and can even be fatal.
Because yohimbine blocks the enzyme monoamine oxidase, people taking yohimbe must avoid all tyramine-containing foods (e.g., liver, cheeses, red wine) and over-the-counter (OTC) products that contain the ingredient phenylpropanolamine, such as nasal decongestants.
People with kidney or liver disease, stomach ulcers, heart disease, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, post-traumatic stress disorder, and panic disorder should not take yohimbe.
Yohimbe should not be taken by pregnant or nursing women, children, or elderly people.
It should not be combined with antidepressant drugs unless under the supervision of a physician.
Yohimbe supplements haven’t been tested for safety and keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.
You can get tips on using supplements here, but if you’re considering the use of yohimbe, it is essential that you talk with your physician/doctor first.
RECOMMENDATION: If you are experiencing erectile dysfunction or another condition for which you are considering yohimbe, talk to your health care provider. There are other medications and treatments available with fewer side effects and safety concerns.
These are the thoughts of:
Sa’eed Halilu Bawa
Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) at University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus, Trinidad.
Studied Food and Nutrition Sciences, Dietetics at Kaduna Polytechnic, Nigeria; Warsaw University of Life Sciences, Poland.