Yohimbe comes from the inner bark of West African evergreen trees called pausinystalia yohimbe and Corynanthe yohimbe found primarily in Cameroon, Gabon, and Zaire. The active ingredient is an alkaloid called yohimbine, which is found in higher concentrations in the pausinystalia yohimbe. Pausinystalia yohimbe is verging on extinction due to over harvesting by pharmaceutical companies. Yohimbine has been isolated and is available in prescription form for impotence. Yohimbe the herb, while containing yohimbine, also contains other compounds and can have additional effects.
Traditionally yohimbe bark has been used in Africa to treat fevers, coughs, and leprosy. Often yohimbe tea was taken by warriors in preparation for battle. Yohimbe was also taken during fertility celebrations, mating and marriage rituals. It has been used as a topical anesthetic slightly milder than cocaine, and a hallucinogen when smoked. Yohimbe’s most common, modern use is as a sexual enhancer.
Little clinical research has been done to prove the effects of yohimbe or yohimbine, but in practical application it has proven to be effective in treating impotence and frigidity. It’s efficacy for women is often overlooked, however it works the same way in both women and men with similar results. Increased blood flow to the genitals and increased brain activity make it a double whammy as an aphrodisiac.
The benefits of yohimbe are a subject of much controversy. Yohimbe is used to help build muscle, improve sexual function, reduce anxiety, elevate mood, and prevent heart attacks. Because it stimulates the central nervous system, it has been used to treat narcolepsy and for weight loss. Yohimbe increases fatty acid mobilization, decreasing fat synthesis, which means it not only aids in weight loss, but actual fat reduction. Yohimbe is popular with bodybuilders. By stimulating the production of testosterone, it can help build muscle mass.
Yohimbe is a vasodilator increasing blood flow to the extremities, a nootrpoic substance increasing brain activity, and an anti-oxidant. While it has been used to prevent heart problems, it can be unsafe for people who have heart problems. Yohimbe can raise or lower blood pressure and therefore has been used to treat both high and low blood pressure, but can be dangerous for people with either condition.
Yohimbe should not be taken in conjunction with tyramine which is found in cheese, liver, red wine, chocolate, beer, nuts, aged or smoked meats, sauerkraut, and yeast. Tyramine affects blood pressure. Yohimbe affects how the body processes tyramine, and the combination can be very dangerous.
Yohimbe blocks monoamine oxidase (MAO), dopamine and serotonin. Blocking MAO can help with depression. Blocking dopamine and serotonin can make depression worse.
Recent studies have shown that Yohimbe can be helpful when taken in conjunction with some antidepressant drugs, both by increasing the efficacy of the drugs and by reducing impotence often caused by antidepressant medications. Other studies have shown that yohimbe can be dangerous when taken in conjunction with antidepressants.
Yohimbe can have great physical and mental benefits when taken with caution and under professional supervision. While much more research is needed, yohimbe has great potential as both a complementary and a stand alone herb.
Yohimbe should not be taken by people with heart problems, high blood pressure, anxiety, kidney disease, those who are pregnant, or taking antidepressants.