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Yohimbine is an alkaloid that is found in the bark of a West African evergreen tree—the yohimbe tree. Yohimbine might help treat impotence that can be caused by a variety of factors, although it comes with many risks.

Commonly Used Product Names
  • Yohimbine hydrochloric acid (HCL)—a prescription drug in a tablet
  • Yohimbe bark—available in the following forms:
    • Capsule
    • Concentrated drops
    • Decoction (an extract obtained from boiling)
    • Tablet
    • Tea
    • Tincture

Yohimbe bark is often not standardized based on yohimbine content. Therefore, it is a less reliable source than the drug form.

Sexual Effects

Yohimbine has a long history of being used as an aphrodisiac. Some studies have suggested that it may have the following pro-sexual effects:

  • Helps to obtain and maintain erection
  • Enhances quality of erection
Side Effects

Since the effective level of yohimbine is close to its toxic level, it is not clear that its benefits outweigh its risks. Side effects include:

  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Panic attacks
  • Tremors
  • Elevated blood pressure and heart rate
  • Salivation
  • Nausea
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Urinary frequency
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Hallucinations
  • Paralysis
Cautions
Medications

Yohimbine may cause adverse reactions when taken with certain medications. These include:

  • MAO inhibitors—When combined with yohimbine, MAO inhibitors can cause dangerously high blood pressure.
  • Antidepressants—Yohimbine can interact with most types of antidepressants.
  • Antihypertensives—Yohimbine may increase blood pressure-lowering effects.
  • Nasal decongestants
  • Phenylpropanolamine-containing diet aids
Health Conditions

If you have one of the following conditions, talk to your doctor before taking yohimbine:

Yohimbine is not usually prescribed for women. It should never be taken during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.

Dietary Considerations

Yohimbine is classified as an MAO inhibitor. When taking MAOIs, you should avoid the following foods:

  • Foods with a high-tyramine content, such as
    • Cheese
    • Alcohol
    • Pickled or marinated or smoked or cured or fermented foods
    • Organ meats
    • Nuts, peanut butter
    • Fava beans
    • Onions
    • Avocados
    • Canned figs
    • Chocolate
    • Excess amounts of caffeine
  • Foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG)

RESOURCES:

Family Doctor.org - American Academy of Family Physicians
http://familydoctor.org

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
http://nccam.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

Men's Health Centre
http://www.menshealthcentre.net

References

Crenshaw TL, Goldberg JP. Sexual Pharmacology: Drugs that Affect Sexual Function. WW Norton & Company; 1996.

Guay AT, Spark RF, Jacobson J, Murray FT, Geisser ME. Yohimbine treatment of organic erectile dysfunction in a dose-escalation trial. Int J Impot Res. 2002;14:25-31.

Hall-Flavin DK. MAOIs and diet: is it necessary to restrict tyramine? Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/maois/HQ01575. Updated January 17, 2014. Accessed June 5, 2014.

Herbs at a glance: Yohimbe. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website. Available at: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/yohimbe. Updated July 2012. Accessed June 5, 2014.

Lebret T, Hervé JM, Gorny P, et. al. Efficacy and safety of a novel combination of L-arginine glutamate and yohimbine hydrochloride: a new oral therapy for erectile dysfunction. Eur Urol. 2002;41:608-613.

Peirce A, American Pharmaceutical Association. The American Pharmaceutical Association Practical Guide to Natural Medicines. New York, NY: Morrow; 1999.

Yohimbe. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/biomedical-libraries/natural-alternative-treatments. Updated August 22, 2013. Accessed June 5, 2014.



Last reviewed June 2014 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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