Yohimbine is a supplement known for its ability to treat erectile dysfunction and help with weight loss. However, yohimbine also has multiple side effects and should be taken with caution. Read on to discover its health benefits and side effects.

What is Yohimbine?

Yohimbe (Pausinystalia yohimbe) is the name of an evergreen tree native to western and central Africa. The bark of the tree contains an active compound called yohimbine. Yohimbe bark was traditionally used as an aphrodisiac.

In the United States, yohimbine has been developed into a prescription drug for erectile dysfunction. In this form, it is more commonly known as yohimbine hydrochloride and has been used for longer than viagra [1].

Yohimbine hydrochloride can also be found as an over-the-counter supplement.

Mechanisms

  • Yohimbine blocks alpha-1 and alpha-2 adrenoceptors, increasing adrenaline and dopamine and decreasing serotonin levels. Blocking these receptors also increases blood pressure, releases insulin, and decreases blood sugar levels [2].
  • Yohimbine blocks serotonin-1B, -1D, -2A, and -2B (5-HT1B, 5-HT1D, 5-HT2A, and 5-HT2B) receptors, and dopamine-2 and dopamine-3 (D2 and D3) receptors [3].

Benefits and Uses of Yohimbine

1) Treats Erectile Dysfunction

Yohimbine increases sexual arousal, motivation, and ejaculation frequency in male rats [4].

A meta-analysis of 7 studies (RCT) found that yohimbine is effective for treating erectile dysfunction, compared to placebo [5].

A study (DB-RCT) in 82 patients with erectile dysfunction found that one month of yohimbine improved erections in 28 patients [6].

A combination of yohimbine and L-arginine was safe and effective for the treatment of mild to moderate erectile dysfunction in 40 male patients (DB-RCT) [7].

2) Promotes Fat Burning and Weight Loss

In lean and obese mice, yohimbine reduces appetite and food intake [8].

Consuming yohimbine before exercise or during fasting increases fat breakdown [9, 10, 11, 12].

A study (DB-RCT) in 20 athletes showed that daily yohimbine supplementation reduced body fat levels from 9.3 to 7.1% [13].

3) Reduces Fear and Social Anxiety

Fear extinction is a form of therapy that helps get rid of the fear of certain objects, animals, or people [14].

Several studies (both in animals and humans) have shown that yohimbine helps fear extinction by increasing norepinephrine levels [15, 16, 17, 18].

A study (RCT) in 40 patients with social anxiety disorder found that yohimbine decreased social anxiety and increased mood [19].

4) Helps Treat Type 2 Diabetes

Yohimbine treatment decreased blood glucose and increased insulin in diabetic rats [20].

A study (DB-RCT) on 50 diabetic patients found that yohimbine increases insulin levels and helps treat diabetes [21].

5) May Improve Memory

A study (RCT) in 36 adults found that yohimbine improved long-term memory by increasing norepinephrine levels [22].

However, one study showed that yohimbine reduced working memory in rats [23].

6) May Improve Cognitive Performance

In 24 university students, yohimbine improved performance on a math task. However, the number of errors were increased [24].

7) Decreases Blood Clotting

Among other functions, epinephrine controls blood clotting. Excessive blood clotting can lead to stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure [25].

Multiple studies show that yohimbine reduces blood clotting by blocking alpha-2 adrenoceptors and converting epinephrine to norepinephrine [26, 27, 28].

8) May Help with Dry Mouth Syndrome

Xerostomia, also known as dry mouth syndrome, is caused by a decrease in the amount of saliva produced.

Yohimbine increased saliva secretion in dogs [29].

Acetylcholine increases saliva production and is controlled by alpha-2-adrenoceptors. People with xerostomia suffer from a lack of acetylcholine. Yohimbine increases acetylcholine [29, 30, 31].

A study (DB-RCT) in 20 patients concluded that yohimbine increased saliva secretion [30].

Another study (DB-RCT) found that yohimbine increased salivary flow 3.5x [32].

9) Protects the Kidneys

Pretreatment with yohimbine reduced inflammation and improved kidney function in rats with kidney injuries [33].

10) May Help Treat Arthritis

In a mouse model of rheumatoid arthritis, yohimbine reduced joint inflammation, increased antioxidant levels, and prevented joint damage [34].

11) May Reduce Pain

Yohimbine reduced pain in injured rats comparable to the pain medicine, morphine [35].

In one study (DB-RCT), yohimbine (.18 mg/lb) reduced pain in a finger pressure test in 24 subjects with chronic back pain. However, it only reduced pain in subjects with low blood pressure and did not affect pain in 32 healthy subjects [36].

12) May Help Treat Clonidine Overdose

Clonidine is a prescription medication used to treat high blood pressure, ADHD, anxiety disorders, and withdrawal symptoms (from alcohol, opioids, or smoking). An overdose can lead to drowsiness, dizziness, and nausea.

In a case study, yohimbine successfully treated a woman with clonidine overdose after unsuccessful attempts with conventional treatments like naltrexone [1].

Supplementing Yohimbine

Precautions with Yohimbine Supplements

The amount of yohimbine in many products are unknown because they are often labeled incorrectly. A study on 49 yohimbine supplements found that only 2 provided accurate labeling and information [37].

The amount of yohimbine ranged from 0 to 12.1 mg, much higher than the recommended dose of 5.4 mg [37].

Of the products that listed inaccurate quantities, actual doses ranged from 23% to 147% of the stated amount.

Side effects are more common in herbal extracts of Yohimbe compared to prescription yohimbine products because prescription products undergo standard safety measures and have clearer dosing guidelines [38].

Yohimbine In Combination With Other Compounds

1) Helps Treat PCOS (With Naxolone)

Polycystic ovary syndrome is a group of symptoms that occur in women who have too high levels of androgens (male hormones).

Yohimbine combined with naloxone (a drug that treats opioid overdose) improved symptoms of PCOS in rabbits [39].

2) Prevents Organ Damage From Sepsis (With Berberine)

Sepsis is a condition in which tissues are harmed during the body’s response to infection.

Yohimbine and berberine reduced inflammatory messenger molecules (chemokines) and prevented immune cells (neutrophils) from harming multiple organs in mice with sepsis [40].

Dosage

For fat loss, up to 20 mg divided into 2 daily doses has shown to be effective [13].

It is recommended to supplement yohimbine before or with meals since it can cause insulin levels to significantly increase [9].

Studies looking at erectile dysfunction have used as much as 42 mg/day [6].

Risks and Side Effects

Even at the recommended dosage (5.4 mg 3x/day), yohimbine has multiple side effects. Higher doses (200 – 5,000 mg) result in stronger side effects and can be toxic to the brain. Extremely high doses (above 5,000 mg) can be lethal [41].

Common side effects of yohimbine are:

Several studies have shown that yohimbine promotes food- and drug-seeking behavior in rats and monkeys [42, 43, 44, 45, 46].

Because yohimbine reduces clotting, it should be avoided by hemophiliacs and those who have recently undergone surgery. Blood thinners such as aspirin, warfarin, and heparin should not be taken with yohimbine [26, 27, 28].

Yohimbine should not be taken with drugs that increase blood pressure and heart rate such as tricyclic antidepressants [47].

User Reviews

One user stated that 3 – 4 mg of yohimbine improved sexual performance, but resulted in anxiety attacks.

Another user reported excessive sweating and an increased heart rate of around 150 beats per minute approximately 2 hours after taking yohimbine.

Several users reported having negative experiences such as anxiety attacks and increased heart rate.

One user lost 17 lbs after taking yohimbine for two weeks, but experienced fever, difficulty sleeping, and a decrease in physical stamina.

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About the Author

Will Hunter

BA (Psychology)
Will received his BA in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. 
Will's main passion is learning how to optimize physical and mental performance through diet, supplement, and lifestyle interventions. He focuses on systems thinking to leverage technology and information and help you get the most out of your body and brain.

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