Yohimbe

What is Yohimbe?

Yohimbe is a popular herb coming originally from South Africa and known worldwide as an excellent aphrodisiac. In fact it is the inner bark of the tropical West African tree Pausinystalia yohimbe (formerly known as Corynanthe yohimbe). For centuries, folks from these regions have used the crude bark as a tonic to enhance sexual prowess and pleasure. Traditionally it has also been used for fever, coughs, and leprosy in Africa, as well as a mild hallucinogenic.

History

Yohimbe was first discovered and used for it's aphrodisiac qualities by the Pygmies and the Bushmen in West Africa, where it grows wild. The Bantu speaking tribes of West Africa still use and praise yohimbe today for it's powerful aphrodisiac effects. But these West African tribes considered it also a treatment of fevers, leprosy, and coughs. It has also been used to dilate pupils, for heart disease, and as a local anaesthetic. It has a more recent history of use as an aphrodisiac, and as a hallucinogen.

In the 19th century, some German missionaries discovered yohimbe while in West Africa and brought it back to Europe where it quickly became very popular. The yohimbe tree was nick-named the "love tree" and the bark extract was inserted into delicious little candies. These "love candies", as they were appropriately named, were a popular gift among European lovers.

In the 1960's the American government ordered the US Food & Drug Administration to run scientific tests on yohimbe to see if it actually worked as an aphrodisiac. These scientists discovered that yohimbe was in fact a powerful and effective aphrodisiac, especially for men. But, it, unfortunately, is not able to help those who suffer from organic impotency. These studies also reported that yohimbe helps to heighten the sense of touch and send tickling sensations up and down the spine.

Botanical

Yohimbe comes from an evergreen tree, native of the rainforests of Nigeria, Cameroon and the Congo. This tree belongs to the Rubiaceae family and can grow 30m high and its leaves are 15 - 25 cm long. It prefers rich soils in a protected part sun to shady position.

Chemistry

The primary chemical constituents of yohimbe bark include indole alkaloid (yohimbine, yohimbiline, ajmaline, pseudoyohimbine), and tannins. It contains an alkaloid yohimbine, which expands the blood vessels in the extremities of the body, including the genitals (similar to prescription drugs such as Viagra), skin, and fat cells. This compound has now been isolated, and is synthesized by pharmaceutical companies for use in the treatment of impotence.

Effects

Effects can include increased libido, increased sensation and increased stamina. Women have also reported similar effects and general pleasant sensations. It stimulates blood flow to the genitals, it can strengthen and prolong an erection.

It can also cause a pleasant 'high', a light feeling in the head and mild perception changes. This slightly psychotropic effect only occurs at higher dosages (50 - 100 mg).

For sporting people yohimbe has a powerful constructive effect; muscle growth is stimulated and recovery is enhanced. In short, this herb improves performance, enhances mood and increases potency.

Medical use

Active constituents in yohimbe, called yohimbine, dilate blood vessels, which is why it has been used for erectile dysfunction. It is also thought to stimulate the pelvic nerve ganglia.

Yohimbe also inhibits monoamine oxidase (MAO), which is why it is also used for depression. However, it is not considered a first-line treatment for depression, and there are other herbs that have more clinical evidence.

Varieties

The inner bark makes the herb. Besides, yohimbe is used in tablet, liquid extract, and powder forms. When yohimbe is mixed with vitamin C a new substance is formed, yohimbine-ascorbic acid. This gives a more pleasant and milder effect.

Usage

The herb can be consumed as tea using three teaspoons of bark per person. For a yohimbe cocktail for two, boil 4 to 8 teaspoons of the bark in half a liter of water. Boil this softly for 15 minutes, then filter it in a coffee filter and let it cool down for 15 minutes. Add 1 g vitamin C to the water. Add honey for extra taste. Drink with little sips.

Legality

Although the Yohimbe tree is not illegal, in many countries (including the Netherlands) it's no longer permitted as an ingredient in food supplements, such as natural aphrodisiacs, energizers and weight loss products. It should also be noted that the due to decades of extreme popularity, the tree is currently threatened with extinction.

Warnings

People with kidney disease, stomach ulcers should not take yohimbe. People with post-traumatic stress disorder or panic disorder should not take yohimbe. Yohimbe should not be taken by pregnant or nursing women. Contact your health practitioner if you experience dizziness, nausea, insomnia, anxiety, rapid heartbeat, and increased blood pressure.

Yohimbe is a mild MAO-inhibitor. This means that it slows the breakdown of some poisonous substances in the brain. Some foods, medications and drugs may then cause side effects from headaches to the more serious, like poisoning.

Contraindications

Research has shown that Yohimbe is generally tolerated well when used as recommended and the side effects are rare. But, high dosages can cause saliva produce, heavy breathing, the blood pressure can drop and heart disorders could occur.

Combinations

Usually, it is used with other herbs like ginseng and saw palmetto to boost its power. Combining yohimbe with ephedra increases its stimulating properties and is used sometimes as a smart drug. But, combinations like this could also be experienced as a negative, too much stimulation can raise blood pressure and can give a 'speedy' feeling.

Storage

The root bark must be stored in a cool and dry place.

Links / Further reading

Yohimbe research update by Ray Sahelian

References

This article is based on the following pages:

Chinese herbs on yohimbe

Herbal Information Center on yohimbe

About.com on yohimbe

Henriette's herbal on yohimbe

Erowids Yohimbe Vault

Urbanshaman on yohimbe

Viable herbal on yohimbe bark




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