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Yohimbe Bark Supplements for ED

For generations, the bark of the yohimbe tree, an evergreen native to western Africa, has been used as a remedy for erectile dysfunction (ED).

Yohimbe bark extract, also known as yohimbine, is a dietary supplement. Made from yohimbe bark, it's sold under various names. Available without a prescription, its promoters claim it is an alternative remedy for ED. But whether it actually works is unclear.

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Yohimbe bark extract should not be confused with yohimbine hydrochloride, which is different from the supplement. Yohimbine hydrochloride has been available by prescription in the U.S. as a treatment for impotence since the 1930s. Research done with yohimbine hydrochloride cannot be used as evidence for effectiveness of the dietary supplement.

What's the Difference Between Yohimbine Hydrochloride and Yohimbe Supplements?

Prescription drugs like yohimbine hydrochloride are strictly regulated by the FDA. They must meet standards in terms of package labeling, detailed testing for safety and efficacy, and claims about potential benefit before they are approved by the FDA.

Supplements do not require FDA approval. Companies that manufacture and distribute supplements are responsible for making sure supplements are safe and that product labeling is truthful. After it is on the market, the FDA's responsibility is to take action against unsafe dietary supplements and false or misleading claims.

Additionally, you can't always be sure you're getting what the label of the supplement says you're getting. Researchers analyzing the content of a number of commercial yohimbe supplement products found that the proportion of yohimbine was less than it would be in the tree's bark.

The researchers also found that many of the supplements contained other substances that are not found in yohimbe bark.

Are There Any Other Benefit Claims Made for Yohimbe Supplements?

In addition to treating male impotence, yohimbe bark has been used as an aphrodisiac for men and women. It was also used to treat fever and leprosy, and warriors used it as a stimulant before battle. Similarly, weightlifters have used it before compeition. Powder made from the bark was sometimes smoked to produce hallucinations.

Modern proponents claim that yohimbe bark extract can be used as a stimulant, an antidepressant, an aid to weight loss, a remedy for the sexual side effects of certain antidepressants, and a treatment for low libido in women. But, again, what evidence there is for any of those claims is scientifically unclear.

Are There Risks in Taking Yohimbe Supplements and What Are the Side Effects?

Yohimbe has been associated with following side effects:

  • elevated blood pressure and heart rate
  • skin flushing
  • rash
  • piloerection or body hair standing up
  • painful urination
  • frequent urination
  • genital pain
  • reduced appetite
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • irritability
  • nervousness
  • tremors
  • insomnia
  • chest pain
  • breathing problems
  • palpitations
  • stomach upset
  • possible priapism (a prolonged, painful erection)

Women who are pregnant should not use yohimbe, and women who are breastfeeding should not use it because of reports of deaths in children. Yohimbe is also not recommended for use in children.

You should not use yohimbe if you have kidney, liver, heart, or psychiatric problems. Yohimbe products may interact with other supplements or medications you may be talking.

As with other medications and supplements, the safest bet is to discuss the use of yohimbe supplements with your doctor before you start taking them.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Charles E. Jennings, MD on August 06, 2012
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