Yohimbe bark, the bark of the evergreen Pausinystalia yohimbe tree, which is native to west Africa, is the source of the active chemical yohimbine, which is an alkaloid. Although yohimbine and yohimbe bark are, of course, related, they are not in fact interchangeable, according to the National Institutes of Health, nor are they synonymous with the drug derived from yohimbine, which is called yohimbine hydrochloride and is marketed as a prescription drug.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, or the NCCAM, yohimbe bark has been used historically to increase sexual desire, and more recently, it has been used to treat male erectile dysfunction. It is generally used as a tea, although it can also be ingested in tablet or capsule form.
Yohimbine is a chemical that can be found naturally in the bark of the yohimbe tree, according to the NCCAM. It is an alkaloid, which is a naturally occurring chemical compound. According to the Encylopaedia Britannica, alkaloids—including well-known varieties such as morphine and nicotine—have a variety of physiological effects. In clinical studies, according to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, yohimbine has been shown to treat sexual dysfunction.
Sold under the generic name “yohimbine” and under brand names including “Yocon,” yohimbine hydrochloride is a prescription medication that uses yohimbine as its active ingredient, according to the Mayo Clinic. It is often marketed to treat impotence. It increases peripheral blood flow and can also be used to dilate the pupils, according to the Mayo Clinic. It begins to work two to three weeks after you begin taking it. The Mayo Clinic says that a typical dosage for impotence is 5.4 to 6 mg three times per day, but you should follow your doctor’s dosing instructions.
How Yohimbe and Yohimbine Work
Because yohimbine is derived from yohimbe, they have similar mechanisms of action. According to Memorial Sloan-Kettering, yohimbine—and yohimbe, because it contains yohimbine—acts as a monoamine oxidase—or MAO—inhibitor and a calcium channel blocker, and it also stimulates the central nervous system. Additionally, it increases blood flow into body tissue and dilates genital blood vessels.
High blood pressure and increased heart rate are two common side effects of both yohimbe and yohimbine, according to the NCCAM and the Mayo Clinic. Both yohimbe and yohimbine can become dangerous if taken in larger-than-recommended doses, so consult with your doctor before you begin taking the herb or the drug, and follow his instructions. According to Memorial Sloan-Kettering, those with depression, schizophrenia, high-blood pressure, or diseases of the kidney, liver or heart should avoid taking yohimbe, as should women who are pregnant. Because it interacts with many common medication pathways, consult a doctor before taking yohimbe or yohimbine.