Dating back centuries, Western African civilizations have believed in the medicinal powers of the bark from the yohimbe tree native to their land. Its earliest uses in these areas was as an aphrodisiac for women, and this use continues today. Yohimbine is the active ingredient in yohimbe and what gives it its medicinal properties, according to MedlinePlus. However, women considering yohimbe supplements should be aware that the amount of yohimbine contained in supplements can vary substantially and some may contain very little. Before using yohimbe, consult with a trusted health practitioner who can advise you of potential benefits and risks.
Although the most well-known use of yohimbe is to treat impotence and sexual dysfunction in men, some of its purported uses affect women as well. For example, yohimbe bark has been used as an aphrodisiac in Africa for centuries and continues to be touted to boost a woman's libido, according to MedlinePlus. It is also recommended to reverse some of the side effects of antidepressants, such as dry mouth. Before using yohimbe supplements to boost your sex drive, speak with a qualified medical professional who can advise you of its risks.
Study into whether yohimbe is useful in increasing a woman's libido continues. Studies that have been conducted so far have not been well designed and have not been conclusive. One study published by Dr. Cindy Meston in the August 2002 journal "Archives of Sexual Behavior" found that the active ingredient in yohimbe--yohimbine--did increase sexual arousal when taken in conjunction with L-arginine. However, neither yohimbine or L-arginine alone increased libido. Because the study was conducted on such as small group of women, more study is necessary to determine what effect yohimbe and yohimbine have on the body and whether it is effective for boosting libido.
Mechanism of Action
Yohimbine is the main active ingredient in yohimbe bark. In relation to its use as an aphrodisiac, the yohimbine in the bark may be able to dilate the blood vessels in the genital area, which in turn can increase sexual arousal and desire, according to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. However, exactly how yohimbe works in the body is not fully understood. Always speak with a knowledgeable medical professional before using it to boost your libido or improve your health in any way.
Yohimbe supplements should contain standardized amounts of yohimbine, according to New York University's Langone Medical Center. The recommended daily dose of yohimbine is 15 mg to 30 mg a day. Women using yohimbe supplements may notice immediate improvement in their libido, but Langone Medical Center warns that it can take two to three weeks before noticing any changes. Before using yohimbe supplements, speak with a medical professional who can advise you on how to use it safely.
When taken at the recommended dosage, yohimbe is generally considered safe. Known side effects include flushing of the skin, pain in the genitals, pain during urination, hair standing up, headaches, dizziness, nervousness, agitation, irritability and difficulty sleeping, according to MedlinePlus. It has also been associated with increased heart rate and high blood pressure. People who have kidney disease, heart disease, high blood pressure and psychiatric conditions should not take yohimbe supplements. It also should not be taken by women who are pregnant or breast-feeding because of effects on the fetus or baby. Yohimbe supplements should not be taken with tricyclic antidepressants or phenothiazines and should also be used with caution in people taking drugs to lower blood pressure and MAO inhibitors.
- MedlinePlus: Supplements: Yohimbe
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Yohimbe
- New York University Langone Medical Center: Yohimbe
- Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: Yohimbe
- PubMed.gov: The Effects of Yohimbine Plus L-Arginine Glutamate on Sexual Arousal in Postmenopausal Women with Sexual Arouusal Disorder