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Yohimbine for Weight Loss

author image Clay McNight
Clay McNight is currently a nutrition writer with Demand Media Studios.
Yohimbine for Weight Loss
One supplement pill in a spoon on top of more suppplement pills. Photo Credit PRImageFactory/iStock/Getty Images

Yohimbine supplements are used to improve sexual performance, increase energy and promote fat loss. While certain uses of yohimbine have been studied, the evidence linking yohimbine with weight loss is very limited. Some research shows that this naturally derived substance may be most useful for promoting fat loss when combined with exercise. There are safety concerns regarding yohimbine that should not be overlooked, however.

Yohimbine Basics

Yohimbine is a chemical substance extracted from an evergreen tree native to western Africa, known as yohimbe. This substance is used in dietary supplements for a number of purposes, most notably to treat erectile dysfunction in men. Yohimbine works by increasing blood flow to the genital region, which may be able to counteract sexual side effects associated with certain prescription drugs. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, some dietary supplements have been found to contain very small amounts of yohimbine.

Medical Uses

MedlinePlus has rated yohimbine as "possibly effective" for treating erectile dysfunction and sexual problems related to anti-depression drugs. Due to a lack of research, all other potential uses for yohimbine have been rated as "insufficient evidence." As far as weight loss is concerned, there is a lack of evidence that yohimbine is effective in this area. According to a 2011 article published in the "Journal of Dietary Supplements," there is no evidence that yohimbine is effective for improving body composition or any other desirable changes in body mass.

Yohimbine, Exercise and Weight Loss

Although yohimbine by itself may lack efficacy in promoting weight loss, combining it with exercise could make a difference. According to a 2002 paper published in "Medical Hypothesis," yohimbine could boost exercise efficiency, thus promoting fat loss. The authors note that yohimbine, when taken prior to exercise, may be able to increase lipolysis, or the breakdown of stubborn fat deposits. A study published in "Research and Sports Medicine" in 2006 found that yohimbine significantly decreased body fat in soccer players. The authors concluded that yohimbine could be used as a fat-loss strategy for elite athletes.

Safety Issues

According to MedlinePlus, yohimbine is possibly unsafe because of reports that have linked the substance to irregular heartbeat, seizures, heart attack, kidney failure and other side effects. Yohimbine is particularly unsafe for children, as they appear to be very sensitive to its effects. High doses of yohimbine could cause a number of very severe side effects, including difficulty breathing, very low blood pressure, heart problems, paralysis and even death. Pregnant or breast-feeding women and those with kidney problems or psychiatric conditions should not use yohimbine. Never take yohimbine with monoamine oxidase inhibitors, as this could increase side effects.

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