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Yohimbine Side Effects

by
author image Janet Contursi
Janet Contursi has been a writer and editor for more than 23 years. She has written for professional journals and newspapers, and has experience editing educational, cultural, and business articles and books. Her clients include Gale Publishers, Anaxos, Vielife and Twin Cities Wellness. Contursi earned her Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota, where she studied cultural anthropology, South Asian languages and culture, and art history.
Yohimbine Side Effects
Ill woman sitting up in bed Photo Credit shironosov/iStock/Getty Images

Overview

Yohimbine is an alkaloid derived from the bark of the Pausinystalia yohimbe, an evergreen tree found in West Africa. Yohimbine hydrochloride is the standardized form of yohimbine found in over-the-counter capsules. It is used to treat sexual dysfunction and is also marketed as a substance to suppress appetite, increase sexual drive and lose fat. Yohimbine is a powerful psychoactive herb and in powdered form has been used as a hallucinogen.

Gastrointestinal Problems

Gastrointestinal upset is the most common side effect of yohimbine, and can include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. If you have gastric or duodenal ulcers, do not take yohimbine.

Heart and Blood Pressure

Yohimbine can cause fluid retention, chest pain and difficulty breathing. It can also increase blood pressure and heart rate to dangerous levels. In excessive doses, yohimbine can cause abnormal heart rhythm, excessively low blood pressure and even death. Ask your doctor if your heart is healthy enough to take yohimbine, and follow dosing advice carefully.

Genitourinary Disorders

Yohimbine may increase urinary frequency. Research reported in the December 2009 issue of the Journal of Medical Toxicology shows that yohimbine can also cause priapism, a painful, abnormally persistent erection.

Nervous System

Yohimbine affects the central nervous system (CNS) and may produce anxiety, irritability, tremors and insomnia. Using yohimbine in combination with other CNS medications will increase the total effect of the drugs. In animal studies, high doses of yohimbine have caused seizures.

Psychiatric Problems

Yohimbine may trigger reactions such as panic attacks or manic episodes. It can be dangerous to use yohimbine if you are taking benzodiazepines, tricyclic antidepressants or phenothiazines (found in some antipsychotic drugs and antihistamines). If you have a history of mental illness, speak to your doctor before taking yohimbine.

Alzheimer's Disease

If you have Alzheimer's disease and are being treated with physostigmine, yohimbine may have a stimulant effect and can cause you to be agitated and restless.

Blood

Yohimbine may interfere with normal blood clotting, so do not take it if you are taking other anticoagulants. It may also affect blood platelets and dangerously lower your white blood cell count.

Warnings

Always use a standardized extract so you are sure about the dose because the amount of yohimbine can vary from plant to plant.

Do not use yohimbine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Do not use yohimbine if you have any type of heart, liver or kidney problem.

Avoid eating foods containing tyramine, such as cheese, fermented foods, yogurt, beer, yeast and wine.

Avoid medications containing phenylephrine and phenylpropanolamine, which are usually found in over-the-counter cough medicines and decongestants.

Avoid drinking alcohol if taking yohimbine.

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