Introduction to YohimbeYohimbe is the common name for Pausinystalia yohimbe, an evergreen shrub native to west Africa, and also for the dried bark of this plant. It is thought to have a long history of use among people in the region where it occurs naturally, as both a stimulant and aphrodisiac, and has gained significant popularity elsewhere in the world as a sex aid to increase libido in both men and women and as a treatment for erectile dysfunction. There is some evidence that its stimulant effects on human metabolism may help fat loss programmes, and it is sometimes used by athletes and bodybuilders for this purpose.
The main active principle in yohimbe is thought to be yohimbine, an indole alkaloid related to the tryptamine class; however, unlike most tryptamines, yohimbine displays little or no psychedelic properties. Over 30 other yohimbanes (alkaloids related to yohimbine) have been isolated from yohimbe bark, but it is unclear whether they play a significant role in the pharmacology of the plant.
The subjective effects of yohimbe include a general stimulation, like a moderate to high dose of caffeine (eg. two strong cups of coffee); a mild sensation of cold shivers up the spine and along the arms; increase in salivation; slight increase in heart rate and blood pressure; slight increase in the frequency and urgency of bowel movements (although this disappears after a bowel movement has occurred) and a noticeable increase in blood flow and tactile sensitivity to the genitals. In males this can manifest as spontaneous erections; presumably clitoral erections and vaginal engorgement are the equivalent effects in females, given the similarity between the erectile tissues in male and female sexual anatomy. It is of course this latter effect which is responsible for the increase in sexual performance and pleasure for which yohimbe is usually taken.
In males, the sexual effects of yohimbe are severalfold: erections are achieved more easily, tactile stimulus feels more intense, orgasms are proportionately boosted in intensity and the refractory period (the period of time after orgasm and ejaculation during which another orgasm is impossible) is drastically reduced.
In females, similar effects are noted, although obviously the objective effect on clitoral erections is less important for intercourse than that on penile erections. Subjectively, women who normally find it hard to reach orgasm during sex may find yohimbe makes it significantly easier to climax.
Methods of administration
The drug may be prepared for administration in three main ways:
All forms of yohimbe are generally administered orally.
- raw yohimbe bark, which is simply dried and powdered and sold in this form; users may prepare a 'tea' from it which is then drunk or may swallow it after placing it in gelcaps themselves, due to the bark's intense bitter taste;
- yohimbe extract, which is made by concentrating the relevant alkaloids into a much smaller volume of dried bark and then packaged in gelcaps;
- yohimbine hydrochloride, which is then pressed into pills.
An active dose of yohimbe is generally considered to be between 8mg and 24mg (pure yohimbine equivalent). As with many drugs, undesirable side effects increase with dose; a high dose of yohimbe may cause heart palpitations, anxiety and insomnia in much the same way as an overdose of caffeine. In fact yohimbine has been used clinically as an anxiogenic (a drug that induces anxiety). The stimulant effect of the drugs make it inadvisable to take it less than six hours before sleep is desired.
Combinations with other substances
- Stimulants: as a moderately strong 'upper', great care should be exercised in combining it with other stimulants. The effects of caffeine and yohimbe are known to potentiate each other, for example; combination of the latter with stronger stimulants such as amphetamines, MDMA or cocaine are liable to be dangerous or at the very least uncomfortable and unpleasant. Yohimbe can be used to counteract the lingering negative effects on male sexual performance (eg. delayed ejaculation) the day after an MDMA session; however, this is not recommended for users who are not familiar with both substances and in good general health, all the same.
- Narcotics/Depressants: yohimbe may also be used to bring sexual sensitivity and responsiveness back to a normal level when combined with other drugs that reduce these functions, such as alcohol and perhaps also opiates/oids and benzodiazepines; however if the subject is actually drunk, taking yohimbe is probably not a good idea.
- Antidepressants: there are some reports that males who've found themselves unable to maintain an erection and/or achieve orgasm due to long-term antidepressant use have had some success countering these symptoms with yohimbe.
- Psychedelics: the alkaloids present in this plant are known to function as reversible MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors); however, the MAOI effect of pure yohimbine is apparently quite weak, so it may be that other yohimbanes are primarily responsible for this. The author is unaware of any 'yohimbe-huasca' preparations using yohimbe as an MAOI to make DMT or other tryptamines active orally, probably because the use of an 'edgy'-feeling stimulant such as a large dose of yohimbe in conjunction with a powerful psychedelic would probably make for an uncomfortable experience, even by the usual standards of tryptamine/MAOI combinations. Anyone taking even theraputic doses of yohimbe or its alkaloids for sexual or weight-loss reasons who also plans to use monoamine psychedelics such as psilocybin should bear in mind that there is at least the theoretical possibility of potentiation.
- Cannabis: it is not thought there are any especially significant interactions with yohimbe, although if the user is prone to a raised pulse rate or heart palpitations while using cannabis, as is sometimes the case, this should of course be borne in mind before choosing to combine it with yohimbe. In general, however, the increase in sexual sensation brought about by the two drugs is complimentary, and the intoxication from the cannabis can help counteract any 'jitters' caused by the yohimbe. The increase in tactile sensitivity and general sexual arousal caused by the two drugs simultaneously can be intensely pleasurable.
- Dissociatives: the MAO-inhibitory properties of yohimbe mean it should be strictly avoided in combination with dextromethorphan (DXM), as this could lead to serotonin syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition.
- Sildenafil ('Viagra'): the vasodilatory properties of these two drugs, when combined, can in male subjects cause almost painfully hard erections that do not subside for a long time, which can be inconvenient and uncomfortable. However, taking a small dose of yohimbe with a small dose of sildenafil (eg. 25mg; half a standard dose) can be a good compromise for a user who finds the stimulant effects of higher doses of yohimbe uncomfortable.
Legal Status and Availability
Yohimbe as a herbal extract is an over-the-counter product widely available in health food shops; however, yohimbine HCl in pill form is a prescription-only medicine sold under the trade name Yocon.
Neither yohimbe nor its constituent alkaloids are scheduled in the United Kingdom. They are not widely available in the high street but may be purchased from Internet vendors based in the USA or elsewhere.
Yohimbine appears to be scheduled as prescription only, as in the USA.
Authoritative information on the exact legal status of yohimbe is difficult to find; however the following countries may have laws prohibiting or restricting the import, sale or possession of yohimbe or yohimbe products:
Brazil, Greece, Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland.
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Categories: Ethnobotanicals, Hallucinogens, Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors, Psychedelics, Stimulants, Tryptamines