Pausinystalia johimbe

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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Gentianales
Family: Rubiaceae
Genus: Pausinystalia
Species: P. johimbe
Binomial name
Pausinystalia johimbe
(K.Schum.) Pierre ex Beille
  • Corynanthe johimbe K.Schum.
  • Pausinystalia trillesii Beille
  • Pausinystalia yohimbe Beille, as spelling error
  • Pausinystalia zenkeri W.Brandt

Pausinystalia johimbe, (Rubiaceae), common name Yohimbe, is a plant species native to western and central Africa (Nigeria, Cabinda, Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea).[1] Extracts from yohimbe have been used in traditional medicine in West Africa as an aphrodisiac and have been marketed as dietary supplements[2] The active ingredient in the extract, yohimbine, is a veterinary drug and has been studied as a potential treatment for erectile dysfunction but there is insufficient evidence to rate its effectiveness.[3]


Yohimbe is one of five Pausinystalia species, which are evergreen. It grows in West and Central Africa in lowland forests. The tree grows about 30m tall, with a straight bole that is rarely larger that 50-60 cm in diameter. The bark is grey to reddish-brown, with longitudinal fissures. It is easy to peel and bitter-tasting. The inner bark is pinkish and fibrous. The sapwood is yellowish and the heartwood is ochre-yellow; the wood is fine-grained and relatively dense and moderately hard. The leaves grow in groups of three, with short (about 2 cm) stems. The blades are oval-shaped, 11-47 cm long and 5 - 17 cm wide. [4]

The demand for yohimbe bark has led to over-exploitation and possible long-term endangerment. Cameroon is the biggest exporter.[4]


The wood and bark are used for firewood and construction. The bark is the most commercially important product, used locally and for export for traditional medicine and dietary supplements.[4]

Traditional medicine[edit]

Extracts from the bark of yohimbe are used in West Africa as a general tonic and as an aphrodisiac.[2][4]

Dietary supplements[edit]

Yohimbe extract is widely used as a dietary supplement.[2] By itself, yohimbe bark is on the FDA list of banned substances.[5] Yohimbe bark is also currently banned in the UK, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, the Czech Republic, and Canada.[2]

The active ingredient in the extract is yohimbine; it is a veterinary drug used to reverse sedation in dogs and deer.[6] In addition to yohimbine, yohimbe extract contains about 55 other alkaloids. Yohimbine accounts for 1-20% of its total alkaloid content. Among the others is corynanthine, an alpha-1 adrenergic receptor blocker.[7]

The levels of yohimbine that are present in yohimbe bark extract are variable and often very low.[3][2] In addition to the main active chemical, yohimbine, Pausinystalia yohimbe contains approximately 55 other alkaloids, of which yohimbine accounts for 1% to 20% of total alkaloids.[2]


The epithet "johimbe" is often misspelled "yohimbe" including by Beille in his 1906 recombination statement formally transferring the species from Corynanthe.[8] Schumann's original 1901 description used the spelling "johimbe,"[9] and Beille clearly cited Schumann's name as basionym.[8] Therefore "yohimbe" used as a formal specific epithet is a spelling error to be corrected per article 60.1 of the ICN. No such rules, of course, apply to common names.


  1. ^ a b Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Pausinystalia johimbe
  2. ^ a b c d e f Beille, P. E. (2013). "Scientific Opinion on the evaluation of the safety in use of Yohimbe (Pausinystalia yohimbe)". EFSA Journal 11. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2013.3302. 
  3. ^ a b "Yohimbe: MedlinePlus Supplements". Medline. Retrieved 2013-05-26. 
  4. ^ a b c d R.b. Jiofack Tafokou. Pausinystalia johimbe. pp 516-519 in Timbers Volume 2; Volume 7 of Plant Resources of Tropical Africa. Eds. Lemmens, R.H.M.J., Louppe, D. & Oteng-Amoako, A.A., G.J.H Grubben. PROTA Foundation, 2012. ISBN 9789290814955
  5. ^ "Yohimbe Bark Supplements for ED: Side Effects, Safety, Dangers, and More". 2012-08-06. Retrieved 2013-05-26. 
  6. ^ 21 CFR Sec. 522.2670 Yohimbine
  7. ^ Doxey, JC; Lane AC; Roach AG; Virdee NK (Feb 1984). "Comparison of the alpha-adrenoceptor antagonist profiles of idazoxan (RX 781094), yohimbine, rauwolscine and corynanthine.". Naunyn-Schmied Arch Pharmacol 325 (2): 136–144. doi:10.1007/bf00506193. PMID 6144048. 
  8. ^ a b Pierre, Jean Baptiste Louis & Beille, Lucien. 1906. Actes de la Société Linnéenne de Bordeaux 61: 130
  9. ^ Schumann, Karl Moritz. 1901. Notizblatt des Botanischen Gartens und Museums zu Berlin-Dahlem 3: 94, 95