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 in developed countries as dietary supplements.[2][3]

The active ingredient in the extract, yohimbine, is a veterinary drug used to stimulate recovery from sedation in certain animals. Although proposed as a potential treatment for erectile dysfunction in humans, there are cautions about its safety or effectiveness.[2][3] Yohimbine is banned in manufactured human products in numerous countries.


Yohimbe is one of five Pausinystalia evergreen species growing 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, 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, with possibility of long-term threat to sustainability of the species. Cameroon is the biggest exporter.[4]


The wood and bark are used for firewood and construction. Bark, the most commercially important product, is used in extractions to make tinctures 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][3][4]

Dietary supplements[edit]

Yohimbe bark and extract are widely used in manufactured dietary supplements.[2][3] However, the bark and extracts are banned from use in food and dietary supplements in many countries, including Great Britain, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, the Czech Republic, and Canada.[3]

The primary alkaloid in the extract, yohimbine, is a veterinary drug used to reverse sedation in dogs, elk or deer.[3][5] In addition to yohimbine, yohimbe extract contains other alkaloids with undefined properties, adding to concern about its safety.[2] Among other alkaloids is corynanthine, an alpha-1 adrenergic receptor blocker and raubasine.[3][6]

The levels of yohimbine present in yohimbe bark and manufactured supplements are highly variable.[2][3]


Yohimbe bark extract and yohimbine specifically have been declared as insufficiently characterized and possibly unsafe to consume by the European Union and US National Institutes of Health.[2][3]


  1. ^ a b Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Pausinystalia johimbe
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Yohimbe: MedlinePlus Supplements". MedlinePlus, US National Institutes of Health. Retrieved 2013-05-26. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i 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. 
  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. ^ "21 CFR Sec. 522.2670 Yohimbine". US Food and Drug Administration. 2014. 
  6. ^ 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.