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]


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]

The main active ingredient in the extract is yohimbine. Yohimbe extract also 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][5]

Human use[edit]

Extracts from the bark of yohimbe are used in West Africa as a general tonic and as an aphrodisiac.[2][3][4] Yohimbe bark and extract are widely used in manufactured dietary supplements. The levels of yohimbine present in yohimbe bark and manufactured supplements are highly variable.[2][3]

Although proposed as a potential treatment for erectile dysfunction in humans, there are cautions about its safety or effectiveness.[2][3]

Side effects of using yohimbe, particularly in high doses, may include high blood pressure, increased heart rate, headache, nausea, tremors and sleeplessness.[2]

Animal use[edit]

Yohimbine is used in veterinary medicine to reverse sedation in dogs, elk or deer.[3][6]


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] 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]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Pausinystalia johimbe
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Yohimbe". National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, US National Institutes of Health. July 2012. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h 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. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ "21 CFR Sec. 522.2670 Yohimbine". US Food and Drug Administration. 2014.