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Yohimbine for Erectile Dysfunction: Does It Work?

Kristin Hall, FNP

Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Geoffrey C. Whittaker

Published 12/22/2022

Updated 12/13/2023

In the world of all-natural aphrodisiac treatments for sexual dysfunction, a wide range of substances claim to help “get you up.” Unfortunately, many of these natural enhancement products either don’t work at all, have an active ingredient that’s unsafe or simply lack the double-blind trial results that allow scientists, doctors and everyone else who knows what they’re talking about to give it the go-ahead.

Yohimbine is a weird supplement. It’s a tree-bark extract with what appears to be a plethora of conflicting facts circulating on the internet.

Below, we’ll iron out some of the confusion for anyone considering yohimbine for ED (erectile dysfunction). We’ll also touch on its potential as a medication, the side effects to worry about and what a medical professional would probably tell you to take for erectile dysfunction instead. 

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Plenty of guys have looked to natural herbs for ED instead of what has a stamp of approval from the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration). While we’ll certainly admit that home remedies for ED can look promising as a natural alternative to Viagra®, you have to know the full story. A good example: Yohimbe.

Yohimbe (Pausinystalia yohimbe) is a natural African alkaloid compound. When prepared for human consumption, it’s sometimes referred to as yohimbe bark extract or quebrachine. Predictably, it comes from the yohimbe tree (or Pausinystalia johimbe), an evergreen tree found in central and western Africa.

The extract is available over the counter in the form of yohimbe supplements. It’s used to manage conditions relating to sexual function (like organic erectile dysfunction), support weight loss, improve athletic performance and help with cardiovascular issues like high blood pressure and angina (chest pain).

Or it would be, if it wasn’t banned in the United States.

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Can You Get Yohimbine in the U.S.?

Yohimbine as a treatment for ED isn’t sold in the U.S. — not legally, at least. But a standardized form of the chemical yohimbine (called yohimbine hydrochloride) is legal with a prescription.

The key difference? This prescribed version is held to higher standards and produced in a specific concentration — unlike the unregulated yohimbe supplements you might purchase online or over the counter in another country.

When it comes to the effectiveness of yohimbine dietary supplements and other formulations for ED, there’s not much research we’d call conclusive. 

Placebo-controlled studies leave more questions than answers, recommendations come with big disclaimers, and medical advice generally says something to the effect of, “Wait until we know more before you do something dangerous.”

One small study looked at 18 men with organic erectile dysfunction (abnormalities in the veins or arteries of the penis) who were given yohimbe as a treatment. Half were able to complete sexual intercourse more frequently.

However, that’s not a large number of participants, so we can’t gather much on the study’s implications for improving erectile impotence or the safety of taking this herbal supplement.

A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials found only a few studies worth including in the big-picture discussion of yohimbe’s effectiveness. Just seven trials were fit for inclusion in a study for the Journal of Urology. Some results were promising, but more research is definitely needed. 

And while yohimbine has been found to be more beneficial than a placebo, there haven’t been enough scientifically rigorous studies to say whether it effectively treats ED.

Yohimbe Dosage for Erectile Dysfunction

One of the main reasons for the inconclusive state of the data is the question of dosage. 

Is yohimbine effective in the treatment of erectile dysfunction? That depends on time, patient details and dosage. And although some studies suggest it can help, there’s no collective opinion on proper yohimbe dosage — safe or effective. 

That’s a real problem, especially when considering that side effects of medications are often dose-dependent (meaning you might only experience side effects with a higher dose). A person using illegal yohimbe or self-dosing with yohimbine could be at serious risk of adverse effects.

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Here’s something very important you should know: Taking yohimbine for erectile dysfunction is associated with a good deal of risk, according to experts.

Yohimbe has been linked to hypotension, heart attacks and seizures. Other severe side effects include stomach issues, rapid heartbeat (also called tachycardia), anxiety and high blood pressure.

Experts don’t believe yohimbine is safe for those dealing with certain health conditions like kidney disease, hypertension or various types of heart disease.

Antidepressants of the monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MOI) variety can interact poorly with yohimbine. People on antidepressants or with psychiatric conditions should absolutely not take it without talking to a healthcare provider first — and probably not at all.

Yohimbine has also been shown to affect norepinephrine levels. Additionally, some reports question its safety for the nervous system, how it interacts with adrenergic receptors to cause erections, and whether those interactions are safe in the long term or at a high dose.

What does Yohimbe do to your body in the long term? We’re not sure — and that’s concerning.

Risks are bad — with everything from investing to health, you pretty much want to eliminate as many as possible.

So instead of trying to eyeball a dose of yohimbine and risk a spike in heart rate (or worse), you’re wise to go with a researched-backed, FDA-approved erectile dysfunction treatment, yeah?

We might suggest one of the below ED treatments as an alternative.

ED Medications

Herbal supplement treatments can be enticing, but prescription drugs have better track records and more proven results. Oh, and they won’t risk messing with a neurotransmitter, either.

PDE5 inhibitors address ED by managing an enzyme that may keep men from getting or maintaining an erection. Inhibiting that enzyme increases blood flow to the penis when you’re aroused and — boom! — you’re ready to go.

These medications include:

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Therapy for ED

Some ED cases are caused by psychological issues that are in your head more than your bloodstream.

Depression and anxiety can wreak havoc on your sex life. And if you have sexual performance anxiety, you’re (perhaps surprisingly) dealing with one of ED’s more common psychological culprits. 

Therapy and online consultations are great places to start working through what’s going on upstairs — check out the different types of therapy to learn more.

ED Devices

Some technologies can also be used for ED treatment, such as vibrators, external support devices and implants.

Vibrators can trigger stimulation to help blood flow to your penis normally. Penis pumps and other ED devices might also help get things going by pulling blood into the penis with suction or helping it stay there with similar technology.

Additionally, penile implants and shockwave therapy are treatments that might work if other options don’t help.

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Whether you’re going with tech, psychiatry or medication, we suspect those treatments are a better bet than Yohimbe for men — at least for now. 

It comes down to this:

  • Further research may help establish safe usage and more understanding about yohimbine dose and side effects, but we’re just not there yet.

  • Currently, erectile dysfunction medications the FDA has approved are limited to PDE5 inhibitors, which restore erectile function by increasing blood flow to the penis. 

  • Dietary supplements and herbal remedies claiming to do this over the counter aren’t regulated as strictly for safety or effectiveness as prescription options.

If ED is a problem you’re trying to solve, our advice is to take it seriously and make good choices.

So leave the supplements at the gas station, talk to a healthcare professional, and deal with this safely today.

8 Sources

  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Yohimbe. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/yohimbe.
  2. Yohimbine. Yohimbine - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. (n.d.). https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/yohimbine.
  3. Guay, A. T., Spark, R. F., Jacobson, J., Murray, F. T., & Geisser, M. E. (2002). Yohimbine treatment of organic erectile dysfunction in a dose-escalation trial. International Journal of Impotence Research, 14(1), 25-31. https://www.nature.com/articles/3900803.
  4. Ernst, E., & Pittler, M. H. (1998). Yohimbine for erectile dysfunction: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. The Journal of urology, 159(2), 433–436. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9649257/.
  5. Morales A. (2000). Yohimbine in erectile dysfunction: the facts. International journal of impotence research, 12 Suppl 1, S70–S74. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10845767/.
  6. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Yohimbe. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/yohimbe.
  7. Stein, M. J., Lin, H., & Wang, R. (2014). New advances in erectile technology. Therapeutic advances in urology, 6(1), 15–24. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3891291/.
  8. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.-d). Treatment for erectile dysfunction - NIDDK. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/treatment.
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Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Kristin Hall, FNP

Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership. 

She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH

Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare. 

Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.

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