Turn Up the Heat

Interested in getting leaner and improving your sex life? Take yohimbe.
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Otherwise known in scientific circles as Pausinystalia yohimbe, yohimbe is a tall evergreen tree that grows naturally in western Africa and has been used for centuries to increase male sexual performance and sex drive. In more recent years, scientists have discovered that yohimbe bark is a concentrated source of a bioactive compound called yohimbine, which is responsible for most of yohimbe’s actions in the body. Today, you can find yohimbe bark, yohimbe extract (standardized for yohimbine alkaloids) and pure yohimbine HCL in supplements formulated to increase sexual performance and promote fat burning. If you’re interested in trying out a yohimbe- or yohimbine-based supplement, then read on to find out how this stuff works and what it can do for you. 

Yohimbe

Get It On

Before the introduction of drugs like Viagra, yohimbine was commonly prescribed to treat erectile dysfunction. Yohimbine is a potent and specific alpha-2-adrenoreceptor (A2R) blocker. These receptors are located throughout the body and are commonly found in blood vessels that provide blood flow to the penis for achieving erection. When they’re activated by the hormones epinephrine or norepinephrine, blood vessels become constricted and limit blood flow to the penis — a condition that promotes erectile difficulty. 

Epinephrine and norepinephrine levels rise in response to stress and increasing age and weight, so it stands to reason that erectile dysfunction gets worse when we’re stressed out, get older and/or fall out of shape. This is where yohimbine can come to the rescue, blocking norepinephrine and epinephrine from binding to receptors in penile blood vessels and promoting widening of the blood vessels and increased blood flow to the penis. All in all, yohimbine is a pretty effective treatment for mild erectile problems, especially those caused by short-term psychological stress. 

But beyond improving the quality of erections, yohimbine has been shown to increase sexual arousal in men and women. This aphrodisiac effect is caused by a few known mechanisms. First, in the brain, yohimbine blocks the receptors on nerves that spit out norepinephrine. Normally, these receptors act like brakes, limiting the amount of norepinephrine released from these nerves. Yohimbine releases the brakes, allowing the nerves to spit out more norepinephrine into the brain, leading to a feeling of arousal. Second, in the body, yohimbine boosts sex drive by increasing blood flow to sexual organs and heightening nerve excitability in the nerves that control the sensitivity of the genitals. 

A placebo-controlled study carried out several years ago in Germany and published in the International Journal of Impotence Research showed that, compared to those who received a placebo, subjects who took yohimbine had greater overall improvement in sexual desire, sexual satisfaction, frequency of sexual contacts and quality of erection (penile rigidity) during sexual contact/intercourse. 

Burn It Off

In terms of fat burning, yohimbine acts by increasing the release of fat from fat cells into the bloodstream so it can be used for energy. This occurs by at least three mechanisms. First, yohimbine blocks A2Rs that reside on fat cells that (when activated) limit the amount of fat that’s allowed to be released. Hence, blocking them removes this limitation and allows fat to move freely into the bloodstream. Second, as you’ll recall, yohimbine encourages norepinephrine release, and norepinephrine also increases fat release into the bloodstream. Finally, yohimbine inhibits certain enzymes that break down and inactivate norepinephrine. That means there’s more norepinephrine hanging out around fat cells, which of course results in increased fat release. 

Although there have been many scientific and anecdotal reports of yohimbine’s fat-burning potential in individuals with higher body-fat levels, yohimbine supplementation has been shown to decrease body-fat levels even in lean professional athletes. In a study published in Research in Sports Medicine, lean professional soccer players either took 10 milligrams of yohimbine twice daily or a placebo. In just three weeks, those who took yohimbine saw their fat mass go from an already very lean 9.3 percent down to 7.1 percent, whereas the placebo group had no change. 

Take It In

Remember that although yohimbe and yohimbine work similarly, their dosing is very different because of differences in purity. With yohimbine HCL supplements, we recommend 5 to 20 milligrams two to three times per day between meals. For yohimbe supplements, we recommend 500 to 2,000 milligrams two to three times per day between meals. If you’re supplementing for fat burning, take one of your doses 20 to 30 minutes before training. Always start with the lowest dose to test your tolerance. And, if you’re using yohimbe, there may be notable differences in purity from product to product (noted on label as percent standardization for yohimbine). Make sure to adjust doses upward or downward accordingly.

Yohimbe and yohimbine supplements are not for everyone because tolerance varies from individual to individual. The side effects associated with yohimbe or yohimbine supplementation are related to increased levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine in the brain and body. Those who are sensitive or take large doses may have increased blood pressure and heart rate as well as headaches, dizziness, anxiety, nausea and sleeplessness. If you’re being treated for high blood pressure, heart disease or kidney disease or are taking any other prescriptions, you should consult your doctor before taking yohimbe or yohimbine.