Harvard Men's Health Watch

Yohimbe supplements found to be dangerously strong

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In the journals

Dietary supplements containing the herbal ingredient yohimbe often contain prescription-strength active ingredients that are potentially dangerous, according to a study in Drug Testing and Analysis.

Scientists analyzed 49 popular brands of supplements with yohimbe. They found evidence that 39% of the products tested appeared to contain a pharmaceutical-grade extract of the herb.

Yohimbe, often marketed as an aphrodisiac and male sexual performance enhancer, is found in more than 550 supplements in the United States. Lesser known is the fact that yohimbe can have harmful side effects, including high blood pressure, anxiety, racing heartbeat, and headaches. At high doses, purified yohimbe can cause heart failure or death.

This study shows that some products available at GNC, Vitamin Shoppe, Walgreens, Walmart, CVS, Rite Aid, and Whole Foods could be much more potent than the person buying them realizes.

The active ingredient in yohimbe supplement products is a chemical called yohimbine. The products tested appeared to contain a highly concentrated form of yohimbine that does not occur in nature. That means these so-called natural supplement products are anything but natural—or safe.