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African Sex Herb Has Side Effects

Q. In a recent column, you mentioned that yohimbe might be useful in treating impotence. Speaking from personal experience rather than extensive knowledge of the literature, yohimbe treats only what the pharmaceutical companies so coyly call “erectile dysfunction.”

As far as I could tell, again from personal use, the effect is most likely achieved by vasoconstriction. I could feel my heart race every time I took a dose.

This suggests to me that the bark is yet another herb that should be used only under medical supervision, and not by anyone who suffers from either hypertension or heart disease.

A. You are quite correct that the bark of the African yohimbe tree or yohimbine derived from it can raise blood pressure. Other potential side effects include palpitations, anxiety, headaches, dizziness or digestive distress. This natural product should only be used under medical supervision.

Before the development of drugs to treat erectile dysfunction, doctors sometimes prescribed yohimbine. It appears to help one-fourth to one-half of the men who use it achieve an erection.

In one study, 50 percent of men having trouble achieving orgasm did better with yohimbine (Asian Journal of Andrology, May 2007). Erectile difficulties deserve medical attention, since they may signal a serious condition such as diabetes or heart disease.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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