Pharmaceutical quantities of yohimbine found in dietary supplements in the USA


  • Financial disclosure: Pieter Cohen and Yan-Hong Wang do not have any conflicts of interest to declare. Renan DeSouza reported receiving personal fees from to research dietary supplement ingredients. Gregory Maller reported receiving personal fees from SSP Nutrition, New York State Senator Jeffrey Klein and to research dietary supplement ingredients outside of the submitted work. Ikhlas A. Khan reported receiving grants from the US Food and Drug Administration, the National Institute of Health and the US Department of Agriculture. Mr. Khan is also the coordinator of the International Conference on the Science of Botanicals which receives support for conference-related expenses from multiple supplement-related companies.


In the USA, botanical dietary supplements are presumed to be safe, but this is not necessarily always the case. Extracts of the evergreen tree yohimbe, Pausinystalia johimbe, though banned in many countries, are sold in hundreds of dietary supplements in the USA. We analyzed 49 brands of supplements labelled as containing yohimbe or yohimbine available for sale from seven major retailers in the USA. Supplements were analyzed using ultra high-performance liquid chromatography coupled to photodiode and quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry detectors for quantity of three alkaloids found in P. johimbe (yohimbine, rauwolscine, and corynanthine). The alkaloids were confirmed on the basis of retention time, ultraviolet spectra, and mass spectra against reference standards. The quantity of the most active alkaloid, yohimbine, per recommended serving ranged from none detected to 12.1 mg. Thirty-nine percent of the supplements (19/49) did not contain rauwolscine and corynanthine suggesting that the yohimbine was either from highly processed plant extract or synthetic in origin. Only 11 supplement brands (22%, 11/49) listed a specific quantity of yohimbine on the label. Most of these were inaccurately labelled (actual content ranged from 23% to 147% of the content on the label). Eighteen percent (9/49) of the supplements' labels did not provide any information about yohimbine's adverse effects. Of the 49 yohimbine supplement brands sold at seven major retail chains in the USA, only 4.1% (2/49) provided consumers with both accurate information about the quantity of yohimbine as well as information about yohimbine's known adverse effects. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.