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If there’s one thing modern and traditional medicine agree on, it’s the value of a good penis pill. Centuries before Viagra, men in West Africa used the bark of the yohimbe tree to get hard and stay that way, and modern-day users pop yohimbe pills to beat back erectile dysfunction (and to lose weight).

But the harder they come, the harder they fall, and the potential benefits of yohimbe also carry some risks.

Yohimbe, the “love tree,” is an evergreen found in West Africa. Traditionally, the bark could be chewed or boiled to reap the benefits of the yohimbine compound inside.

Now you can find concentrated yohimbe powder or pills sold over the counter in natural foods stores and pharmacies. There are also prescription drugs (Aphrodyne and Yocon) that contain a processed version of the compound, yohimbine hydrochloride.

While Aphrodyne and Yocon are prescribed for erectile dysfunction, dietary supplements containing yohimbine may have a number of other benefits. But only two claims are supported by research, and much of that research is relatively old.

Say adiYos to erectile dysfunction

The yohimbine compound found in the bark of the yohimbe tree seems to block chemicals in the body responsible for preventing erections. (Where were those chemicals when you needed them in seventh grade gym class?)

Yohimbine also dilates blood vessels by releasing nitric oxide, increasing all-important blood flow to the penis, among other places.

Some research from the ’80s suggests yohimbine can help you pop a chubby, but that’s not enough for it to get an official nod from the American Urology Association.

And while Aphrodyne and Yocon are typically prescribed with a dosage of one 5.4-milligram caplet three times per day, there’s no standard dosage for the less-concentrated natural yohimbine.

Some sources suggest taking no more than the equivalent of 30 milligrams of yohimbine hydrochloride daily, or around 10 milligrams three times per day.

Give your weight loss plan a boost

If you’re looking for a supplement to help you lose fat, yohimbine might be worth a try. The same alpha-2 adrenergic receptors it blocks to stimulate erections are also found in fat cells.

But it’s not a done deal. A small 1991 study suggested that yohimbine could help with weight loss and fat loss, but earlier research didn’t find any noticeable effect.

Yohimbine has been around for a long time, so its side effects are pretty well known. You could experience:

  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • insomnia
  • anxiety
  • elevated blood pressure
  • rapid heartbeat

Additionally, yohimbine isn’t recommended if you have a panic disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder, since the drug’s side effects could make those conditions worse.

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, have kidney disease or peptic ulcers, or are taking antidepressants, you shouldn’t use yohimbine.

And you might want to skip red wine and cheese if you’re using yohimbine for better sex — both contain tyramine, an amino acid that, like yohimbine, raises blood pressure.

It depends. Some yohimbine users have reported stomach problems, rapid heartbeat, anxiety, high blood pressure, and even seizures and heart attacks.

As with many other dietary supplements, you can only guess whether the ingredients listed on the label match what’s in the bottle.

A 2016 study of 49 supplements containing yohimbine found that the products varied widely in the amount they contained. Some had natural yohimbine, but others had different levels of processed yohimbine extract.

If you’re struggling with erectile dysfunction and don’t want to use a prescription drug like Viagra or Cialis, or you just want an erection that lasts longer and stays harder, you could try yohimbine.

In typical doses, the risk of serious side effects is low, and yohimbine could be a natural solution to the age-old issue of perking up a soft penis.

Other natural remedies for ED include:

Yohimbine has been used for centuries to treat erectile dysfunction and enhance sexual pleasure. More recently, it’s also been used for weight loss. It’s available as an over-the-counter dietary supplement or a prescription drug.

If you decide to try yohimbine, watch out for the possible side effects. They’re generally mild with low doses, but it can be tricky to know what you’re getting because yohimbine supplements may not always be accurately labeled.