Pharmaceutical quantities of yohimbine found in dietary supplements in the USA

Drug Test Anal. 2016 Mar-Apr;8(3-4):357-69. doi: 10.1002/dta.1849. Epub 2015 Sep 22.


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.

Keywords: corynanthine; dietary supplements; rauwolscine; yohimbine.

MeSH terms

  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods*
  • Dietary Supplements / analysis*
  • Dietary Supplements / standards
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Pausinystalia / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / analysis*
  • Product Labeling / standards
  • Reference Standards
  • United States
  • Yohimbine / analysis*


  • Plant Extracts
  • Yohimbine