Corynanthe johimbe is a forest tree that grows up to 28 meters in height. The leaves are paper-like and grow up to 25 cm in length. The bark is dark green to reddish brown in color (Voogelbreinder 2009, 140).
The genus Corynanthe is composed of five or six species and is very closely related to Pausinystalia yohimba, from which yohimbine is obtained. Corynanthe trees are found in the tropical rain forests of west Africa (Ratsch 1998, 184).
TRADITIONAL USES: The inner bark shavings of C. johimbe are a powerful aphrodisiac. The bark is chewed as a stimulant and aphrodisiac in Gabon, Nigeria, and Cameroon. It is said to cause insanity when taken too frequently. The Bantu use C. johimbe bark in great quantities in fertility orgies that can last up to 15 days. Some tribes also take it along with Tabernanthe iboga during initiation rituals. In Gabon, the bark of C. johimbe is cooked with meat and fish and fed to hunting dogs as a stimulant. The bark is also made in to a fish poison (Voogelbreinder 2009, 140).
C. macroceras is used in the Congo and in Cameroun as a powerful aphrodisiac, stimulant, and anti-hypnotic (Voogelbreinder 2009, 140).
In the Central African Republic, the bark of Corynanthe pachyceras is consumed in palm wine as an aphrodisiac and stimulant. The bark of C. pachyceras is often used in the pharmaceutical market as a substitute or counterfeit for real Pausinystalia yohimba bark. In the Congo, it is taken as a ‘stimulant to prevent bad dreams’ (Chaurasia 1992 cited in Ratsch 1998, 184).
TRADITIONAL PREPARATION: Dosage suggestions for C. johimbe bark vary widely from person to person, ranging from 2-4 grams to as high as 30 grams! The safest way to work with the plant is to start with a very low dose and then work your way up, establishing your own personal tolerance. An overdose can be very unpleasant indeed! The quality of the plant material will also affect dosage, so be sure to start small with any new batch you begin working with (Vooglebreinder 2009, 140).
In order to prepare Corynanthe bark shavings for consumption, 2 cups of water are brought to a boil. The juice of 1/4 of a lemon, one lime, or 0.1 g absorbic acid, and the powdered root bark are added and the mixture is simmered for 10 minutes. The addition of vitamin C allows for increased absorption of yohimbine and other alkaloids, leading to stronger and quicker effects. The liquid is strained and cooled before consumption. Alternatively, bark shavings may be soaked in alcohol for 8 hours before straining and evaporating the alcohol to leave behind an extract (Voogelbreinder 2009, 140).
MEDICINAL USE: C. pachyceras bark is macerated or chewed to calm coughs, fevers, and nausea. The alkaloid yohimbine, which is found in the bark of many species of Corynanthe, has attracted a great deal of interest as a male aphrodisiac, and extracts may be purchased online or in health shops. Commercial yohimbe often includes both Pausinystalia and Corynanthe plant material. 250-500mg may be taken daily with food as a sexual tonic. (Voogelbreinder 2009, 140).
TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: C. pachyceras and C. mayumbensis contain indole alkaloids of the corynanthein-yohimbine group. The bark of C. pachyceras contains about 5.8% indole alkaloids. Extract of C. pachyceras bark has analgesic and local anesthetic effects. It has been shown to reduce the toxicity of amphetamine by 100% in animal studies (Chaurasia 1992 cited in Ratsch 1998, 184).
The effects of drinking Corynanthe tea come on in 30-60 minutes, and the effects of consuming an alcohol extraction come on in 10-20 minutes. Effects are include a warm tingling in the spine, relaxation of the body, mental stimulation, perceptual alterations and, in men, a spontaneous erection lasting for several hours. Lower doses are more effective as an aphrodisiac than higher doses (Voogelbreinder 2009, 140).
Yohimbine is an MAOI, and so should not be taken with tyramine rich foods, by individuals with kidney, liver or heart problems, or by diabetics or hypoglycemics. Please review our MAOI Dietary Restrictions article before working with C. johimbe. Hypertension may result when yohimbine is combined with antidepressants, and yohimbine may react dangerously with dextromethorphan (DXM), a chemical which is found in many over the counter cold and cough medicines (White n.d.).
When consuming yohimbine, keeping blood-sugar high and drinking milk will reduce unpleasant side effects. Chocolate should never be taken with yohimbine, even in small doses. Ginseng potentiates the effects of yohimbine, so that only 1/4 of the usual dose may allow for the same effect (Voogelbreinder 2009, 140).
Ratsch, Christian., The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and its Applications. Rochester: Park Street Press, 1998.
Voogelbreinder, Snu, Garden of Eden: The Shamanic Use of Psychoactive Flora and Fauna, and the Study of Consciousness. Snu Voogelbreinder, 2009.
White, W. “DXM FAQ – Mixing with Other Drugs.” Erowid Vaults, n.d. https://www.erowid.org/chemicals/dxm/faq/dxm_mixing.shtml.