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J AOAC Int. 1995 Sep-Oct;78(5):1189-94.

Gas chromatographic determination of yohimbine in commercial yohimbe products.

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U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Washington, DC 20204, USA.


The bark of Pausinystalia yohimbe [K. Schumann] Pierre (Rubiaceae), long valued as an aphrodisiac in West Africa, recently has been promoted in the United States as a dietary supplement alternative to anabolic steroids for enhancement of athletic performance. As the number of yohimbe products on the retail market increases, concerns about their safety are raised because of the reported toxicity of yohimbine (the major alkaloid of the plant). Although plant materials are usually identified microscopically, we were unable to identify them in many of the products, because as their labels indicated, the products were mixtures of various botanicals or were bark extracts and contained little or no plant material. A method for extraction and capillary gas chromatographic (GC) separation of the alkaloids of P. yohimbe was, therefore, developed and used to analyze a number of commercial yohimbe products. The method involved solvent extraction and partitioning in chloroform-water followed by separation on a methyl silicone capillary GC column (N-P detection). Comparisons of chromatograms of extracts of authentic bark with those of commercial products indicated that, although many products contained measurable quantities of the alkaloid yohimbine, they were largely devoid of the other alkaloids previously reported in this species. Concentrations of yohimbine in the commercial products ranged from < 0.1 to 489 ppm, compared with 7089 ppm in the authentic material. Authentic bark has been reported to contain up to 6% total alkaloids, 10-15% of which are yohimbine. The possible presence of undeclared diluents in the products was indicated by peaks in product chromatograms but not in those of authentic bark.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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