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- Clinical Experience -
Yohimbine in the treatment of orgasmic dysfunction
Ade A. Adeniyi1, Giles S. Brindley2, John P. Pryor1, David J. Ralph1
1Institute of Urology and Nephrology, London W1P 7EY, UK
2102 Ferdene Road, London SE24 0AA, UK
Aim: To study the effect of yohimbine in the treatment of men with orgasmic
dysfunction. Methods: A 20-mg dose of yohimbine was first given to 29 men with orgasmic dysfunction of different aetiology in the clinic. Patients were
then allowed to increase the dose at home (titration) under more favourable circumstances. The outcome and side
effects were subsequently assessed.
Results: The patients were classified into three groups of orgasmic dysfunction:
primary complete (13), primary incomplete (8) and secondary (8). Nocturnal emissions were present in 75%, 40%
and 50% of patients in the above groups, respectively (overall average 62%). The men presented because of fertility
problems (52%) or because they wanted to experience the pleasure of orgasm (48%). Of the 29 patients who
completed the treatment, 16 managed to reach orgasm and were able to ejaculate either during masturbation or sexual
intercourse. A further three achieved orgasm, but only with the additional stimulation of a vibrator. A history of
preceding nocturnal emissions was present in 69% of the men in whom orgasm was induced but only 50% who failed
treatment. Of the patients, two have subsequently fathered children (one set of twins) and another 3 men were also
cured. Side effects were not sufficient to cause the men to cease
treatment. Conclusion: Yohimbine is a useful
treatment option in orgasmic dysfunction. (Asian J Androl 2007 May; 9: 403_407)
Keywords: Yohimbine; anorgasmia; orgasm; orgasmic dysfunction; impotence; ejaculation
Correspondence to: Mr. David J. Ralph, Institute of Urology and Nephrology, 48 Riding House Street,
London W1P 7EY, UK.
Tel: +44-207-486-3805 Fax: +44-207-486-3810
Received 2006-04-19 Accepted 2007-02-08
The male orgasm has been defined as a pleasurable feeling (a cerebral event) that is usually associated with
ejaculation and occurs when sexual excitement reaches a threshold level. Anorgasmia is therefore the inability to
achieve an orgasm during conscious sexual activity, although nocturnal emission (NE) might occur . The
classification of orgasmic dysfunction has varied in different studies, but here we define three categories: primary
(10) complete (or lifelong, as the man has never
had a normal orgasm), primary (10) incomplete otherwise known as
retarded or delayed ejaculation (lifelong undue delay in reaching a climax during sexual intercourse) or secondary
(20) (men who had normal orgasms but subsequently experience a failure to achieve
orgasm) [1, 2]. Orgasm is distinct from ejaculation
(jaceo = to throw [Latin]), which consists of two sequential reflex mechanisms: emission and
expulsion. Emission results in the discharge of seminal fluid into the posterior urethra and is mainly via the
sympathetic nervous system [3, 4]. Expulsion is caused by the action of sympathetic (closure of the bladder neck) and
somatic efferents (S2-4) in the pudendal
nerves [5, 6]. Anorgasmia might be a result of psychological or neurological
factors and in some instances the result of psychotropic drugs like paroxetine . It is rarely troublesome except
when the man is anxious to father children. In these
circumstances, a variety of treatement techniques exist
but these tend to be invasive [8_10]. Some men seek
treatment to normalize their sexual experience.
In the past, anorgasmia has also been treated by the
use of psychotherapy or the use of a vibrator with or
without a drug (e.g. physostigmine, apomorphine and
bromocriptine) [11, 12]. This paper reports our
experience using yohimbine, an α2-adrenergic
receptor-blocking drug, to treat anorgasmia.
2 Materials and methods
Twenty-nine men with anorgasmia were referred to
a tertiary referral clinic between the years of 1991 and
2000. Their age range was 20_70 years (mean 38 years,
standard deviation 11.2 years). A full history and
examination were carried out and their blood pressure noted.
Patients with serious coexisting illness, known allergy or
hypersensitivity to yohimbine, poorly controlled hypertension,
tetraplegia or paraplegia above T6 were excluded. The
category of the anorgasmia was clarified.
Yohimbine was given in the clinic under supervision
to monitor any increase in blood pressure. Yohimbine was
given at the dose of 20 mg p.o. by tablet in most men but
three men were treated with yohimbine microenema by
one of the authors. The latter route was used when the
patient had recently eaten, because absorption of
yohimbine is slower and more variable if it is taken when the
stomach is full. The patients were then allowed to
masturbate and whether he succeeded in ejaculating was
Patients who were unable to ejaculate were allowed
to go home with a supply of 5 mg yohimbine tablets to
see the effect on ejaculation during sexual intercourse at
home, in a more favorable environment. They were
instructed to increase the dose from 20 mg, in 5 mg
increments if the lesser dose was unsuccessful, to a
maximum of 45_50 mg (dose escalation). If a 50-mg dose
was unsuccessful in producing an ejaculation, the trial
was considered unsuccessful and further doses of
yohimbine were discontinued. At follow-up, the absence,
presence and nature of any side effects were noted.
Following yohimbine administration, the outcome
could be successful, improved or unsuccessful.
Improvement was said to occur when orgasm was achieved with
the additional assistance of a vibrator (this having been
previously unsuccessful in the absence of yohimbine). The
vibrator used was the Ling 201 Vibrator (Ling Dynamic
Systems, Royston, England) at either 70 or 100 Hz
applied to the ventral surface of the glans penis .
There were 13 men aged 20_51 years (mean
32.2 ± 8.5) in the 10 complete anorgasmic group and they did not
have underlying discernible causes of anorgasmia. The
10 incomplete anorgasmic group comprised eight men
aged 28_44 years (mean 35.5 ± 5.6) and their anorgasmia
was also idiopathic. Eight men aged 35_70 years (mean
48.5 ± 12.4) were in the
20 anorgasmic group with varied aspects of their past medical history and possible
aetiological factors present in five of the
20 anorgasmic group. Of the patients, two had multiple sclerosis, one
had a previous back injury and sciatica, one had prostate
cancer whereas yet another had a previously undiagnosed
Data concerning the history of NE was available in
21 men and, of these, NE were present in 13 men (62%).
These comprise 75% of the 10 complete anorgasmic
group, 40% of the 10 incomplete and 50% of the
20 anorgasmic group.
The primary reason for presentation was for
infertility in just over half of the patients (15), whereas the
other patients (14) primarily desired a normal sexual
experience. There was considerable variation between
the groups as to the reason for presentation; 77% of the
10 complete group presented for infertility concerns,
whereas this was 38% for the men with
10 retarded ejaculation and 33% for the secondary anorgasmic group.
Ejaculation by masturbation or in coitus was achieved
by 16 men (55.2%). A further 3 (10.4%) ejaculated by
using yohimbine and a vibrator together. The outcome in
the varied categories is shown in Table 1. During the trial
of medication in all the successful patients, the mean dose
at which ejaculation occurred first was 38 mg yohimbine
(range 15_50, standard deviation 9.5), although the mean
dose at which patients were eventually established was
28 mg (range 2.5_45, standard deviation 16.2).
Side effects included dartos contraction, a rise in the
pulse and blood pressure, tremor, pleasurable tingling,
palpitations, malaise, nausea and headache but were not
a significant deterrent in any patient.
Of the 19 men, 11 (58%) ejaculated with the first
dose whereas the remaining eight (42%) required dose
escalation at home. Of the patients, two have since been
successful in fathering children. Another three were able
to ejaculate subsequently (after a few successful
ejaculations with yohimbine) without the drug. Of the 13
men with either successful (10) or improved (3) ejaculation, NE were present in 9 (69%). Conversely,
only 50% of the men with failure to ejaculate with
yohimbine had NE. The outcome relationship to the
presence of NE is shown in Table 2.
There is no good classification of orgasmic
dysfunction and the present paper is based upon the World Health
Organization (WHO) consensus meeting although it would
seem more logical to categorize men with primary (lifelong
anorgasmia) as having incomplete or situational anorgasmia and place them in the same category as men
with retarded ejaculation . The characteristic of these
men is that there might have variable ability to ejaculate
and this might be dependent upon the situation (e.g.
masturbation, sexual intercourse, dreams or other high
The reason why anorgasmic men concerned with infertility should present younger than those who wish
to normalize their sexual experience (34
vs. 42 years) is uncertain. It has been assumed that the mechanism for
primary anorgasmia was psychological when there was
an absence of any neurological abnormality but it might
be a result of an abnormally high threshold for excitation
rather than a result of inhibitory impulses from the
cerebral cortex structures.
Yohimbine is an indol alkaloid derived from the bark
of Corynanthe johimbe, a tree indigenous to Central
Africa that has long been used in the treatment of erectile
problems [14, 15]. It has, at least in rodents, also been
shown to be a powerful enhancer of copulatory
Yohimbine is a selective competitive
α2-adrenergic receptor blocker with some loss of selectivity in higher
doses, the exact mechanism of action being incompletely
known. Its effect is thought to be exerted both centrally
and peripherally . The central action, following its
passage across the blood-brain barrier, is performed by
its central α-adrenoceptor blockade. This might
possibly be via the lowering of the threshold for excitability in
the forebrain centers. The peripheral action is thought
to be by modulation of the autonomic nervous system
tone via presynaptic autoinhibitory α2-adrenergic
Yohimbine hydrochloride, as it is formulated, is not
well absorbed from the stomach, although it is well
absorbed from the duodenum or the rectum. It is also
rapidly cleared, so that the time during which a dose is
effective is only about 30_50 min. Oral administration
for the purpose of restoring ejaculatory function is poor
unless the stomach is empty. Therefore, the patient must
either take the tablets 3 h after his last meal or the drug
should be given as a microenema.
Yohimbine has been widely used in the treatment of
erectile dysfunction in a dosage of 5_15 mg daily .
A larger dose is necessary for ejaculatory dysfunction,
approximately 0.4 mg/kg (30 mg for the average man),
and an initial dose of 20 mg was used in the clinic.
Coitus is best attempted when contraction of the
dartos indicates that the drug is acting, typically 30_40 min
after ingestion. If the patient succeeds with a low dose,
there is no reason to increase the dose unless the
success is intermittent.
Of the 13 men with 10 complete anorgasmia,
treatment was successful in 6 (46%) whereas 3 (23%) were
improved. The presence or absence of NE did not seem
to significantly influence the outcome in this category as
3 out of 9 men specified as having NE did not succeed in
ejaculating with yohimbine, whereas two out of three
without NE succeeded. Erectile dysfunction was uncommon but if it did occur, it was a secondary
phenomenon as they had normal erections before. Also in this
category, there were 3 men that were cured and no longer
required yohimbine to be orgasmic.
Of the 8 men with 10 incomplete anorgasmia,
treatment was successful in three (38%), two of whom had
NE and in the third, this parameter was unknown. In
marked contrast, there was no response to yohimbine in
the three men known not to have NE and two in whom
this parameter was unknown. This might suggest a
positive correlation between the presence of NE and
likelihood of success. Erectile disfunction was not a feature
of this group and was only present in 1 man.
The 20 anorgasmic group had the best response with
treatment being successful in seven of the eight men
(88%). Three patients who became orgasmic with yohimbine had possible neurological problems but this did
not seem to be associated with a poor result. Erectile
disfunction was more common, occurring in five of the
seven men in which the information was recorded.
When the outcome of treatment is considered,
looking at the primary reason for presentation, a better result
was achieved by the men presenting for treatment of
their sexual disability (11 of 14 men: 79%) than for
infertility (8 of 15 men: 53%). There was no significant
difference in outcome with regard to age. It is of interest
that the mean dose to initiate ejaculation was higher
(38 mg) than that necessary for its maintenance (28 mg)
as patients were encouraged to use the lowest effective
dose. It should also be noted that 3 men were `cured',
not requiring further treatment. The psychological boost
from the success might have therefore played a factor.
The side effects of yohimbine in the high dosage that
is necessary can include an increase in pulse rate and
blood pressure, palpitations, dartos contraction, tremor
of the hands, facial flushing, anxiety, malaise and
headache [19_21]. At least 1 patient experienced a pleasant
tingling sensation, which was his indicator that he was
ready. Contraction of the dartos is the most reliable sign
of adequate absorption provided that the patient is warm,
as otherwise the dartos might be contracted. Yohimbine
has been widely used but at this higher dosage, the only
potentially serious adverse effect is a rise in blood
pressure. The first treatment should be done in clinic,
monitoring the blood pressure and it is prudent to refuse
it to men who are hypertensive or others to whom a rise
in blood pressure might be harmful . Tetraplegic or
patients with paraplegia above T6 should also be excluded
because of the risk of autonomic dysreflexia. It should
be noted that no instance of hypertension was seen in
any of the 29 patients treated.
In conclusion, the yohimbine treatment of anorgasmia
was successful in 55% of men, with an additional 10%
experiencing some improvement. It presents a relatively
simple means of restoring orgasms and is relatively free
from troublesome side effects.
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