The latest extension of the warnings applies to a product called Savage Cuts that includes yohimbe that was marketed by a Vancouver, BC-based company called AK Brokerage. Health Canada has maintained a table of products subject to the warnings dating back to mid November of last year. The warnings cover products in the weight loss, sexual enhancement, workout, and so-called 'poppers' category, a group of products that contain amyl nitrate.
Yohimbe and its derivatives are prescription drugs in Canada. According to the Health Canada website, “The use of yohimbine or yohimbe may result in serious adverse reactions, particularly in people with high blood pressure, or heart, kidney or liver disease. Side effects include increased blood pressure and heart rate, anxiety, dizziness, tremors, headache, nausea and sleep disorders.”
On market legally in US
Yohimbe is on the market as a dietary ingredient in the United States but not without controversy. Extracts from the Yohimbe (Pausinystalia johimbe) tree are used as vasodilators in products for sexual and physical performance; two categories that receive extra attention from the FDA. Products often list the ingredient as yohimbe extract, yohimbe bark extract, or yohimbine—the key alkaloid in the bark of the tree.
While the American Herbal Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook (Second Edition, 2013) notes that doses up to 10 mg of yohimbine three times per day are generally well tolerated, detrimental side effects associated with high doses of yohimbe include elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate, and anxiety.
“Any company selling yohimbe products should have their labels adequately articulated with appropriate warnings,” said Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council.
In a study first published in 2015, prominent dietary supplement industry critic Dr. Pieter Cohen noted that only 2 of 49 yohimbe supplement brands contained adequate warnings on the labels. Dr. Cohen’s group also noted that the chemical signatures of the yohimbine found in almost half of the supplements testing suggested the ingredients were synthetic in origin. Cohen’s paper can be read directly here.
Long list of ingredients contained in warnings
The Health Canada warnings database contains a list of banned ingredients including yohimbine, rauwolfia, sildenafil and a number of its analogues and zopiclone, an active pharmaceutical ingredient used to treat insomnia. It also contains ingredients that might be innocuous on their own but are seen as problematical in combination, such as caffeine/synephrine combos or products that contain huperzine and caffeine in the same bottle.
The warnings database contains names of products that have been seized and pictures of the labels. Some appear similar to products that have also been seized in the US, at least judging by the product names, including Black Mamba and Black Ant. Others feature a significant portion of product labels in Chinese characters or whole labels in Chinese (or Japanese), thus apparently to be aimed at the ethnic trade. This has also been an area in the US rife with noncompliant products in these categories.