The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications

Corynanthe spp.




“In the Central African Republic, a macerate of the branch bark [of Corynanthe pachyceras] is drunk in palm wine as an aphrodisiac and as an agent for staying awake. . . . In the coast land of the PR of the Congo (Mayombe) and in Gabon, the healers do not distinguish the bark from Pausinystalia bark (= the source of yohimbine); they also use it as an aphrodisiac and agent for staying awake.”




(1994, 701*)




Rubiaceae (Coffee Family); Subfamily Cinchonoideae, Cinchoneae Tribe

The genus Corynanthe is composed of five or six species. It is very closely related to Pausinystalia yohimba and is often confused with it. The small trees of this genus occur in the tropical rain forests of western Africa. The species that have been studied to date (Corynanthe pachyceras K. Schum., Corynanthe mayumbensis [Good] N. Hallé) contain indole alkaloids of the corynanthein-yohimbine group (Chaurasia 1992, 1029). The bark (pseudocinchonae africanae cortex) of Corynanthe pachyceras108 contains approximately 5.8% indole alkaloids, including corynanthine (= rauhimbine), corynanthidine (= α-yohimbine), corynanthein, dihydrocorynanthein, corynantheidin, corynoxein, corynoxin, and β-yohimbine. In the pharmaceutical trade, the bark is often used as a counterfeit or substitute for the true yohimbé bark (from Pausinystalia yohimba) (Chaurasia 1992; Neuwinger 1994, 701*).

The bark of Corynanthe pachyceras is used in the Ivory Coast to manufacture arrow poisons (Neuwinger 1994, 701*; 1997, 780*). In the former French Equatorial Africa, the bark is used to fortify fermented beverages (beerpalm wine). The bark extract has weak analgesic and local anesthetic effects. In animal experiments, it decreased the toxicity of amphetamine (cf. ephedrine) by 100%! In West Africa, the bark is esteemed as an aphrodisiac (Chaurasia 1992, 1031; Raymond-Hamet 1937).


(Advertisement, ca. 1920)




See also the entries for Pausinystalia yohimba and yohimbine.


Chaurasia, Neera. 1992. Corynanthe. In Hagers Handbuch der pharmazeutischen Praxis, 5th ed., 4:1029–32. Berlin: Springer.


Goutarel, R., M. M. Janot, R. Mirza, and V. Prelog. 1953. Über das reine Corynanthein. Helvetica Chimica Acta 36:337–40.


Karrer, P., R. Schwyzer, and A. Flam. 1952. Die Konstitution des Corynantheins und Dihydrocorynantheins. Helvetica Chimica Acta 35:851–62.


Raymond-Hamet. 1937. Über die Wirkungen von Corynanthine auf die männlichen Genitalfunktionen. Archiv für Pharmakologie und experimentelle Pathologie 184:680–85.

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