Does Rauwolscine Boost Fat Loss?

When you’re searching for a fat burner supplement it is important that you do your research. Whilst some ingredients are high-quality and well evidenced, others are built on false claims and sub-standard science.

It is important that you choose the right supplements in order to accelerate your progress. In this article, we’ll tell you all you need to know about rauwolscine. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What is rauwolscine?
  • Does it improve health?
  • Can it boost fat loss?

What is Rauwolscine?

Rauwolscine (RW) is an alkaloid compound found naturally in the genus evergreen rauvolfia tree. The plant, also known as the poison devil’s peppercan be found native throughout Africa as well as China, Bangladesh and Puerto Rico.

Found in the bark of the plant, RW acts on the central nervous system, providing a stimulant effect that is very similar to yohimbine. In fact, this compound is so chemically similar to yohimbine that it is classed as a stereoisomer – this means that it’s chemically similar but has a different three-dimensional atom orientation. For that reason, you’ll often find rauwolscine under its alternate name α-yohimbine. 

Rauwolfia vomitoria is the active extract from the RW plant. It is a pale, yellowish powder extracted from the root and is used for a number of supposed health benefits. It contains a number of chemical constituents including mitoridine, purpeline, pelirine. It also contains reserpine – an indole alkaloid that has been used in modern medicine as an anti-psychotic and anti-inflammatory.

Key Point: Rauwolscine is a plant that is similar to yohimbine in its chemical composition.

Does it Improve Health?

RW contains bioactive compounds that have been used to treat a number of illnesses in traditional African medicine for hundreds of years. It was typically brewed into a tea and used as a treatment for cholera and snakebite amongst other disorders. It has also used as a treatment for lice and parasites.

In a clinical setting, it has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic properties, as well as being an active antipyretic – essentially it works against a fever. It has also been shown to improve gastrointenstinal disorders and jaundice. There are a number of trading prescription drugs that contain rauwolfia extract.

The reserpine content has been used to treat high blood pressure, but also a range of psychiatric disorders too. It has been used to effectively treat schizophrenia for example and may even have advantages over clinical medicines such as chlorpromazine as it doesn’t decrease social interaction or increase pain sensitivity [1].

But can it be used to improve body composition or lead to weight loss? Let’s see what the research says…

Key Point: Rauwolfia has been used as a traditional and clinical medication for a range of illnesses.

Can Rauwolscine Increase Weight Loss?

RW is an alpha-2 antagonist which means that it blocks the alpha receptors from using the neurotransmitter norepineprine that tightens your blood vessels. This of course leads to relaxation and an increase in blood flow at a lower pressure [2].

Whilst this may have some benefit to sportspeople or those with high blood pressure, this does not mean that it will improve body composition. Alpha-2 receptors tell your body to store fat. The idea is that by inhibiting them you are essentially telling your body to increase lipolysis – the breakdown of fat to be used as energy. This would then lead to weight loss.

The problem is that you’ll find it very difficult to find any research linking rauwolscine to weight loss though. There is a patent application from 1986 that suggests rauwolfia alkaloids may assist in weight loss, but in the application it is claimed that the rate of weight loss will vary from patient to patient, and is not consistent [3].

If anything, the only time weight loss is mentioned in the research is as a side effect in hypertensive subjects [4].

In order to find any research on anything related to RW you’ll have to look at its cousin, yohimbine. Remember, this plant is very closely related so shares common properties.

The problem is though that yohimbine isn’t a particularly good supplement for weight loss either. One comprehensive research project published in the International Journal of Obesity [5], found that when 47 men were given a high dose of yohimbine over a 6-month period, no changes in weight were noted. Nor were there changes to body fat or waist to hip ratio.

In a systematic review of a wide variety of clinically tested dietary supplements, rauwolscine was nowhere to be seen. Yohimbine was though, but didn’t come out with a glowing report. The authors concluded that yohimbine (as well as other alkaloid supplements such as yerba mate and garcinia cambogia) had “no evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that any of the specific dietary supplements in the review were effective for reducing body weight” [6].

Summary – Rauwolscine as a Weight Loss Supplement

Rauwolscine is an alkaloid compound found in the rauwolfia tree. Native to Africa, this supplement has been used in both traditional medicine to treat snakebite and cholera and clinical medicine to treat mental illness as well as diabetes and hypertension.

Whilst it is claimed to improve weight loss, you’ll not find any legitimate scientific studies to back this up. With virtually no clinical testing available to evaluate its use, we strongly advise that you steer clear of this supplement until more rigorous research is made available.

  1. Bisong, S et al. Comparative effects of Rauwolfia vomitoria and chlorpromazine on social behaviour and pain. N Am J Med Sci. 2011 Jan; 3(1): 48–54
  2. Perry, BD et al. [3H]rauwolscine (alpha-yohimbine): a specific antagonist radioligand for brain alpha 2-adrenergic receptors. Eur J Pharmacol. 1981; 76(4): 461-4
  3. Seed, J. Method of assisting weight loss. US 4895845 A.
  4. Eluwa, M et al. Effect Of Aqueous Extract Of Rauwolfia Vomitoria Root Bark On The Cytoarchitecture Of The Cerebellum And Neurobehaviour Of Adult Male Wistar Rats. Internet J Altern Med. 2009; 6
  5. Sax, L. Yohimbine does not affect fat distribution in men. Int J Obes. 1991; 15(9): 561-5
  6. Pittler, MH et al. Dietary supplements for body-weight reduction: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr2004; 79(4): 529-536