Horny Goat Weed

Nutritional Compound

OVERVIEW

Summary

Horny goat weed, an herb used in traditional Chinese medicine, is believed to increase blood flow, dilate blood vessels, and may even help fight infections. These actions may be of value for those with cardiovascular disease and bronchitis and may also be responsible for the herb’s reported boost to sexual function. While we’re hearing more and more about horny goat weed having the ability to raise testosterone levels and boost muscle mass, the research is definitely lacking, at least up to this point.

Other names for Horny Goat Weed

Epimedium grandiflorum, Epimedium, Yin Yang Huo, Epimedium sp., Herba Epimedii, Inyokaku, xian ling pi, barrenwort

Where to find Horny Goat Weed

Horny goat weed is the common name for the Epimedium species of weeds native to the forests of China and Korea. A perennial herb, horny goat weed provides plenty of color, with flowers ranging from yellow to red and leaves that deepen through the summer.

For medicinal purposes, the Chinese typically collect and dry the leaves of E. brevicorum, E. pubescens, E. koreanum, E. wushanense, and E acunminatum, and cure them with lamb fat before using them as a tonic.

According to Chinese folklore, the herb was named after a goat herder witnessed the lewd rampages of a goat that nibbled the leaves. In the thousands of years since, men have sworn by the herb to help create and maintain erections.

The herb is marketed today as a natural substitute for Viagra (for both men and women) and, more recently, as a muscle-enhancing agent. It’s available as a crude herb, tea, extract, or encapsulation but is most frequently found as an ingredient in complex formulas.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS

Why athletes use Horny Goat Weed

When testosterone levels are low, an obvious outcome is loss of sexual function and desire. Another obvious outcome is reduced ability to put on muscle mass. Those who work out intensely as well as those who are aging may see decreasing testosterone levels adversely affect performance in both the athletic arena and the bedroom. So, in an effort to boost testosterone, some turn to horny goat weed. But in truth, this territory is unchartered. In fact, while there is evidence to support claims that sexual function improves with the use of horny goat weed, the herb’s effects on testosterone levels and on muscle mass remain undetermined.

HEALTH BENEFITS

Signs of Horny Goat Weed deficiency

No deficiency conditions are known to exist.

Potential uses for Horny Goat Weed

Research indicates that Horny Goat Weed may be useful in the treatment of:

  • Low libido (sex drive)
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Infertility
  • Premature ejaculation
  • Frequent urination
  • Connective tissue disorders
  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Menstrual pain
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Postmenopausal hypertension
  • Nerve sensitivity

DISCUSSION

More about Horny Goat Weed

Horny goat weed’s number one use is as an aphrodisiac — one capable of both putting you “in the mood” and keeping you there; the Chinese say the herb benefits jing; that is, life essence or, more literally, semen.

Heart health

According to Chinese studies, the cardiovascular system may also benefit from horny goat weed supplementation due to the herb’s ability to lower blood pressure and promote healthy blood flow by reducing platelet “stickiness” (this can be due to inflammation as well as plaque build up); this action is likely due to synergistic activity between icariin and horny goat weed’s flavonoids. Flavonoids are associated with significant cardiovascular effects, including the widening of blood vessels and the reduction of factors that raise blood pressure or block optimum blood flow.

How it works

Anything that affects the cardiovascular system is likely to affect male and female sexual function. Because horny goat weed dilates blood vessels and improves blood flow, it may improve both function and sensitivity. Research has shown that when circulation is diminished, as with obesity or high blood pressure, it is difficult to maintain the required level of arousal long enough to climax. This herb also stimulates the levator ani muscle in men, which controls penile function.

Horny goat weed contains a variety of plant chemicals, and scientists have had difficulty determining which are its most active, though most have voted on the plant chemical icariin.

Sexual function and fertility

Horny goat weed may help relieve low libido in both men and women as well as treat erectile dysfunction in men. In one unpublished, double-blind study, an herbal combination containing horny goat weed enhanced sexual pleasure in 60% of the healthy male participants and in 45% of men who had been using Viagra.

The herb may also be useful in treating infertility: in China, human studies indicate horny goat weed raised sperm count and semen density. Others demonstrated that those who supplemented with the herb experienced an increase in sexual function and in overall quality of life.

Therapeutic uses

According to pharmacist You-Ping Zhu, Ph.D., author of The Chinese Materia Medica, 4.6% of the folks who supplemented with horny goat weed recovered from bronchitis significantly faster than those who didn’t. Horny goat weed’s benefits in the treatment of bronchitis likely stem from its polysaccharide content: polysaccharides are typically the antiviral and antimicrobial components of herbs.

Interesting theory

While the herb’s absolute effect on testosterone levels and brain chemicals (which are necessary for sexual pleasure) needs to be determined, some experts suggest that horny goat weed may have such an effect, thus explaining in part why this herb may combat the testosterone deficiency that occurs with aging, for example, as well as the waning sexual appetite that follows.

Recently, doctors have recommended that women with slipping libidos have their testosterone levels checked; even in women, this notorious “male” hormone is necessary for desire. Obviously, any substance that naturally increases this hormone is bound to have positive sexual effects.

And, of course, testosterone is known to bulk muscles, so it follows that something that raises testosterone levels may be beneficial for those seeking maximum muscle gains. However, no research has documented that horny goat weed actually does raise testosterone levels to a degree that would be of use for muscle enhancement. So, we’re left with little more than an interesting theory for now.

In truth

Sound scientific study is glaringly absent on horny goat weed. We have no sound evidence that it increases muscle mass or that it has a significant effect on testosterone levels. Still, a good deal of real-world feedback indicates it may be of use in men with erectile dysfunction, and researchers are taking a closer look at the herb’s effects in the treatment of bronchial and cardiovascular conditions. Rest assured, we’ll be watching this herb closely to see if it has performance potential, and we’ll be sure to pass on any information to you.

NOTES ON USAGE

Amount

The most common use reported is 250 to 500 mg daily, standardized for 10% icariin.

Timing

Horny goat weed is typically taken with meals two hours before engaging in sexual activity.

Synergists of Horny Goat Weed

May be used with other tonics, such as damiana, ginseng, and maca pruriens for sexual activity.

Safety of Horny Goat Weed

Horny goat weed lowers blood pressure and should not be used by persons with very low blood pressure.

Though side effects are rarely reported, nausea and dry mouth may occur.

Toxicity of Horny Goat Weed

E. grandiflorum, the Japanese species, has caused respiratory distress at high doses. Normally, however, E. saggitatum and E. brevicornum are used, not the Japanese species.

Bans and restrictions

None reported.

RELATED RESEARCH

  • Harborne, J.B., Phytochemical Dictionary: A Handbook of Bioactive Compounds from Plants (Washington, D.C., Taylor and Francis, 1993).
  • Li, S.Y., “Immunopharmocology and Toxicology of the Plant Flavanoid Baohuoside-1 in Mice,” International Journal of Immunopharmacology, 16 (1994) : 227.
  • Ya, F.D., et al., “A Guide to the Clinical Application of Traditional Chinese Medicine Formulas,” Scientific and Technological Literature Press (1994) : 629.