What is Horny Goat Weed?
You’ll likely only need to hear horny goat weed’s name once for it to stick with you forever. This flowering plant goes by the botanical name Epimedium and is said to have been discovered by a Chinese goat herder who noticed that the sexual activity of his herd increased after regularly eating the plant.
The Epimedium plant has also been used to treat several other health issues such as:
Many of this plant’s benefits are due to the large amounts of icariin it houses. Icariin is a type of flavonoid (a chemical classified as a prenylated flavonol glycoside). When in the body, it presents a whole host of positive effects. Horny goat weed is rich in this flavonoid and studies have shown promise in its medicinal use.
Horny Goat Weed Benefits
Does horny goat weed work in treating any of the issues listed above? It’s hard to say definitively. But many do suggest positive potential in the herb.
One of the causes of erectile dysfunction is a high level of protein phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5), which interferes with nitric oxide and cGMP. Icariin can suppress the levels of PDE5, allowing blood to go exactly where it’s supposed to. This, in addition to horny goat weed’s possible blood thinning properties, makes it an enticing option for those combating erectile dysfunction.
The studies that support this come from test tube (in vitro) and animal tests. Researchers found that rats treated with an extract of horny goat weed over a period of weeks showed improved erectile function. In test tubes, another study found that icariin is effective in inhibiting PDE5.
Icariin can also enhance the growth of the smooth muscles of the heart, which helps blood flow to the penis. This may indicate a possible treatment for those with diabetes-associated erectile dysfunction.
Horny goat weed can also increase testosterone levels. While this hasn’t been researched in humans yet, many clinical trials on animals provide encouraging results. In one study, rats were chemically castrated over five days then separated into groups. The group given icariin saw an improvement in the condition of their reproductive organs and increased levels of testosterone. This same group also saw lower levels of cell decay in the smooth muscle cells of their penis.
Women aren’t affected by icariin in the same way. Instead of testosterone levels increasing, estrogen levels rose noticeably. This is especially true for post-menopausal females, and two other compounds in horny goat weed are responsible for this — icaritin and desmethylicaritin. This change in estrogen levels doesn’t seem significant enough to negate the benefits men may get from Epimedium’s testosterone boosting impact.
High Blood Pressure
For organs above your waist, horny goat weed also fits in the blood flow supplements category. Studies suggest that icariin increases blood flow throughout the body by relaxing blood vessels. It also acts as a blood thinner as it may inhibit your blood’s ability to clot. It’s these properties that may help those suffering from high blood pressure.
Icariin seems to work exceptionally well in both test-tube and animal studies in regard to cardiovascular health. Within the vascular cells (the cells that make up our arteries, veins and capillaries) icariin has powerful anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as a slew of other advantages that help fight atherosclerosis and DNA damage.
The icarrin present in horny goat weed may help protect against certain forms of neurodegeneration, like Alzheimer’s disease. The onset of that disease coincides with the activity of various stress-induced markers. The icariin in horny goat weed inhibits the impact of these pro-oxidant and pro-inflammatory chemicals in a way that may help keep the brain safe. In addition, it may also have beneficial effects against mild cognitive impairment.
In lab studies, horny goat weed proved to stimulate bone generation. Bone mass is regulated by two kinds of cells — osteoblast cells that create bone, and osteoclasts that absorb bone tissue. Osteoblasts work together to form a bone matrix and are one of the main components in bone mineralization.
Horny goat weed contains pytoestrogens, along with the plant’s active ingredient icariin. Experiments show that extracts of Epimedium can increase the amount and activity of osteoblasts, which may lead to faster bone growth.
Where to Find It
The Epimedium plant is native to eastern Asia and parts of the Mediterranean. It grows in woodlands and shady, rocky places, mainly in the mountainous regions of China. If you enjoy traveling and mountain climbing, visit China or Tibet in search of horny goat weed! Of course, an easier way to get the best of its benefits would be to purchase extracts containing the vital ingredients that make the herb so potent.
In a study of lab rats, for example, it had a noticeable effect on sexual behavior. Maca also had significant positive effects on sexual dysfunction or sexual desire in healthy postmenopausal women and healthy adult men. Moreover, in one trial, a significant change in ED took place after treatment with maca.
As with horny goat weed, traveling to the plateaus of South America and hunting for the root is an option. However, getting the right supplement would likely be far more convenient.
Horny Goat Weed Dosage and Side Effects
Epimedium is an herbal supplement, not a medical one, so there is no FDA recommended dosage amount. Based on research into its efficacy, however, a daily serving size for horny goat weed should measure at 1000 mg (just under 1/2 tsp).
Horny goat weed side effects require more investigation, but it’s best to avoid it altogether if you are pregnant or nursing. This is also true if you have severe liver or kidney disease, as your body may have issues processing the herb.
The Bottom Line
The possible benefits of horny goat weed are plentiful. Both in vitro and animal studies show us that this plant, namely its active ingredient icariin, can have positive health effects. It may combat erectile dysfunction, bone loss and heart disease, among other ailments. Further studies are necessary to make definite claims, but past experiments are promising. When taking this supplement, be aware of possible side effects, especially if you suffer from low blood pressure or are pregnant.