The Benefits of Horny Goat Weed

Health Benefits, Uses, and More

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Horny goat weed is a leafy plant with a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine. Also known as epimedium and yin yan huo, it's said to affect hormone levels. Horny goat weed is often used as an aphrodisiac, as well as an herbal remedy for a variety of health conditions.

According to folklore, horny goat weed's reputed aphrodisiac qualities were discovered when a Chinese goat herder noticed increased sexual activity in his flock after they ingested the plant.

Certain chemicals found in horny goat weed may stimulate circulation and improve sexual function. Horny goat weed also contains compounds called phytoestrogens, which may influence hormonal health and bone health.

Uses for Horny Goat Weed

Horny goat weed is said to protect against the following heath problems:

bronchitis
erectile dysfunction
• fatigue
• sexual dysfunction in women
heart disease
high blood pressure
• joint pain
• liver disease
osteoarthritis
osteoporosis

In addition, horny goat weed is thought to sharpen memory and boost libido.

Related: Natural Ways to Improve Memory

The Health Benefits of Horny Goat Weed

Although research on the potential benefits of horny goat weed is fairly limited, some studies indicate that the herb may help treat or prevent certain health problems. Here's a look at several key findings from those studies:

1) Erectile Function

A number of animal-based studies have shown that horny goat weed may improve erectile function.

These include a study published in the journal Urology in 2006, in which tests on rats demonstrated that treatment with a species of horny goat weed called Epimedium brevicornum may help elicit erection.

According to the study's authors, nitric oxide may play a role in the potentially erection-inducing effects of horny goat weed.

A molecule that signals the smooth muscle surrounding blood vessels to relax, nitric oxide helps stimulate blood flow to the penis (a necessity for maintaining erections). It's thought that horny goat weed may help treat erectile dysfunction by increasing nitric oxide levels.

2) Bone Health

Compounds found in horny goat weed may help prevent bone loss in late postmenopausal women, according to a study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research in 2007.

For the study, 100 healthy late postmenopausal women were treated with either a placebo or a supplement containing phytoestrogens extracted from horny goat weed. All participants also received 300 mg of calcium daily. After two years of treatment, researchers observed that horny goat weed extract appeared to have a beneficial effect in the prevention of bone loss.

3) Osteoarthritis

A preliminary study published in the Indian Journal of Experimental Biology in 2013 indicates that horny goat weed extract may protect against osteoarthritis, which is the most common type of arthritis.

In tests on rabbits, scientists determined that icariin (a compound found in horny goat weed) may suppress the activity of compounds involved in osteoarthritis-related inflammation.

Related: 4 Ways to Fight Inflammation Naturally

Side Effects & Safety Concerns

According to the National Institutes of Health, horny goat weed is possibly safe when taken by mouth in appropriate doses.

However, use of horny goat weed may be unsafe for certain individuals, including pregnant or breastfeeding women, people with bleeding disorders or low blood pressure, and anyone with hormone-sensitive conditions (such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and cancers of the breast, ovaries, or prostate).

Since horny goat weed can slow blood clotting, it should also be avoided prior to undergoing surgery.

Additionally, there's some concern that a species of horny goat weed called Epimedium koreanum may cause significant inhibition of the cholinesterase enzyme, which could increase risk of loss of muscle coordination.

What's more, animal-based research indicates that high doses of icariin may be toxic to the kidneys and liver.

If you're considering the use of horny goat weed in the treatment of any chronic condition, make sure to talk to your doctor first.

Sources

Chen KK, Chiu JH. "Effect of Epimedium brevicornum Maxim extract on elicitation of penile erection in the rat." Urology. 2006 Mar;67(3):631-5.

National Institutes of Health. "Horny Goat Weed: MedlinePlus Supplements." April 2015.

Shindel AW, Xin ZC, Lin G, Fandel TM, Huang YC, Banie L, Breyer BN, Garcia MM, Lin CS, Lue TF. "Erectogenic and neurotrophic effects of icariin, a purified extract of horny goat weed (Epimedium spp.) in vitro and in vivo." J Sex Med. 2010 Apr;7(4 Pt 1):1518-28.

Zhang G, Qin L, Shi Y. "Epimedium-derived phytoestrogen flavonoids exert beneficial effect on preventing bone loss in late postmenopausal women: a 24-month randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled trial." J Bone Miner Res. 2007 Jul;22(7):1072-9.

Zhang W, Li R, Wang S, Mu F, Jia P. "Effect of Chinese traditional herb Epimedium grandiflorum C. Morren and its extract Icariin on osteoarthritis via suppressing NF-kappaB pathway." Indian J Exp Biol. 2013 Apr;51(4):313-21.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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