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Horny Goat Weed – Benefits

Benefits

Horny goat weed comes from the Epimedium genus of flowering plants in the family Berberidaceae. It is also popularly known as barrenwort, fairy wings, bishop’s hat, randy beef grass, rowdy lamb herb, or yin yang huo. Shady areas, cliff crevices, and hillsides are usually where this plant grows best in such countries like China, Japan, Korea, some parts of Europe and The Mediterranean.  There are over 60 accepted species of Epimedium and 6 artificial hybrids cultivated in gardens today.

According to an article published by Acupuncture Today, “In Traditional Chinese Medicine, epimedium (horny goat weed) is believed to tonify the kidney by strengthening kidney yang, dispelling wind and eliminating dampness.” Western medicine describes horny goat weed’s mechanisms of actions as: restoring circulation, supporting hormonal balance, and helping to fight various effects of aging by fighting oxidative stress (free radical damage).

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), horny goat weed has been used for over 2,000 years to help cure certain health conditions; however, it is most commonly known for its use as a sexual stimulant. Currently, there are not enough scientific studies to support this claim, nevertheless, it is this characteristic of horny goat weed as lipido-enhancing that is now getting more attention in the West.

The Bozhou Herb Market

The world’s largest herb market is found in China’s Central Plains region at the far northwestern corner of the Anhui Province. Being an agriculturally diverse region, the Central Plains region is 600,000 acres of medicinal herbs where numerous crops are cultivated on a large-scale level.

The Bozhou Herb Market operates on a grand scale, catering to thousands of people and displaying thousands of varieties of herbs. Here, when you inquire about horny goat weed, the general and common response is that it is “very good for sex” and that it will “make you sexually strong.” Again, these comments are not scientifically supported yet but in China, where TCM has been practiced for thousands of years, the common persons attest to this particular benefit of horny goat weed.

What are the benefits?

There is a long history of uses of this plant in TCM. It has been used to treat premenstrual and menopause-related symptoms, and its extracts have also been used to enhance sexual functions of both men and women. Two clinicians from Longhua Hospital in China, namely, Doctors Xiao Tong Shen and Diao Yuan Kuang, claim that horny goat weed is unsurpassed in TCM to address these health issues. In TCM, horny goat weed is also believed to be an aphrodisiac that not only increases libido in men and women but also improves erectile dysfunction in men.

The most active molecule found in this herb is icariin which is an inhibitor of phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5), a protein lying in the smooth muscle cells of the penis. When icariin inhibits PDE5, this allows erections to occur more likely. Pharmaceutical drugs such as Viagra and Cialis use this same biological process to help attain erections, although these drugs are more potent than the simple herb extract when it comes to inhibiting PDE5.

Horny goat weed is a herb known for it’s natural aphrodisiac effects, as it has been shown in some animal studies to have positive effects on hormone production and libido. The plant that produces horny goat weed is the species called Epimedium. Epimedium contains the active ingredient called icariin, which is responsible for most of it’s health-promoting effects.

If you’re thinking that horny goat weed has a strange name, then you’re on to something. The story behind the name is that it originated when farmers noticed that goats and sheep who ate epimedium herbs became more excited around animals of the opposite sex. Scientists haven’t proven that horny goat weed increases sexual function in humans. However, anecdotal evidence, along with certain animal studies, suggests it has some of the following benefits:

  • Helps to increase increase testosterone production
  • Helps to increase estrogen levels, particularly in post-menopausal women
  • Improving libido
  • Boosting circulation
  • Helps to treat conditions like impotence (erectile dysfunction, or ED) or vaginal dryness
  • Normalizing cortisol levels
  • Helps to increase lean muscle mass
  • Preventing bone loss

Beyond its name

Beyond its name, horny goat weed has benefits that go beyond sexual stimulation. It may be advised to people with high blood pressure and cardiovascular conditions. The amount of nitric oxide produced in cells that line the blood vessels are increased with the presence of icariin. Nitric oxide will widen the blood vessels thereby allowing blood to flow more smoothly. This is the reason why horny goat weed is also used to treat hypertension and certain coronary heart diseases. This active ingredient, icariin, works on the soft muscle tissues surrounding the heart, and therefore, helps alleviate the strain on the heart under certain stressors.

Because it works on smooth muscles, it is also used to relieve fatigue, a health benefit that has been practiced in TCM for centuries. This herb has been used to treat back and/or knee pains, joint pains, memory problems, numbness, spermatorrhea, and impotence. There have also been indications that it produces antiaging effects as well as improve the body’s immune and endocrine systems. Horny goat weed is also used to treat osteoporosis, bronchitis, and polio, among others.

How is it taken?

The leaves of Epimedium plants are edible but are known to be very bitter which is why horny goat weed extracts are also sold in tablet or capsule form. The leaves can also be prepared as a medicinal tea.

Its dosage and potency will depend highly on the consumer’s physical attributes such as height and weight as well as his or her age and medical conditions. The effects of horny goat weed may vary from person to person, and so taking it will entail a certain amount of attention for you to know what effects it has on your own body and how strong these effects are.

The use of this herb for medical purposes have yet to be scientifically supported, therefore, it is highly recommended that professional medical advice is sought prior.

What are its side effects?

When appropriately taken by mouth, horny goat weed is potentially safe; however, there are also certain types of this herb that may potentially be unsafe for long-term use. Some of its negative side effects include dry mouth, dizziness, vomiting, thirst, and nosebleed. When taken in large quantities, horny goat weed can also cause severe breathing problems and spasms. There have also been reports that high doses of horny goat weed in the system can have stimulatory effects and cause sweating as well as irregular heart rhythms.

Consider the side effects of this herb for the following health conditions:

  • Warnings on pregnancy and breastfeeding – Again, there is not enough data from scientific studies conducted on horny goat weed. It is not clear what effects this may have on the fetus or newborn baby, so the safe side to take is to just avoid using it.
  • Low blood pressure – Horny goat weed is contraindicated to people with low blood pressure.
  • Hormone-sensitive cancers and conditions – Horn and goat weed might worsen uterine and breast cancer because of this herb can increase estrogen levels in women.
  • Bleeding – In the absence of definitive scientific studies, it can be deduced in theory that horny goat weed might worsen bleeding. It slows down blood clotting, which consequently poses a threat to patients that need to undergo surgery.
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