Epimedium, a genus of over 50 different flowing plants is best known as Horny Goat Weed but is also known as rowdy lamb herb, Randy Beef Grass, or yin yang huo.  Epimedium is a hardy perennial and is endemic to China but has also been found in Europe. 

Horny Goat Weed aphrodisiac qualities are due to a compound in the plant known as Icariin.  According to legend a Chinese goat herder noticed increased sexual activity in his flock after they had eaten the weed.  The raw herb and extracts from these plants have been used to in Chinese herbal medicine for many years to enhance erectile function. It is also sold as a health supplement in the West as the whole herb, in capsule form, as an extract, or blended with other supplements.  It is a popular herb for older men who may have difficulty “rising to the occasion”. Its use may not be for goats and “old goats” anymore. It may be even more useful for women!

Horny Goat Weed’s  aphrodisiac qualities is due to the presence of icariin. This primary constituent can be found in standardized extracts from 5% up to 60%. Purity in health food stores and on line..  Recently a 98% pure product has become available by a company called Liftmode and is available through Amazon.

Icariin increases the amount of nitric oxide in the body which relaxes smooth muscle and also inhibits the activity of PDE-5.  PDE-5 is an enzyme that breaks down cyclic GMP which decreases the flow of blood to the smooth muscle. A PDE 5 inhibitor blocks the action of PDE-5 and thus causes an increase of blood flow to the smooth muscle.  In short it increases the flow of blood to the penis. Other more well known PDE-5 inhibitors are Viagra and Cialis.  The pharmaceutical PD-5 inhibitors were initially developed to increase the flow of blood to the heart in patients who have angina.  While the drugs where in study trials they noted a very interesting side effect.  I don’t think they prescribe them for heart disease anymore.  It is believed that this substance is also found in the lichen Xanthoparmelia scabrosa. Yes, natural aphrodisiacs are found everywhere in nature.

Though you may not like the name, horny goat weed can apparently be beneficial to both men and women. Horny goat weed, also called Epimedium, is thought to alter levels of certain hormones including estrogen. Epimedium can have complex effects in the body by elevating mood, energy and feelings of arousal. The relaxation of the smooth muscles may increase the blood flow towards the clitoris in women. Horny goat weed may help relieve symptoms of menopause such as irritability, flushing, and loss of sexual interest.

Another problem during menopause is related to the loss of bone density which leads to osteoporosis. Taking horny goat weed may help prevent bone loss. There has been an increased amount of research on the natural compound icariin in recent years.  Listed below are some of the findings for this unique chemical found in Horny Goat Weed:

Osteoporosis
Several studies indicate that icariin both stimulates the growth of new bone, and slows the destruction of old bone.  A recent study on menopausal women showed that using the supplement increased bone mass in the hip and low back by 1.6 and 1.3 percent, where as the placebo group lost bone by 1.8 and 2.4 percent.  These percentages are very important to reduce the incidence of fractures.

Alzheimer’s
Research in rats shows that icariin improves learning and memory in rat-models of Alzheimer’s. The study concluded that the chemical increased remarkably the searching time and searching distance. The test indicated icariin improved the ability of learning and memory in Alzheimer’s disease model rats.

Stroke
Rats given icariin and deprived of oxygen have less damage than non-supplemented rats.  Icariin improved blood flow, decreases oxidative damage after a stroke, and increases a neurotransmitter linked to memory.  The safety of this herb and the research showing it has the ability to build bone and protect the brain show great promise for this substance in Medicine.

Other Health Promoting Properties:

  1. Animal model studies have shown that icariin can promote the differentiation and proliferation of cardiomyocytes and other stem cells in multiple organ systems
  2. As an antidepressant
  3. Inhibit the actions of several toxic substances
  4. Increasing immune response against disease
  5. Inhibit the inflammatory response in arthritis and other inflammatory disease
  6. And has been shown to extend the lifespan and health span of nematodes

Personal Experience

I love goats.  They are one of my favourite animals.  I enjoy going to the fair each year and feeding and petting the goats.  They just love to have their heads scratched.  They look great too. They all seem to have square pupils.  



I am not as young as I used to be so performance is often an issue.   Prescriptions like Viagra worked for me using the highest dose but the insurance would only give you 4 pills a month!  Sure you can buy them on the internet from overseas but they are expensive and you cannot be sure what you are actually getting. I am a believer in herbal medicine and take ginger, kratom, and wild lettuce for my severe migraines (nothing pharmaceutical seems to work well since pharmaceuticals are either expensive, can be addictive, and often produce re-bound headaches).  And my wife takes cinnamon (C. verum, also called C. zeylanicum) from Sri Lanka for her type 2 diabetes instead of Actos which made her sick.  So I gave Horny Goat weed herb a try but it had little or no effect.  Since I use an extract of wild lettuce for pain I figured that an extract of Horny Goat weed might work.  I came across this product by Liftmode which is 98% icariin, the active chemical in Horny Goat weed.  Well it works, I take one dose in the morning and once in the evening. The container comes with a tiny spoon that accurately measures the dosage which is 0.15cc (1/32nd Teaspoon).. It takes a few days to build up but it is affecting me both physically and mentally.  It does have some anti-depressant properties so that might be part of the activity.

Final Thoughts

Everyone is different and you may get by with one dose a day using the Liftmode product.  It costs about $37 for 5 grams.  That is about a months worth if you take one dose a day or a little over a dollar a day.  That is cheaper than Viagra.  Plus you get all these other possible benefits.  I would also take a look at the hundreds of other Horny Goat Weed products.  Check the sites that advertise on this site.  Most carry Horny Goat weed or Icariin.  It even comes sometimes in combination with other Herbs.



It seems the perfect herb for senior citizens, not just for arousal but for bone loss, Alzheimer’s, memory, and your all around health.  Don’t say I told you, tell everyone the goat you fed at the fair told you about it.!

Cheers
Ed

References

  1. Jiang Z, Hu B, Wang J, et al. (2006). “Effect of icariin on cyclic GMP levels and on the mRNA expression of cGMP-binding cGMP-specific phosphodiesterase (PDE5) in penile cavernosum”. J. Huazhong Univ. Sci. Technol. Med. Sci. 26 (4): 460–2.
  2. Ning H, Xin ZC, Lin G, Banie L, Lue TF, Lin CS (December 2006). “Effects of icariin on phosphodiesterase-5 activity in vitro and cyclic guanosine monophosphate level in cavernous smooth muscle cells”. Urology 68 (6): 1350–4
  3. Dell’Agli M, Galli GV, Dal Cero E, et al. (September 2008). “Potent inhibition of human phosphodiesterase-5 by icariin derivatives”. J. Nat. Prod. 71 (9): 1513–7..
  4. Xu HB, Huang ZQ (July 2007). “Icariin enhances endothelial nitric-oxide synthase expression on human endothelial cells in vitro”. Vascul. Pharmacol. 47 (1): 18–24.
  5. Pan Y, Kong L, Xia X, Zhang W, Xia Z, Jiang F (December 2005). “Antidepressant-like effect of icariin and its possible mechanism in mice”. Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav. 82 (4): 686–94..
  6. Pan Y, Kong LD, Li YC, Xia X, Kung HF, Jiang FX (May 2007). “Icariin from Epimedium brevicornum attenuates chronic mild stress-induced behavioral and neuroendocrinological alterations in male Wistar rats”. Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav. 87 (1): 130–40.
  7. Luo Y, Nie J, Gong QH, Lu YF, Wu Q, Shi JS (August 2007). “Protective effects of icariin against learning and memory deficits induced by aluminium in rats”. Clin. Exp. Pharmacol. Physiol. 34 (8): 792–5.
  8. Yin XX, Chen ZQ, Liu ZJ, Ma QJ, Dang GT (February 2007). “Icariine stimulates proliferation and differentiation of human osteoblasts by increasing production of bone morphogenetic protein 2”. Chin. Med. J. 120 (3): 204–10.
  9. Zhang G, Qin L, Shi Y (July 2007). “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. 22 (7): 1072–9.