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Horny Goat Weed (icariin): Benefits, How It Works & More

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

Evidence-Based. Scientifically Reviewed.


Horny Goat Weed, also known as Epimedium, is a well-regarded plant and supplement in traditional Chinese medicine.


Famed for its natural aphrodisiac properties, it's believed to provide various health benefits, such as enhancing cardiovascular, sexual, and brain health.


Often used to elevate testosterone levels, Horny Goat Weed is also a key ingredient in GYMYETI T-Booster supplement.


Key Summary

  • Horny Goat Weed is a plant with over 200 active components, it's most active ingredient is icariin

  • This ingredient enhances blood circulation and inhibits phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5), functioning similarly to Viagra

  • Frequently used for improving cardiovascular, sexual, and brain health, it's also known for potentially boosting testosterone levels. It seems to be effective for this



What Is Horny Goat Weed

Epimedium, commonly known as Horny Goat Weed, represents not just a single herb, but a genus within the Berberidaceae family, encompassing about 50 to 60 species of herbaceous plants.


These species are predominantly native to China, with others spread across various Asian regions and the Mediterranean.


Did you know: The name 'Epimedium' is steeped in Greek mythology, linking back to a tale involving the god Pan and his goats.


These plants are characterized by distinct traits, such as their heart-shaped leaves that emerge in spring, often exhibiting a vivid green hue or a reddish tint.


horny goat weed plant

The primary bioactive ingredient in Horny Goat Weed is icariin, a flavonoid known for its antioxidant qualities.


Icariin is particularly researched for its potential benefits in enhancing sexual function and bone health.


In addition to icariin, Epimedium contains other compounds like epimedins A, B, and C, as well as various polysaccharides, which all contribute to its medicinal value.


In traditional Chinese medicine, specific Epimedium species are chosen for treatment based on the particular health condition being addressed.


  • Epimedium sagittatum and Epimedium grandiflorum are some of the most frequently used species for these purposes.

  • For herbal remedies, the leaves of these plants are the main component, utilized either in their dried or fresh form.


It's also known as:

  • barrenwort

  • bishop's hat

  • fairy wings

  • yin yang huo



Why Is It Used?

Horny Goat Weed is commonly sought after as a natural remedy for erectile dysfunction (ED).

It is thought to enhance blood flow and boost sexual function.


Moreover, it's under investigation for its potential in treating conditions like osteoporosis and arterial hardening, but further clinical studies are required.


This herb has a long history in traditional medicine for treating liver and kidney issues, alleviating fatigue and joint pain.


It's also traditionally believed to strengthen tendons and bones, boost immune functions, and help with memory retention, although research on these traditional applications is still limited.


While Horny Goat Weed has been a part of herbal medicine for ages, scientific exploration into its effects is relatively recent.


Most of the studies conducted so far are preclinical, primarily involving cell-based or animal models.



Benefits of Horny Goat Weed

Scientific research is still developing, but here are some prominent areas where Horny Goat Weed is considered beneficial:


  1. Enhances erectile dysfunction and sexual health

  2. Increases bone density

  3. Improves blood flow & reduces arterial stiffness

  4. Has neuroprotective properties

  5. Has anti-inflammatory & antioxidant effects

  6. Increases testosterone & regulates hormones

  7. Potential immune system boost

  8. Reduces fatigue


1. Enhances Erectile Dysfunction & Sexual Health

Its most famous use is as a natural erectile dysfunction (ED) treatment.


It's believed to enhance sexual function by boosting blood flow and stimulating nerves in the genital area, potentially increasing libido.


This effect is often linked to icariin, a component thought to have mild PDE5 inhibitor properties, akin to those in prescription ED drugs.


graphic showing how PDE-5 inhibitors work

2. Increases Bone Density

Research indicates that Horny Goat Weed may be effective in enhancing bone density and health, especially in postmenopausal women.


Icariin, a component of the herb, might play a role in preventing bone loss, making it potentially useful in treating conditions like osteoporosis.


3. Improves Blood Flow & Reduces Arterial Stiffness

Evidence suggests that Horny Goat Weed could benefit cardiovascular health by enhancing blood flow and diminishing arterial stiffness, which is vital for heart health and managing circulation-related conditions.



4. Has Neuroprotective Properties

Preliminary studies show that Horny Goat Weed may possess neuroprotective qualities, potentially useful in addressing or preventing neurodegenerative diseases, although more research is required in this field.


5. Has Anti-Inflammatory & Antioxidant Effects

The herb has demonstrated anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects in certain studies, which might be advantageous in managing chronic inflammatory conditions and supporting overall health.


6. Increases Testosterone & Regulates Hormones

There's interest in the herb’s ability to affect hormone levels, including estrogen and testosterone. This is particularly significant for conditions linked to hormonal imbalances.


Its capacity to raise testosterone levels is one reason for its inclusion in testosterone booster supplements.


7. Potential Immune System Boost

While traditionally used for immune system enhancement, scientific backing for this effect is still limited.


8. Reduces Fatigue

Traditional applications also include combating fatigue and enhancing mental clarity, though these uses have not been extensively studied in clinical environments.





Consideration of Evidence

It's crucial to note that despite substantial traditional and anecdotal support, human clinical research is still limited.


Many of its purported benefits derive from animal studies or theoretical models. To validate these effects and determine safe, effective dosages, further human studies are essential.



How It Works

The primary benefits of Horny Goat Weed stem from icariin, its active component.


It's particularly effective in addressing erectile dysfunction (ED) through its inhibition of phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5), and it also exhibits anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.


Inhibiting Phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5)

For ED, the key action of Horny Goat Weed is inhibiting PDE-5, mirroring the mechanism of pharmaceuticals like Viagra or Cialis.



This inhibition increases cyclic GMP levels, a molecule that promotes relaxation of smooth muscles and enhances blood flow to the penis, aiding in erection.


Additionally, Horny Goat Weed may boost nitric oxide synthase enzyme activity and increase nitric oxide production, further encouraging smooth muscle relaxation vital for erectile and cardiovascular health.


Cardiovascular System Enhancement

Horny Goat Weed potentially benefits heart health by reducing vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation and lowering platelet activation.


These effects contribute to better cardiovascular functioning.


It might also assist in lipid management and improve endothelial function, crucial for healthy blood vessels and efficient blood circulation.


Reducing Inflammation and Oxidative Stress

In terms of neuroprotection, Horny Goat Weed may promote antioxidant activities, helping to neutralize harmful free radicals in the brain.


It could also reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, pivotal factors in the development of neurodegenerative diseases.



Dosage Information

Based on existing research, a typical icariin dosage might range from 20mg to 1,500mg, varying with individual body weight and the purity of the supplement.


It's advisable to begin with a lower dosage and gradually increase it. Consulting a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement is always recommended.


GYMYETIs horny goat weed blend offers 100mg of icariin per serving.


In animal studies, testosterone-boosting effects were observed in rats at a dosage of 200mg/kg of a 40% extract, equivalent to 80mg/kg icariin.


Translating these dosages to human equivalents based on body weight, the estimated doses are approximately:

  • 900mg Icariin for a person weighing 150lb

  • 1,200mg Icariin for a person weighing 200lb

  • 1,500mg Icariin for a person weighing 250lb


For studies using lower icariin dosages (1-10mg/kg), the equivalent human dosages are about:

  • 11-110mg Icariin for a 150lb person

  • 15-150mg Icariin for a 200lb person

  • 18-180mg Icariin for a 250lb person


A human study focusing on postmenopausal women and bone health found that a daily dose of 60mg icariin was effective.



Side-Effects

Though commonly deemed safe for use, there are potential adverse effects and cautions associated with Horny Goat Weed, particularly when used excessively or in high doses.


A specific horny goat weed extract with phytoestrogens has been safely used for up to 2 years, while another extract with icariin has been used safely for up to 6 months.


However, certain types of horny goat weed might be unsafe when taken for extended periods or in large doses.


This is why it's recommended to stick with a reputable brand such as GYMYETI our vetted and trusted partner.


Serious Side Effects

Although rare, serious side effects like severe breathing issues have been reported.


Moderate Side Effects

  • Gastrointestinal Discomfort: Users may experience mild stomach upset, including bloating, gas, and diarrhea, especially with higher doses or on an empty stomach.

  • Dizziness and Nosebleeds: Some individuals report dizziness and nosebleeds, possibly linked to the herb's effect on blood flow.

  • Dry Mouth: Dry mouth can occur post-consumption, with hydration and reduced dosage often alleviating this issue.

  • Mood Changes and Irritability: Mood alterations, such as irritability or increased aggressiveness, have been noted, particularly at higher dosages.

  • Cardiovascular Concerns: Instances of heart palpitations and increased heart rate have been observed, likely due to its vasodilatory properties. Those with heart conditions should exercise extra caution.

  • Allergic Reactions: Allergy risk exists with any herbal supplement, ranging from mild skin rashes to more severe reactions.


Important Warning: You should always consult with a healthcare professional when starting any new supplement.


Interactions

Horny Goat Weed can interact with various medications and substances, potentially impacting its effectiveness and safety.


  • Blood Pressure Medication Interactions: The herb can influence blood pressure levels, possibly interfering with the efficacy of antihypertensive drugs by either enhancing or negating their effects. Caution is advised for those on blood pressure medications.

  • Anticoagulants and Blood Clotting Medications: Due to its potential blood-thinning properties, Horny Goat Weed can be problematic when used alongside anticoagulant drugs like warfarin or aspirin, increasing the risk of bleeding and bruising.

  • Estrogenic Effects: Some components in Horny Goat Weed may exhibit estrogen-like effects. Consequently, its use alongside hormone therapies, particularly estrogen, should be carefully considered to avoid impacting the effectiveness of these treatments or aggravating hormone-sensitive conditions.

  • Cytochrome P450 Enzyme System: The herb can affect the Cytochrome P450 enzyme system in the liver, crucial for metabolizing many drugs. It may specifically interact with medications metabolized by Cytochrome P450 1A2 (CYP1A2) and 2B6 (CYP2B6) enzymes, altering their effectiveness or side effects.

  • Combination with Yohimbine and Stimulants: When used with Yohimbine or other stimulants, commonly used for erectile dysfunction and weight loss, Horny Goat Weed may heighten the risk of side effects like rapid heart rate and increased blood pressure.

  • P-Glycoprotein Interactions: The herb might impact the function of P-glycoprotein, a protein essential in drug absorption and elimination. This can affect the efficiency and side effects of drugs that are transported by P-glycoprotein.




Special Precautions and Warnings

Refrain from using Horny Goat Weed if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, not yet an adult, or have a hormone-sensitive, bleeding, cardiovascular, or mental health condition.


Additionally, it's advisable to discontinue its use at least two weeks prior to any planned surgery.


Due to the various effects and interactions of Horny Goat Weed, there are specific precautions to consider, including the following.


  • Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Horny Goat Weed is potentially unsafe during pregnancy, as it may harm the developing fetus. Its safety during breastfeeding is also not established.

  • Hormone-sensitive Conditions: Caution is advised for those with hormone-sensitive conditions. The herb's estrogen-mimicking properties could worsen conditions like breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids.

  • Cardiovascular Disorders: Individuals with heart disease, arrhythmias, or hypertension should consult healthcare professionals before using Horny Goat Weed due to its potential effects on heart rate and blood pressure.

  • Bleeding Disorders: Its possible blood-thinning effects make it necessary for those with bleeding disorders or upcoming surgery to be cautious, as it may increase bleeding risk and affect blood clotting.

  • Pre-Surgery: Horny Goat Weed could slow blood clotting, raising the risk of bleeding during surgery. Discontinuing its use at least 2 weeks prior to surgery is recommended.

  • Mental Health Conditions: For those with psychiatric conditions, particularly mood regulation issues, Horny Goat Weed may influence mood and exacerbate symptoms. Professional advice and close monitoring are recommended.

  • Liver and Kidney Diseases: People with liver or kidney disorders should use caution, as the herb can affect organ function, especially liver medication metabolism.

  • Children and Adolescents: The safety and efficacy of Horny Goat Weed for children and adolescents are not well-documented. Its use in these age groups is generally discouraged.




References

This section contains links to research, studies, and sources of information for this article, as well as authors, contributors, etc. All sources, along with the article and facts, are subjected to a series of quality, reliability, and relevance checks.


Real Muscle primarily uses high-quality sources, such as peer-reviewed publications, to back up the information in our articles. To understand more about how we fact-check and keep our information accurate, dependable, and trustworthy, read more about us.


This evidence-based analysis of horny goat weed features 19 references, listed below.


  1. Guidance for Industry: Estimating the Maximum safe starting dose in Initial Clinical Trials for Therapeutics in Adult Healthy Volunteers

  2. Horny Goat WeedLiverTox: Clinical and Research Information on Drug-Induced Liver Injury.(2012-08)

  3. Manish Kuchakulla, Manish Narasimman, Yash Soni, Joon Yau Leong, Premal Patel, Ranjith RamasamyA systematic review and evidence-based analysis of ingredients in popular male testosterone and erectile dysfunction supplementsInt J Impot Res.(2021 Apr)

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

  5. Liu WJ, Xin ZC, Xin H, Yuan YM, Tian L, Guo YLEffects of icariin on erectile function and expression of nitric oxide synthase isoforms in castrated rats.Asian J Androl.(2005-Dec)

  6. Tian L, Xin ZC, Liu WJ, Yang YM, Liu G, Chen L, Fu J, Wang LLEffects of icariin on the erectile function and expression of nitrogen oxide synthase isoforms in corpus cavernosum of arterigenic erectile dysfunction rat model.Zhonghua Yi Xue Za Zhi.(2004-Jun-02)

  7. Yan FF, Liu Y, Liu YF, Zhao YXHerba Epimedii water extract elevates estrogen level and improves lipid metabolism in postmenopausal women.Phytother Res.(2008-Sep)

  8. Shi S, Wang F, Huang Y, Chen B, Pei C, Huang D, Wang X, Wang Y, Kou S, Li W, Ma T, Wu Y, Wang ZEpimedium for Osteoporosis Based on Western and Eastern Medicine: An Updated Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.Front Pharmacol.(2022)

  9. Fang J, Zhang YIcariin, an Anti-atherosclerotic Drug from Chinese Medicinal Herb Horny Goat Weed.Front Pharmacol.(2017)

  10. Wang S, Ma J, Zeng Y, Zhou G, Wang Y, Zhou W, Sun X, Wu MIcariin, an Up-and-Coming Bioactive Compound Against Neurological Diseases: Network Pharmacology-Based Study and Literature Review.Drug Des Devel Ther.(2021)

  11. Partin JF, Pushkin YRTachyarrhythmia and hypomania with horny goat weed.Psychosomatics.(2004)

  12. Metz D, Weston P, Barker DCase report of vasculitic rash induced by Ginkgo biloba and/or Horny Goat Weed.BMJ Case Rep.(2009)

  13. Cao YF, He RR, Cao J, Chen JX, Huang T, Liu YDrug-Drug Interactions Potential of Icariin and Its Intestinal Metabolites via Inhibition of Intestinal UDP-Glucuronosyltransferases.Evid Based Complement Alternat Med.(2012)

  14. Ning H, Xin ZC, Lin G, Banie L, Lue TF, Lin CSEffects of icariin on phosphodiesterase-5 activity in vitro and cyclic guanosine monophosphate level in cavernous smooth muscle cells.Urology.(2006-Dec)

  15. Chung BH, Kim JD, Kim CK, Kim JH, Won MH, Lee HS, Dong MS, Ha KS, Kwon YG, Kim YMIcariin stimulates angiogenesis by activating the MEK/ERK- and PI3K/Akt/eNOS-dependent signal pathways in human endothelial cells.Biochem Biophys Res Commun.(2008-Nov-14)

  16. Xu HB, Huang ZQIcariin enhances endothelial nitric-oxide synthase expression on human endothelial cells in vitro.Vascul Pharmacol.(2007-Jul)

  17. He XL, Zhou WQ, Bi MG, Du GHNeuroprotective effects of icariin on memory impairment and neurochemical deficits in senescence-accelerated mouse prone 8 (SAMP8) mice.Brain Res.(2010-Jun-02)

  18. Li WW, Gao XM, Wang XM, Guo H, Zhang BLIcariin inhibits hydrogen peroxide-induced toxicity through inhibition of phosphorylation of JNK/p38 MAPK and p53 activity.Mutat Res.(2011-Mar-15)

  19. Liu B, Zhang H, Xu C, Yang G, Tao J, Huang J, Wu J, Duan X, Cao Y, Dong JNeuroprotective effects of icariin on corticosterone-induced apoptosis in primary cultured rat hippocampal neurons.Brain Res.(2011-Feb-23)

 

The information provided in this article is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a physician or other competent professional before following advice or taking any supplement. See our terms and conditions.



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