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Toxicity and Adverse Effects of Horny Goat Weed

Updated: Jan 10

Evidence-Based. Scientifically Reviewed.


Horny goat weed, scientifically known as Epimedium, is a perennial plant used in traditional medicine.


It is praised for its diverse chemical composition, including flavonoids, which are thought to offer anti-inflammatory and hepatoprotective benefits.


In this article, we'll examine the research surrounding the toxicity of horny goat weed and see whether or not it's bad for the liver.



Hepatotoxicity

While initial studies have not directly associated horny goat weed with liver damage, deeper investigation reveals some potential risks.


Specifically, two elderly women experienced significant liver enzyme elevations after prolonged consumption of a supplement predominantly containing Epimedium.


Further research in animal models has highlighted concerning symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, and reduced mobility in mice following short-term Epimedium administration.


More alarmingly, liver steatosis, a form of fatty liver disease, was observed after two weeks of usage.


These findings suggest a potential link between Epimedium's androgen-like effects and hepatotoxicity.


A study on Epimedium sagittatum investigated its sub-chronic toxicity in rats over 13 weeks.


It found that high doses of the extract led to significant changes in organ weights and biochemical parameters, indicating potential liver, pancreas, and adrenal gland injury.


These results highlight the need for caution and further research into the long-term safety of Epimedium, particularly regarding its impact on liver health and metabolism.



Mechanism of Toxicity

Despite its complex chemical structure, none of the individual components of horny goat weed has been conclusively proven to cause liver toxicity.


However, the cytotoxicity of Baohuoside I, a primary metabolite in Epimedium, has been demonstrated in liver cell studies, indicating a possible risk to liver health.


Potential Adverse Effects

Though generally deemed safe for use, there are some potential adverse effects associated with horny goat weed, particularly when used excessively or in high doses.


Clinical research shows that 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.


Using a reputable supplement supplier can reduce these risks, such as our trusted and vetted partner GYMYETI.



Serious Adverse Effects

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


Moderate Adverse Effects

Some of the more common and moderate side effects associated with horny goat weed include the following.


  • 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.


Is Horny Goat Weed Safe?

In summary, while horny goat weed is generally perceived as safe, there is some evidence to suggest potential liver health risks, particularly with long-term use or high-doses.



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



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 the toxicity of horny goat weed features 3 references, listed below.


  1. Zhong R, Chen Y, Ling J, Xia Z, Zhan Y, Sun E, Shi Z, Feng L, Jia X, Song J, Wei Y. The Toxicity and Metabolism Properties of Herba Epimedii Flavonoids on Laval and Adult Zebrafish. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2019 Mar 3;2019:3745051. doi: 10.1155/2019/3745051. PMID: 30941194; PMCID: PMC6421038.

  2. LiverTox: Clinical and Research Information on Drug-Induced Liver Injury. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK583203/

  3. Song L, Zhou Y, Zhai Y, Huo X, Chen M, Shi H, Yu Y, Zhang Y, Zhou K. Sub-chronic toxicity of an aqueous extract of Epimedium sagittatum (Sieb. Et Zucc.) Maxim. in rats. Drug Chem Toxicol. 2023 May;46(3):451-461. doi: 10.1080/01480545.2022.2050749. Epub 2022 Mar 15. PMID: 35287533.


 

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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