Horny Goat Weed: Benefits, How It Works & More

Written by: Billy White

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Time to read 14 min

Evidence-based. Last updated: November 27, 2023

Horny Goat Weed is a plant and supplement containing over 200 active ingredients, the most notable being icariin

It promotes blood flow and inhibits phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5), similarly to Viagra

It's commonly used to boost cardiovascular, sexual and brain health, and also testosterone levels. It may be effective for these

Horny Goat Weed, scientifically known as Epimedium, is a common supplement and plant widely used in traditional Chinese medicine. 

 

Renowned for its natural aphrodisiac qualities, it offers a range of potential health benefits, including cardiovascular, sexual and brain health improvements.

 

It's commonly used for boosting testosterone levels, it's also included in our T-Booster supplement.

What Is Horny Goat Weed?

Horny Goat Weed, scientifically termed Epimedium, is not just a single herb but a genus of flowering plants in the family Berberidaceae.

 

This genus comprises about 50 to 60 species of herbaceous flowering plants, native primarily to China, with some species found in other parts of Asia and the Mediterranean.

Did you know? The name 'Epimedium' is derived from Greek mythology, relating to a myth involving the god Pan and a herd of goats.

Each species of Epimedium has unique characteristics, but they generally share certain features such as heart-shaped leaves, which emerge in spring and are often a bright green or have a reddish cast.

 

The key bioactive component of Horny Goat Weed is icariin, a flavonoid compound.

 

Flavonoids are known for their antioxidant properties, and icariin, in particular, is studied for its potential in enhancing sexual function and bone health.

 

However, the plant also contains a plethora of other compounds, including epimedins A, B, and C, and various polysaccharides, which contribute to its therapeutic properties.

 

In traditional Chinese medicine, different species of Epimedium are used, and the specific choice depends on the targeted ailment.

 

  • Epimedium sagittatum and Epimedium grandiflorum are among the most commonly used species.

  • The leaves are the primary part of the plant used in herbal preparations, either dried or fresh.

It's Also Known As:

Barrenwort, √Čpim√®de, √Čpim√®de √† Grandes Fleurs, √Čpim√®de du Japon, Epimedium, Epimedium acuminatum, Epimedium brevicornum, Epimedium grandiflorum, Epimedium Grandiflorum Radix, Epimedium koreanum, Epimedium macranthum, Epimedium pubescens, Epimedium sagittatum, Epimedium violaceum, Epimedium wushanese, Herba Epimedii, Herbe Corn√©e de Ch√®vre, Hierba de Cabra en Celo, Japanese Epimedium, Xian Ling Pi, Yin Yang Huo

horny goat weed plant

Why Do People Use It?

People use Horny Goat Weed primarily as a natural alternative for erectile dysfunction (ED) treatment.

 

  • It's believed to increase blood flow and improve sexual function.

  • It's also studied for potential benefits in treating osteoporosis and arterial hardening, although more clinical research is needed.¬†

 

The use of Horny Goat Weed in traditional medicine spans from addressing liver and kidney deficiencies to combating fatigue and joint pain.

 

It's also traditionally used to strengthen tendons and bones, improve immune function, and even to counter memory decline.

 

Though the research is limited for these traditional uses.

 

Despite its historical and ongoing use in herbal medicine, scientific research on Horny Goat Weed is relatively recent.

 

Studies thus far have been primarily preclinical, involving cellular models or animal studies.

Benefits & Uses

While scientific evidence is still emerging, here are some of the key areas where Horny Goat Weed is believed to be beneficial.

1. Improves Erectile Dysfunction & Sexual Health

The most well-known use of Horny Goat Weed is as a natural remedy for erectile dysfunction (ED).

 

It's believed to improve sexual function by increasing blood flow and nerve stimulation in the genital area.

 

It's also reputed to boost libido.

 

This is attributed to the presence of icariin, which is thought to have mild PDE5 inhibitor properties, similar to those found in prescription ED medications.

 

Below is an illustration of how PED-5 inhibitors work. This is how icariin and horny goat weed improves blood flow.

infographic of how PDE-5 inhibitors work
Image from GYMYETI.com

2. Increases Bone Density

Studies suggest potential benefits in improving bone density and health, particularly in postmenopausal women.

 

Icariin may help in preventing bone loss and could be beneficial in the treatment of conditions like osteoporosis.

3. Improves Blood Flow & Reduces Arterial Stiffness

There is some evidence to suggest that Horny Goat Weed may support cardiovascular health by improving blood flow and reducing arterial stiffness.

 

This can be particularly beneficial for overall heart health and in conditions where circulation is a concern.

4. Be Neuroprotective

Emerging research indicates that Horny Goat Weed might have neuroprotective properties. 

 

This could be relevant in treating or preventing neurodegenerative diseases, though more research is needed in this area.

5. Potent Anti-Inflammatory & Antioxidant Effects

The herb has shown anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects in some studies, which could be beneficial in managing chronic inflammatory conditions and in general health maintenance.

6. Increase Testosterone & Help Regulate Hormones

There is some interest in Horny Goat Weed’s potential to influence hormone levels, including estrogen and testosterone, which could have implications for conditions related to hormonal imbalances.

 

It seems to be able to increase testosterone levels, which is why it has been added to our testosterone booster supplement.

7. May Boost Immune System

Traditional use also includes boosting the immune system, although scientific evidence for this effect is limited.

8. Reduce Fatigue

Some traditional uses include the treatment of fatigue and improvement of mental clarity, although these effects have not been extensively studied in clinical settings.

Note on Evidence

It is important to emphasize that while the traditional and anecdotal evidence for these uses is significant, clinical research in humans is still limited.

 

Many of the potential benefits of Horny Goat Weed are based on animal studies or theoretical models.

 

Human studies are necessary to confirm these effects and to establish safe and effective dosages.

How Horny Goat Weed Works

The effects of Horny goat weed primarily come from its active ingredient icariin. It seems to benefit ED through its inhibition of phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5). It also seems to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

Inhibits Phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5)

For erectile dysfunction (ED), Horny Goat Weed's primary mechanism is the inhibition of phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5).

 

This is similar to how pharmaceuticals like Viagra or Cialis work.

 

PDE-5 inhibition boosts levels of cyclic GMP, a molecule that enhances smooth muscle relaxation and improves blood flow to the penis, aiding in the achievement of an erection.

 

Additionally, Horny Goat Weed may augment the activity of nitric oxide synthase enzymes and elevate the production of nitric oxide.

 

This increase in nitric oxide further promotes smooth muscle relaxation, which is crucial for both erectile function and overall cardiovascular health.

Enhances Cardiovascular System

The potential heart health benefits of Horny Goat Weed include the reduction of vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation and decreased platelet activation.

 

These effects contribute to improved cardiovascular function.

 

It may also aid in lipid modulation and improving endothelial function, the latter being particularly important for maintaining the health of blood vessels and ensuring efficient blood flow.

Reduces Inflammation and Oxidative Stress

The neuroprotective mechanisms of Horny Goat Weed could involve upregulating antioxidant activities, which help in neutralizing harmful free radicals in the brain.

 

It may also inhibit inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain, which are key factors in the progression of neurodegenerative diseases.

Dosage

Based on available research, a standard dosage of icariin might be anywhere from 20mg to 1,500mg, depending on body weight and purity.

 

It's always recommended to start low and work your way up. Always consult with a healthcare professional before taking any new supplement.

 

Our horny goat weed blend contains 100mg per serving.

Testosterone boosting effects in rats have been noted at a dosage of 200mg/kg of a 40% extract (80mg/kg Icariin).

 

Based on body weight conversions from rats to humans, this results in an estimated human dose of:

  • 900mg Icariin for a 150lb person

  • 1,200mg Icariin for a 200lb person

  • 1,500mg Icariin for a 250lb person

 

Studies that use a lower dosage of Icariin (1-10mg/kg) are approximately equal to:

  • 11-110mg Icariin for a 150lb person

  • 15-150mg Icariin for a 200lb person

  • 18-180mg Icariin for a 250lb person

 

One human study on postmenopausal women and bone health noted that 60mg Icariin daily was active in the body.

Adverse Effects & Drawbacks

It's generally considered safe to use. A specific extract of horny goat weed containing phytoestrogens has been taken by mouth safely for up to 2 years. Another extract containing icariin has been taken safely for up to 6 months. 

While Horny Goat Weed is generally considered safe when used in moderation, there are some potential adverse effects and drawbacks to be aware of, especially when used inappropriately or in higher doses.

 

Some types of horny goat weed are possibly unsafe when used for a long period of time or in high doses.

 

Rarely, serious side effects including severe breathing problems have also been reported. Other potential side effects include the following.

 

Gastrointestinal Issues:

Some users report mild stomach discomfort, including bloating, gas, and diarrhea. This is more common with higher doses or when taken on an empty stomach.

 

Dizziness and Nosebleeds:

There are occasional reports of dizziness and nosebleeds following the use of Horny Goat Weed. These symptoms may be related to its blood flow-enhancing effects.

 

Dry Mouth:

Users sometimes experience dry mouth after consuming Horny Goat Weed. Staying hydrated and reducing dosage can help alleviate this side effect.

 

Mood Changes and Irritability:

Though rare, some individuals may experience mood changes, such as irritability or increased aggressiveness, particularly at higher dosages.

 

Heart Palpitations and Increased Heart Rate:

There have been instances of heart palpitations and an increase in heart rate, likely due to its vasodilatory effects.

 

Individuals with pre-existing heart conditions should be particularly cautious.

 

Allergic Reactions:

As with any herbal supplement, there is a risk of allergic reactions, which can range from mild skin rashes to more severe responses.

Warning

Understanding individual tolerance and potential interactions is crucial when considering Horny Goat Weed as a supplement. The side effects and potential risks highlight the importance of consulting healthcare professionals, especially for individuals with existing health conditions or those taking other medications.

Interactions

Horny Goat Weed has a range of interactions with different medications and substances, which can affect its efficacy and safety.

 

Interaction with Blood Pressure Medications:

Horny Goat Weed has been observed to affect blood pressure. It can potentially interfere with blood pressure medications, either enhancing or counteracting their effects.

 

Caution is advised for individuals on antihypertensive drugs.

 

Blood Clotting Medications:

The herb may have blood-thinning properties, which can be problematic when taken in conjunction with anticoagulant drugs like warfarin or aspirin.

 

This combination can increase the risk of bleeding and bruising.

 

Estrogenic Effects:

Some compounds in Horny Goat Weed might have estrogen-like effects. Therefore, its use with hormone therapies, especially estrogens, should be approached with caution.

 

It may affect the efficacy of these medications or exacerbate hormone-sensitive conditions.

 

Cytochrome P450 Enzyme Interactions:

Horny Goat Weed can affect the Cytochrome P450 enzyme system in the liver, which is responsible for metabolizing many medications.

 

It may particularly interact with drugs metabolized by Cytochrome P450 1A2 (CYP1A2) and Cytochrome P450 2B6 (CYP2B6) enzymes, altering the effectiveness or side effects of these medications.

 

Yohimbine and Other Stimulants:

When combined with Yohimbine, a supplement often used for erectile dysfunction and weight loss, Horny Goat Weed might increase the risk of side effects like rapid heart rate and high blood pressure.

 

This is also true for other stimulants.

 

P-Glycoprotein Interactions:

Horny Goat Weed might affect the functioning of P-glycoprotein, a protein that plays a crucial role in drug absorption and elimination.

 

This interaction can influence the effectiveness and side effects of medications transported by P-glycoprotein.

Special Precautions and Warnings

Avoid using Horny Goat Weed if you're pregnant, breast-feeding, under 18, or have a hormone-sensitive, bleeding, cardiovascular, or mental health condition. You should also stop using at least 2 weeks before surgery.

Given the varied effects of Horny Goat Weed and its interactions with other substances, there are several special precautions to keep in mind.

 

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding:

Horny goat weed is possibly unsafe when taken by mouth during pregnancy. It might harm the developing fetus.

 

Hormone-sensitive Conditions:

Individuals with hormone-sensitive conditions should exercise caution. Horny Goat Weed may mimic estrogen, potentially exacerbating conditions like breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids.

 

Cardiovascular Disorders:

Given its potential effects on heart rate and blood pressure, those with heart disease, arrhythmias, or hypertension should consult healthcare professionals before using Horny Goat Weed.

 

Bleeding Disorders:

Its possible blood-thinning effects warrant caution in individuals with bleeding disorders or those undergoing surgery. It may increase the risk of bleeding and interfere with blood clotting.

 

Surgery:

Horny goat weed could slow blood clotting. This can increase the risk of bleeding during surgery. Stop taking horny goat weed at least 2 weeks before surgery.
 

Mental Health Conditions:

For individuals with psychiatric conditions, particularly those involving mood regulation, Horny Goat Weed may potentially influence mood and exacerbate symptoms. Close monitoring and professional consultation are advised.

 

Liver and Kidney Diseases:

People with liver or kidney disorders should be cautious as the herb may have impacts on these organs, particularly in how the liver metabolizes medication.

 

Children and Adolescents:

The safety and efficacy of Horny Goat Weed in children and adolescents are not well-established. It's generally advised to avoid use in these age groups.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any natural food sources of horny goat weed?

No, there does not seem to be any natural food sources containing Horny Goat Weed.

How fast does horny goat weed work?

The onset of effects from Horny Goat Weed can differ significantly. While some may observe benefits within a few hours of consumption, others might need to use it consistently for several days or even weeks to notice. Most people say that it can take up to three weeks before you see results.

What does it do for women?

Horny Goat Weed may enhance blood flow and support sexual function, even for women. It contains phytoestrogen that mimics the action of the female hormone estrogen, potentially helpful in reducing bone loss in women who are postmenopausal.

When to take horny goat weed?

If you are wanting to take it for general health benefits, it's best to take it once a day in the morning. If you want the sexual benefits, take it 90 minutes before sexual activity.

Try Our Horny Goat Weed Supplement

Written by: Billy White

Billy White is an experienced personal trainer, an aspiring bodybuilder, and loves to research. He's passionate about serving the fitness and health community with the highest-quality, study-backed information.

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