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Horny Goat Weed

A Natural Alternative to Viagra?

Used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Horny Goat Weed is not one plant but a family of plants made of several species (epimedium brevicorum, epimedium sagittatum and epimedium grandiflorum) often called yin yan huo.  All three species contain the medicinal components prized by Traditional Chinese Medicine and can be used interchangeably.

Farmers noticed that when their goats and sheep would eat the leafy plant profusely growing wild near the fields they would act significantly “friskier”, thus the plant was named.  Historically Horny Goat Weed has been widely used to treat illnesses including kidney, liver, simple back pains and to fortify yang (natural male principle).  Nowadays, it is primarily used to boost testosterone levels, increase athletic performance (strength & endurance), for low libido, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, and pain.

While not very pleasant, the raw leaves can be chewed or eaten, but for ease of use Horny Goat Weed is typically sold at a higher potency as an extract in liquid or pill form.  The leaves of the plant contain a variety of flavonoids, antioxidants, polysaccharides, phytosterols and an alkaloid called magnaflorine.

The main active constituent in Horny Goat Weed is believed to be Icariin, a flavonoid responsible for the sex-boosting effects of the plant to restore sexual fire, boost erectile function, and allay fatigue and pain.  The leaves also contain phytoestrogens (a component that acts somewhat like the female hormone estrogen).  These phytoestrogens may help to reduce bone loss in postmenopausal women and alleviate menopausal discomfort.

Horny Goat Weed is used by many athletes for its testosterone-stimulating and testosterone-like effects.  The most important of all male hormones, testosterone makes you strong, muscular, youthful and vibrant.  As men get older, testosterone levels decrease but from age 40 onward testosterone levels decrease up to 1% per year.  Low testosterone levels result in decreased energy, depressed mood, increased body fat, reduced muscle mass, difficulty maintaining healthy weight, decreased bone strength and a reduction in sex drive or function.

By increasing testosterone levels, both men and women (athletes or not) are able to increase strength and endurance without resorting to risky chemical “doping”.  A simple extract of Horny Goat Weed is preferred.  The liquid extract has been made using essentially the same method for over a thousand years, and is safe with no negative side effects at recommended usage levels. A word of caution; like many other effective remedies, Horny Goat Weed has a reduced safety profile when users go overboard. Use according to label directions. 

Horny Goat Weed stimulates sexual activity in both men and women, increases sperm production, stimulates the sensory nerves, and increases sexual desire. Its aphrodisiac effects have been verified in both animal and human research. Studies show "apparent effects on the improvement of sexuality" and improved sperm-producing capability. Since Horny Goat Weed has been traditionally used for kidney disease, research has also demonstrated a sexual potentiation effect and improved quality of life in patients with chronic renal failure who were given it.

Sexual arousal is not solely linked to testosterone levels. cholinergic neurotransmitters also play a key role. Unfortunately a specific enzyme, acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inactivates cholinergic neurotransmitters almost instantly. Horny Goat Weed acts to inhibit AChE. Such an inhibition may support higher levels of the key cholinergic neurotransmitters associated with sexual arousal. In addition, research has shown that Horny Goat Weed has anti-fatigue effects helping prevent adrenal exhaustion. The combined effects of increased ease and maintaining arousal with prevention of exhaustion have a profound impact on sex drive and sexual mechanics.

Erectile Dysfunction becomes more common with age, and for many is an embarrassing topic that erodes self confidence and can stress not only the individual but also a relationship.  It is therefore not surprising that Horny Goat Weed’s action as a natural Erectile Dysfunction aid has received the most media attention.  A study in 2008 found that Horny Goat Weed’s Incariin acts to inhibit a very specific protein, phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5). PDE5 is found primarily in the eyes (retina) and in the smooth muscle cells of the penis (corpus cavernosum) that contain most of the blood in the penis during erections.  When PDE5 is inhibited, erections become more likely.  This is the same biological process used by the pharmaceutical sildenafil -better known as Viagra, Vardenafil -better known as Levitra, and Tadalafil -better known as Cialis, to attain erections.  Icariin also increases nitric oxide produced in cells that line the interior blood vessels. The presence of nitric oxide in the blood vessels decreases the resistance blood meets as it circulates, making erections easier to obtain and maintain.

Horny Goat Weed’s popularity today can be traced to the fact that it’s a safe herb with over a thousand years of use, unlike its pharmaceutical alternatives with long lists of cautions and side effects. A large number of the studies have been done in animals to determine how effective it is at improving sexual function or acting as an aphrodisiac and more clinical analysis on humans are being done on this herb and its derivatives. The name may be funny but the safe results are why users rave about it.

If you’re going to supplement with Horny Goat Weed, liquid extracts are most recommended as they are the purest product form and the full range of actives (icariin and antioxidants) get into your system faster.  Talk to your doctor to ensure that any issues you are experiencing are not part of a more serious underlying problem.    Remember to always supplement safely by taking government approved products made in Canada and follow label directions.