Horny Goat Weed (Epimedium)

Horny goat weed is an herb that has been a traditional remedy in China for centuries. It’s used for low libido, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, pain, and other conditions.

Why do people take horny goat weed?

Some men take horny goat weed in the belief that it’s a natural alternative to drugs for erectile dysfunction (ED). Although still preliminary, there’s new evidence to support the idea. A 2008 lab study found that a compound in the herb blocks the effects of an enzyme that restricts blood flow to the penis. Epimedium, the suspected active component of horny goat weed, appears to act as a phosphodiesterase inhibitor, similar to some drugs used for ED. What’s more, the study indicated that horny goat weed could theoretically work better -- and cause fewer side effects -- than current drugs for erectile dysfunction.

Although the study is promising, it’s based only on experiments in a laboratory. It’s too early to tell if horny goat weed will prove an effective and safe treatment in people.

Horny goat weed has also been studied as a treatment for other conditions, like osteoporosis and hardening of the arteries. The results have been unclear.

How much horny goat weed should you take?

Horny goat weed is an unproven treatment. There is no established dose. Some studies have used between 6 grams and 15 grams a day.

Can you get horny goat weed naturally from foods?

There are no natural food sources of horny goat weed.

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What are the risks of taking horny goat weed?

Given the possible risks, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and children should not take horny goat weed.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on December 07, 2014

Sources

SOURCES:

Agli, M. Journal of Natural Products, 2008.

Longe, J., ed. The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, second edition, 2004.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center web site: “About Herbs: Epimedium.”

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database web site: “Epimedium.” 

Natural Standard Patient Monograph: “Horny Goat Weed.”

News release, Journal of Natural Products.

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