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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.

What are the risks of taking horny goat weed?

  • Side effects. Most people seem to tolerate short-term use of horny goat weed fairly well, at least at the doses studied. It may cause upset stomach and dry mouth. In some, horny goat weed may result in irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure, nosebleeds, and mood changes. High doses have been linked to spasms and respiratory failure.
  • Risks. Horny goat weed may not be safe in high doses or as a long-term treatment. People who have health conditions – such as immune disorders, heart or lung problems, low blood pressure, bipolar disorder, or thyroid problems -- should not use horny goat weed without their doctors’ approval.
  • Interactions. If you take any medicines or supplements regularly, talk to your doctor before you start using horny goat weed. It could interact with drugs like blood thinners, aspirin, birth control pills, antidepressants, treatments for immune disorders and thyroid problems, and medicines that lower blood pressure or cholesterol. Using horny goat weed with nitroglycerin can be extremely dangerous. Similar to its use with pharmaceutical erectile dysfunction medicines, mixing nitroglycerin with horny goat weed can even be fatal due to the potential for severe drops in blood pressure.

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

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