01 May Does This Herb Help in the Bedroom?
By Dr. Mercola
Of all the questions you’ve been asked today, the title isn’t likely one you anticipated. But it’s an intriguing concept, isn’t it? One reason is because of the instant connotation it puts out there, and another is because it’s a matter of interest as well as concern for a fair number of people.
Because there’s fascinating science behind it and not just a titillating concept, we’ll get straight to it. You may never have heard of horny goat weed, but the heart-shaped herb is found in the wild in China, as well as Asia and Europe.
First mentioned in traditional Chinese medicine texts at least 2,000 years ago, horny goat weed was given the botanical moniker Epimedium and the ancient Chinese name of yin yang huo after a (very) sexually active mythical creature.
But there are other uses, including for nerve pain, fatigue, osteoporosis, atherosclerosis, hay fever, premenstrual symptoms and the traditional distinction of increasing libido in both men and women and solving erectile dysfunction.
It may even rival Viagra, with fewer side effects, vision problems being one of them. Examine reported:
“Icariin [the active ingredient in horny goat weed] has not been shown to increase testosterone in females, yet two other compounds in horny goat weed (Icaritin, Desmethylicaritin) have actually increased estrogen in post-menopausal females … acts as an aphrodisiac in both genders, and the gender-specific hormone increasing could be beneficial for both genders.”1
A study conducted nearly 10 years ago, funded by private research and reported by New Scientist,2 found that Viagra’s active compound, sildenafil, works by inhibiting an enzyme called phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5), which helps control blood flow to the penis. Consequently, inhibiting PDE5 promotes an erection.
Mario Dell’Agli and colleagues from the University of Milan, Italy, tested four natural “known” aphrodisiacs to compare to Viagra as potential alternatives, and horny goat weed was the only one with any impact. The weed was shown to effectively inhibit PDE5 due to icariin. Incidentally:
“Sildenafil, however, is 80 times more effective at inhibiting PDE5 than icariin. Dell’Agli and his team extracted icariin from the plants, and produced six modified versions of it, which they also tested on PDE5. The most efficient of these, compound 5, works as well as Viagra.”3
Clinical Studies Show: Horny Goat Weed Has Genuine, Health-Related Promise
Medicine Hunter, an organization run by individuals who seek out traditional medicines to test scientifically, noted:
“The leaves of the plant contain a variety of flavonoids, polysaccharides, sterols and an alkaloid called magnaflorine … the plant has long been employed to restore sexual fire, boost erectile function, allay fatigue and alleviate menopausal discomfort.
Clinicians at China’s famous Longhua hospital told me that horny goat weed is unsurpassed in TCM both for sex enhancement and for relieving PMS and menopause-related symptoms. Each described a long and successful history of use of this plant, especially for women.”4
Not surprisingly, you won’t find a boatload of clinical evidence that this herb has any beneficial effects, but what science is available is more than a little interesting.
Medical News Today reports that horny goat weed also protects your immune system, strengthens your bones and protects your nerves. Then there’s research that indicates horny goat weed may:
- Have anti-cancer benefits
- Exert anti-HIV activity5
- Have radio-sensitizing effects (for cancer patients)
- Reverse drug resistance in some tumor cells
- Prevent postmenopausal bone loss
The studies are quite compelling, because the value of this little-known herb, as researchers are compelled to say, “may” have amazing implications. The reason is because the functions of your body are all-encompassing, and when you pay attention to one aspect of your health, you involve them all.
Effectiveness of Horny Goat Weed for Heart Health and Related Issues
Atherosclerosis is a condition known as hardening of the arteries, particularly in the neck, but scientists are now advising people with this condition to take a horny goat weed mixture for improved symptoms. Atherosclerosis is serious because, as Mayo Clinic observes:
“You usually won’t have atherosclerosis symptoms until an artery is so narrowed or clogged that it can’t supply adequate blood to your organs and tissues. Sometimes a blood clot completely blocks blood flow, or even breaks apart and can trigger a heart attack or stroke.”6
Sadly, the same website claims this condition progresses slowly, which may be true, but that the “exact cause is unknown, and may start with damage or injury to the inner layer of an artery.”
When plaque builds up in the arteries to your heart, it in turn can result in a blood clot when plaque build-up ruptures7 and, further, result in coronary heart disease, which can initiate a heart attack.8
Although the risk factors certainly include obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet, it’s the last one that plays into this condition quite possibly more than any other factor.
Your Diet Is Much More Crucial Than You Realize
It’s not a matter of atherosclerosis and related problems being the result of a giant roulette wheel, because most cardiovascular diseases can be prevented. If you’re concerned about risk factors, eating a healthy diet is unquestionably the first thing you should do.
Something else that’s often sidestepped by conventional medicine is that it’s not about avoiding “fat.” All fat is not created equal.
Scientists now know unequivocally that omega-3 fats are essential to your health, including your heart health. An international review involving 19 studies, 16 countries and more than 45,000 participants found that:
“Higher circulating blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids were associated with a nearly 10 percent lower risk of a fatal heart attack, on average, compared with lower levels.
The participants with the highest level of omega-3s in their blood had the greatest risk reduction — a more than 25 percent lower risk of having a fatal heart attack.”9
Live Science quotes senior author Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston:
“For the leading cause of death in the world, lowering the risk (of a fatal heart attack] by about 25 percent is quite meaningful. Although our findings are observational using biomarkers, the observed risk reduction is about the same size effect as statins have on fatal heart disease.”10
Horny Goat Weed for Erectile Dysfunction
Here’s why I say taking care of (or neglecting) one aspect of your health nearly always affects everything else: According to previous research, erectile dysfunction (ED) affects around 20 million men in the U.S. between the ages of 40 and 70, and there are many causes. ED generally falls into two categories:
- Primary ED, a rare condition in which a subject may never have been able to have or sustain penile erection, usually either due to a physical abnormality or psychological reasons.
- Secondary ED is typically caused by a physical condition, such as stroke, diabetes, multiple sclerosis or a physical injury. Most men in this category have had erections in the past.
Exacerbating these problems is one that many individuals, including doctors, overlook, and that’s the prevalence of certain medications, such as those prescribed for high blood pressure, depression, high cholesterol, cancer or long-term pain, that either cause ED or greatly contribute to it. Medical News Today lists a large number of them:11
✓ Beta blockers
✓ Thiazide diuretics
✓ Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants
✓ Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
✓ 5 alpha-reductase inhibitors
Alcohol and drugs such as cocaine are also on that list, as are hormonal therapies, but that is just a partial list of the medications that can profoundly and negatively affect other areas of your life, and not just in the bedroom. In regard to nerve injury, one study examined rats with injured nerves and nerve cells and found that the icariin in horny goat weed showed positive results in treating ED. Researchers concluded:
“Daily treatment with low-dose, purified ICA improves penile hemodynamic parameters [four] weeks after cavernous nerve injury in a rat model of ED. Our findings are of interest not just as a validation of this traditional treatment for erectile problems but also as a new and potentially important means to study and treat nerve injuries in human patients.”12
Horny Goat Weed Supplemental Dosages
The caveat for using this herb as a supplement is that you should always talk to your doctor first, but there’s a pretty fair chance he or she has never heard of it.
Consequently, scientists at the University of Michigan13 recommend taking 5 grams, or the equivalent of a teaspoon, three times a day, for both ED and atherosclerosis. For hay fever symptoms, the recommendation is to simmer 500 milligrams (mg) in just over a cup (250 milliliters) of water for 10 to 15 minutes and consume three times a day.
Anabolic Men recommends a horny goat weed supplement as a “pro-erectile testosterone booster,” with 20 percent icariin, and cites a study pointing to icariin for its ability to “increase nerve growth and blood flow in the pelvic region.”14 Medicine Hunter had this to say:
“Because traditional Chinese medicine is basically ‘teapot medicine,’ a supplementary dosage for horny goat weed is hard to establish. The recommended intake of 6 to 12 grams of the herb boiled as tea probably translates roughly into 250 to 500 milligrams of extract standardized to 10 percent icariin. Let your experience be your guide.”15
Side effects are always something to consider with supplements and even food, and supplements also may interact with medications you may be taking. One report noted one man’s symptoms of rash, pain and a burning sensation after taking horny goat weed with ginkgo. Another man with congestive heart failure was hospitalized with symptoms of shortness of breath, chest pain and arrhythmia.16
Side effects associated with this interesting herb when taken in large amounts include spasms and breathing problems17 as well as sweating, increased energy, decreased thyroid function, irritability and aggression, nausea, a racing heart and feelings of being hot.18
Source: Dr. Mercola Blog