Horny Goat Weed (Epimedium Sagittatum)

Known also as Epimedium Sagittatum or Yin Yang Huo, Horny Goat Weed was first described in ancient classical Chinese medicinal texts, and it is believed to have been used for more than 3,000 years. Horny Goat Weed can be any one of the more than 60 plants in the Epimedium genus, however, the most commonly used plant is the one called Epimedium Sagittatum. It is a leafy plant which grows in the wild, most abundantly at higher altitudes. It is endemic to China, with smaller numbers grown in Korea and elsewhere in Asia, as well as in the Mediterranean region.

Epimedium Sagittatum is an evergreen hardy perennial plant which normally grows on the forest floor. It grows up to 20 inches in height, normally has yellow or white flowers (although these can also be of other colors) and huge, spear-shaped, glossy and green leaflets, up to 6 inches in length.

Legend in China has it that many years ago, a shepherd took his goats up to the mountains where they could find lush grass and other vegetation. After some time of eating happily, the shepherd noticed a strange change of behavior in the goats. From eating and minding their own business, they would start showing more attention to each other, make noises, and shortly thereafter the goats would start mating with each other. The shepherd was stunned! This was not normal! Why would the goats all of a sudden get frisky and start copulating? It turned out that this changed activity in the goats was due to the ingestion of the herb now known as Epimedium Sagittatum.

#
#

The part of the plant that is normally used for the various dietary and medicinal purposes are the leaves. And the primary active ingredient in these leaves is a flavonoid called icariin. When Horny Goat Weed is used as a supplement, the plant has normally gone through a process where this icariin is extracted from the other components of the herb. As a result, one can get supplements that contain 10% icariin and more potent ones that contain, say 40% or more icariin.

Icariin is one of the most widely used herbal remedies for libido and erectile problems, and has a long history of successful usage, also for women. Horny Goat Weed is claimed to provide sexual health benefits in more than one way. In fact, Horny Goat Weed is reported to act on sexual functions through three different pathways.

The first effect from icariin comes from its effect on the level of free calcium in the smooth muscles of the penis. This effect on free calcium is achieved via an enzyme called phosphodiesterase type 5 (‘PDE5’).

Free calcium is the chemical that holds the key to a man’s erection. When the level of free calcium in the smooth muscles of the penis is high, these smooth muscles in the penis are kept in a state of contraction. In other words, when this free calcium level is high, these smooth muscles in the penis clench and squeeze around the blood vessels in the penis. As a result, these contracted smooth muscles force blood out of the penis. The only blood that is allowed into the penis in this contracted state is blood that is needed for maintenance and nutritional purposes.

This all changes when a man gets turned on. When a man gets turned on, dopamine is released into the bloodstream, which in turn sets off nitric oxide production, which in turn leads to the manufacturing of a chemical called cyclic guanosine monophosphate (‘cGMP’). cGMP is a chemical that has the ability to decrease free calcium levels. When free calcium levels are reduced, the smooth muscles loosen up the contraction and start relaxing. When this happens, blood is allowed to flow into the penis and an erection can start to form.

There are several more steps to this process, and this overview is a simplified version of how this works. To learn more about the physiology of an erection on Truelibido, please go here.

When the body has determined that an erection is no longer necessary, the body releases the enzyme PDE5 mentioned earlier. What PDE5 does is to break down cGMP. When cGMP levels go down, free calcium levels are allowed to rise. When these free calcium levels increase, smooth muscles again start to contract and blood is forced out of the penis and as a result, the penis is drained for most of its blood and becomes flaccid.

Icariin acts as a PDE5 inhibitor. This means that it slows down or stops PDE5 from doing its task. As icariin makes PDE5 less effective at breaking down cGMP, more cGMP will remain in the smooth muscles of the penis. More cGMP will keep free calcium levels lower than would otherwise be the case and as a result, the smooth muscles will relax more. When the smooth muscles relax, an erection will be stronger and last for longer. An erection will normally also be achieved with less effort with a PDE5 inhibitor present as it improves the ability of the penis to retain the blood it is supplied with.

#
#

Pharmaceutical drugs such as Viagra, Levitra and Cialis are able to treat erectile dysfunction because of this exact mechanism – they are all PDE-5 inhibitors. In other words, icariin works in the same ways as these pharmaceutical drugs, or rather one of the effects of icariin is similar to the effect of these pharmaceutical drugs. However, the effect of icariin is significantly less potent than the effect from the pharmaceutical drugs. Research estimates that the effect of icariin is approximately 80 times weaker than the effect of these mainstream drugs.

The second effect from icariin also comes from the same PDE5 inhibitor that has the first effect, but though a different pathway. This PDE5 inhibitor has also been shown to make the enzyme called nitric oxide synthase more effective at producing nitric oxide. This means that more nitric oxide can be produced than would otherwise be the case.

Nitric oxide is a molecule which when released, sets off a cascade of events that ultimately leads to the creation of cGMP. So not only does the PDE5 inhibitor break down cGMP more slowly than otherwise, but it also increases the absolute levels of cGMP in the smooth muscles of the penis. With more cGMP present in the smooth muscles of the penis, these muscles will relax more and as a result, more blood will remain in the penis and a stronger erection can be achieved. To learn more about nitric oxide on Truelibodo, please go here.

The third effect from icariin comes from its claimed ability to increase testosterone levels. Testosterone is a component that is crucial in order for the delicate libido and erectile systems to work properly.

In particular, testosterone is paramount for both nitric oxide and dopamine synthesis, both of which are essential for a strong libido and proper erectile functioning. To learn more about testosterone on Truelibodo, please go here, and to learn more about dopamine on Truelibodo, please go here.

One study on 32 rats looked at the impact of orally administering icariin at 1 mg/kg or 5mg/kg of bodyweight to castrated individuals for four weeks. The study showed that both 1mg/kg and 5mg/kg icariin increased the pressure in the corpora cavernosa (the main erectile structure of the penis), increased the amount of smooth muscle tissue in the penis, and increased nitric oxide activity. There was however no statistically significant increase in testosterone levels in the rats.

Another study on 48 rats looked at the impact of administering 200mg/kg icariin for 7 days. The rats were divided rats into 4 groups where the rats in 3 of the groups were chemically castrated. The rats that were castrated and administered icariin almost tripled their testosterone levels, and these rats also saw improvements in the condition of their reproductive organs.

Icariin is also used by some body-builders to boost their testosterone levels. Increased testosterone levels will in turn normally make it easier to build muscle mass. Research studies have also indicated that icariin has a positive effect on reducing cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that is akin to an enemy of testosterone, and reduced cortisol levels will normally contribute to increased testosterone levels.

#
#

Some studies have also shown that icariin may up-regulate genes associated with nitric oxide production, as well as changes in the adenosineguanosine monophosphate balance in ways that other PDE5 inhibitors do not. Put differently, icariin may potentially ‘train’ the body to become more sensitive to it, so that less icariin is needed to achieve the same results going forward.

Also, some animal studies have indicated that icariin may work like an adaptogen, meaning it may work to restore certain parts of the body that are out of balance to bring them back into balance. It is claimed it does this by restoring levels of testosterone, cortisol, and other hormones and agents to baseline levels.

In addition to its effects on libido and erectile functioning, Epimedium Sagittatum has also been used to treat fatigue, depression, memory loss, arthritis, nerve pain, kidney and liver disorders, inflammation, cancer, PMS and menopause in women, hayfever, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, dementia, bronchitis, osteoporosis and herpes simplex. It has also been used to boost the immune system, to help people recover from strokes and have been shown to be an antioxidant.

 

My Experience

  • Form: At least 40% icariin extract in powder form
  • Dose: One half-topped tablespoon (approximately 7 grams)
  • When: One hour before sexual activity
  • Effect on Libido: Good
  • Effect on Erections: Very good
  • Effect on Sensation: Very good
  • Taste: Unpleasant
  • Verdict: One of my favorite supplements
  • Noticed Side-Effects: None

Horny Goat Weed was, in addition to Tribulus Terrestris, the only supplement that gave me any sliver of an effect when I was first experimenting with herbal and other supplements. I recall feeling a slight effect when I took this supplement initially. I was then taking two capsules of a low-grade supplement with only 10% icariin content. It made sex a tiny bit more pleasurable – I could feel a little extra kick, but there was no noticeable effect when it came to getting an erection or on my libido. I was also not able to replicate this effect consistently and I therefore found the supplement of little use back then.

I then purchased a high quality Horny Goat Weed supplement in powder form that contained 50% icariin. This also came with a certificate from the manufacturer stating that it was pure and that it contained only negligible amounts of toxins. I took 250 mg of this twice a day, once after breakfast and once after lunch. But I noticed no effect whatsoever on libido, erectile functioning or sensations from sex. There was simply no effect. I used a whole pack of Horny Goat Weed this way and was utterly disappointed.

It was not until I tried taking a much larger dose of this supplement right before sex that I experienced what Horny Goat Weed could do. I bought the same supplement extracted to 50% icariin to give it another try.

#
#

About one hour before sexual activity, I mixed one half-topped tablespoon of the Horny Goat Weed powder (about 7 grams) with cold water in a cup. I stirred around with a fork until the powder was dissolved, and then drank it. To me, the taste was rather bitter and not particularly pleasant, but not as bad as the taste of Tribulus Terrestris or Tongkat Ali.

The effects I got – and still get – from this supplement are simply fantastic! For me it has changed sex to something even more awesome. And of the three effects on sexual function and health that I have experienced from supplements, Horny Goat Weed gives me all three.

The first effect is a jump in libido. After about 45 minutes or an hour after taking this supplement I can feel an increase in my sex drive. I feel a desire to have sex and my mind starts wandering to sexual thoughts.

The second effect is that my erections become firmer. I get this effect also after about 45 minutes or an hour after taking Horny Goat Weed. When I have erections, they are normally rock hard and full. My erections normally also last pretty much for as long as I want after taking this supplement. Also, if I stop sex and restart a few minutes later, it is normally easy to again get erections. This effect has been a great help for me in combating erectile dysfunction.

And lastly, the intense sensations I get from sex are also stronger after taking Horny Goat Weed. The pleasurable sensations are simply even more pleasurable and more dominant. Sex is simply even better!

Also, I have never experienced any side effects from Horny Goat Weed.

Although Horny Goat Weed is great on its own, the effects are even more intense when I have combined it with other supplements, such as l-argininepine bark and ZMA. You can learn more about this in the section called The Solution.

 

Research studies

Bensky D, Gamble A, Kaptchuk T. Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica. Revised Edition, Seattle: Eastland Press, 1992.

Cai D, Shen S, Chen X. Clinical and experimental research of Epimedium brevicornum in relieving neuroendocrino-immunological effect inhibited by exogenous glucocorticoid. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi 1998; 18:4-7.

Mario Dell’Agli, Germana V. Galli, Esther Dal Cero, Federica Belluti, Riccardo Matera, Elisa Zironi, Giampiero Pagliuca, Enrica Bosisio. Potent Inhibition of Human Phosphodiesterase-5 by Icariin Derivatives. J. Nat. Prod. 2008, 71, 1513–1517.

Guo J, Li F, Wu Q, Gong Q, Lu Y, Shi J. Protective effects of icariin on brain dysfunction induced by lipopolysaccharide in rats. Phytomedicine. 2010 Oct; 17(12):950-5. DOI: 10.1016/j.phymed.2010.03.007.

Guo Y, Zhang X, Meng J, et al. An anticancer agent icaritin induces sustained activation of the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway and inhibits growth of breast cancer cells.Eur J Pharmacol. May 11 2011; 658(2-3):114-122.

#
#

He XL, Zhou WQ, Bi MG, Du GH. Neuroprotective effects of icariin on memory impairment and neurochemical deficits in senescence-accelerated mouse prone 8 (SAMP8) mice. Brain Res. 2010 Jun 2; 1334:73-83. DOI: 10.1016/j.brainres.2010.03.084.

Jiang Z, Hu B, Wang J, Tang Q, Tan Y, Xiang J, Liu J.. Effect of icariin on cyclic GMP levels and on the mRNA expression of cGMP-binding cGMP-specific phosphodiesterase (PDE5) in penile cavernosum. J Huazhong Univ Sci Technolog Med Sci. 2006; 26(4):460-2.

Lee MK, Choi YJ, Sung SH, Shin DI, Kim JW, Kim YC. Antihepatotoxic activity of icariin, a major constituent of Epimedium koreanum. Planta Med. 1995 Dec; 61(6):523-6.

Li F, Gong QH, Wu Q, Lu YF, Shi JS. Icariin isolated from Epimedium brevicornum Maxim attenuates learning and memory deficits induced by d-galactose in rats. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2010 Sep; 96(3):301-5. DOI: 10.1016/j.pbb.2010.05.021.

Li L, Wang XM. Progress of pharmacological research on icariin. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2008 Dec; 33(23):2727-32.

Liang HR, Vuorela P, Vuorela H, Hiltunen R. Isolation and immunomodulatory effect of flavonol glycosides from Epimedium hunanense. Planta Med 1997; 63:316-9.

Liao HJ, Chen XM, Li WG. Effect of Epimedium sagittatum on quality of life and cellular immunity in patients of hemodialysis maintenance. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi 1995; 15:202-4.

Lin CC, Ng LT, Hsu FF, Shieh DE, Chiang LC. Cytotoxic effects of Coptis chinensis and Epimedium sagittatum extracts and their major constituents (berberine, coptisine and icariin) on hepatoma and leukaemia cell growth. Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol 2004; 31:65-9.

Liu WJ, Xin ZC, Xin H, Yuan YM, Tian L, Guo YL. Effects of icariin on erectile function and expression of nitric oxide synthase isoforms in castrated rats. Asian J Androl. 2005 Dec; 7(4):381-8.

Mao H, Zhang L, Wang Y, Li X. Experimental studies of icariin on anticancer mechanism. Zhong Yao Cai. Sep 2000; 23(9):554-556.

Mao H, Zhang L, Wang Y, Wen P, Cui S. Influence of icariin on cell membrane of highly metastatic human lung tumor cell line. Zhong Yao Cai. Jan 1999; 22(1):35-36.

Meng FH, Li YB, Xiong ZL, Jiang ZM, Li FM. Osteoblastic proliferative activity of Epimedium brevicornum Maxim. Phytomedicine2005; 12:189-93.

Ning H, Xin ZC, Lin G, Banie L, Lue TF, Lin CS. Effects of icariin on phosphodiesterase-5 activity in vitro and cyclic guanosine monophosphate level in cavernous smooth muscle cells. Urology. 2006 Dec; 68(6):1350-4.

Pan Y, Zhang WY, Xia X, Kong LD. Effects of icariin on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis action and cytokine levels in stressed Sprague-Dawley rats. Biol Pharm Bull. 2006 Dec; 29(12):2399-403.

#
#

Pan Y, Kong L, Xia X, Zhang W, Xia Z, Jiang F. Antidepressant-like effect of icariin and its possible mechanism in mice. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2005 Dec; 82(4):686-94.

Shindel AW, Xin ZC, Lin G, Fandel TM, Huang YC, Banie L, Breyer BN, Garcia MM, Lin CS, Lue TF. Erectogenic and neurotrophic effects of icariin, a purified extract of horny goat weed (Epimedium spp.) in vitro and in vivo. J Sex Med. 2010 Apr; 7(4 Pt 1):1518-28. DOI: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01699.

Tan X, Weng W. Efficacy of epimedium compound pills in the treatment of the aged patients with kidney deficiency syndrome of ischemic cardio-cerebral vascular diseases. Hunan Yi Ke Da Xue Xue Bao 1998; 23:450-2.

Tian L, Xin ZC, Liu WJ, Yang YM, Liu G, Chen L, Fu J, Wang LL. Effects of icariin on the erectile function and expression of nitrogen oxide synthase isoforms in corpus cavernosum of arterigenic erectile dysfunction rat model. Zhonghua Yi Xue Za Zhi. 2004 Jun 2; 84(11):954-7.

Tong JS, Zhang QH, Huang X, Fu XQ, Qi ST, Wang YP, Hou Y, Sheng J, Sun QY. Icaritin causes sustained ERK1/2 activation and induces apoptosis in human endometrial cancer cells. PLoS One. 2011 Mar 8; 6(3):e16781. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016781

Wang GJ, Tsai TH, Lin LC. Prenylflavonol, acylated flavonol glycosides and related compounds from Epimedium sagittatum. Phytochemistry. Oct 2007; 68(19):2455-2464.

Xin ZC, Kim EK, Lin CS, Liu WJ, Tian L, Yuan YM, Fu J. Effects of icariin on cGMP-specific PDE5 and cAMP-specific PDE4 activities. Asian J Androl. 2003 Mar; 5(1):15-8.

Zhang G, Qin L, Shi Y. Epimedium-derived phytoestrogen flavonoids exert beneficial effect on preventing bone loss in late postmenopausal women: a 24-month randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled trial. J Bone Miner Res. Jul 2007; 22(7):1072-1079.

Zhang J, Wang YB, Ma CG, Liu T, Li WR, Gong YQ, Xin ZC. Icarisid II, a PDE5 inhibitor from Epimedium wanshanense, increases cellular cGMP by enhancing NOS in diabetic ED rats corpus cavernosum tissue. Andrologia. 2012 May; 44 Suppl 1:87-93. DOI: 10.1111/j.1439-0272.2010.01144.

Zhang ZB, Yang QT. The testosterone mimetic properties of icariin. Asian J Androl. 2006 Sep; 8(5):601-5.

Zhu HR, Wang ZY, Zhu XL, Wu XX, Li EG, Xu Y. Icariin protects against brain injury by enhancing SIRT1-dependent PGC-1alpha expression in experimental stroke. Neuropharmacology. 2010 Jul-Aug; 59(1-2):70-6. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2010.03.017.

#
Comments Off on Horny Goat Weed

Comments are closed.