Epimedium / Icariin

Background

Epimedium (AKA Horny goat weed with the acronym: HGW) is an herb most popularly known for being a natural aphrodisiac and has traditionally been used to boost testosterone, hormone production and libido. Epimedium is produced in the plant which is the species called Epimedium, mostly grown in China, other parts of Asia, and in the Mediterranean. Epimedium contains icariin, an active ingredient responsible for most of its health-promoting effects. Actually, this herb has got such a strange name from  goats and sheep who acted a bit more frisky after consuming Epimedium that grew near their fields. Horny goat weed is also known as Epidemium, Herba Epimdii, Icariin, Yin Yang Huo, Fairy Wings, Rowdy Lamb Herb. Besides being used by people to enhance sexual health, Horny goat weed is also beneficial for cognition, kidney and bone health.[1][2] Some people also consider horny goat weed as a nootropic for its effect on the sex drive.

Benefits

Epimedium is considered one of the most notable supplements that is used for both sexual health and overall physical and mental health including cognitive performance and memory. It is an erectile aid and aphrodisiac used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Epimedium or icariin is also considered as an effective nootropic that can be used for the improvement of osteoporosis, and it stimulates osteoclasts / bone formation rates and hinders breakdown while exerting a simultaneous anti-inflammatory effect.
Epimedium has also been demonstrated to have neuroprotective effects, anti-depressant effects and erectogenic effects. It may help in Alzheimer’s disease and other memory disorders and can effectively help in high blood pressure.
The common health benefits of Epimedium / icariin include:

  • Helps enhance testosterone production [3]
  • Helps enhance estrogen levels, particularly in post-menopausal women [4]
  • Helps with erectile dysfunction, or ED and improves erectile function [5]
  • Improves bone health [6]
  • Increases muscle strength [7]
  • Helps with osteoarthritis [8]
  • Improves heart health [9]
  • Improves liver health [10]
  • Improve cognitive function [11]
  • Helps people with Alzheimer’s disease [12]
  • Improve learning and memory abilities [13]
  • Users also report it helps with or vaginal dryness and reduces mental and physical fatigue

Most people use Epimedium for sexual performance problems including erectile dysfunction (ED) and involuntary ejaculation. People also use it to arouse sexual desire.

How it works

The exact mechanisms of Epimedium is not clear. The active ingredient of Epimedium (or HGW) seems to help neuronal growth and gene expression in the penis and testes that may result in elevated testosterone levels and enhanced erectile function. It may play an important role in boosting healthy sexual functions, potentially repairing physical and hormonal abnormalities in male sexual organs.
The active ingredient of Epimedium has been suggested to be icariin, a flavonol glycoside. Icariin and its derivatives have been suggested to increase NO synthesis in the penis, inhibit PDE5 in cavernosal smooth muscle, have positive neurotrophic effect on nitrergic nerves, enhance smooth muscle proliferation, and decrease advanced glycation endproduct formation and mimic endogenous androgens. Icariin has also been suggested to have anti-inflammatory, antiosteoporotic, and neuroprotective properties. [14]

Considerations

Being an herb, Epimedium (or HGW) is usually safe and well-tolerated. However, when taken in high dosages there are some possible side effects that include temporary symptoms such as increased thirst, dizziness, nausea and nosebleed.
Since it can affect hormone levels, the pregnant or breast-feeding women should not use horny goat weed without speaking with a doctor. If you have been suffering from cancer, heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease or other serious health problems such as diabetes that require medication to control symptoms, always speak to your physician before starting any new herbal treatment.

Recommendations

There is not adequate scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for Epimedium. It may depend on several factors such as the user’s age, health, and several other conditions. However, usual dosage may range from 250 mg to 2,000 mg per serving. You are advised to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

Sources