Benefits of Horny Goat Weed

The scientific name for horny goat weed is epimedium. Horny goat weed has been used in traditional Asian medicine. The leaves were used through extracting their medicinal substances which are later on taken orally to treat sexual problems, joint pain, fatigue and other conditions. However, the evidence and data available to support these uses is still limited and there are insufficient studies available on this herb.

 

Horny Goat Weed & Sexual Disorders

 

Horny goat weed has been used in traditional Asian medicine to treat sexual conditions. It was also prescribed with a mixture of herbs to support its effectiveness and reduce its side effects. This effect is due to the fact that horny goat weed contains a type of estrogen-inhibiting flavonoids.

 

A study was conducted on rats with neurological defects  and indicated that one of the components of horny goat weed; icariin, has a positive and promising effect in the treatment of erectile dysfunction.

 

What is erectile dysfunction?

 

Naturally, when sexually stimulated, nitric oxide triggers the release of cGMP, which in turn relaxes vascular smooth muscles allowing blood flow to the penis which causes an erection. However, the PDE5 enzyme interferes with the signaling between nitric oxide and cGMP in the case of erectile dysfunction and prevents the relaxation of smooth muscle thus preventing an erection.

 

Icariin in horny goat weed inhibits the enzyme PDE5 and restores blood flow as well as the ability to achieve an erection by a mechanism similar to Viagra.

 

Erectile dysfunction is common in men between 40-70 years of age and is divided into two groups:

 

  1. Primary erectile dysfunction:

Men with this rare condition have erectile dysfunction that persists throughout their lives, due to physical abnormalities or psychological causes.

 

  1. Secondary erectile dysfunction:

This disorder doesn’t persist throughout the man’s life but rather occurs as a result of diseases such as diabetes, strokes, multiple sclerosis and physical injuries. Some medications can have a side effect causing this condition, such as medications for treating high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, depression, cancer and chronic pain.

 

Other Uses of Horny Goat Weed

 

  • Atherosclerosis:

In one study, a group of elderly people with neck arteriosclerosis were given a mixture of herbs, including horny goat weed while the other group were given a mixture without it. The first mixture of herbs containing horny goat weed showed greater ability to relieve symptoms in patients and improve electrocardiogram results. This effect is due to the antioxidant, cholesterol-lowering and anti-inflammatory properties of horny goat weed.

 

  • Hay fever:

Horny goat weed has been shown to relieve symptoms of hay fever and reduce the levels of inflammatory cells that trigger allergic reactions. By conducting a study on a group of patients and giving some of them a mixture of herbs containing goat weed, and the other group a mixture without it. This effect is due to the anti-inflammatory properties of horny goat weed.

 

  • Osteoporosis:

A study conducted on animals in China found that a mixture of horny goat weed and three other herbs was an effective mixture to combat osteoporosis caused by medications similar to cortisone. However none of these four herbs was effective when used alone. This effect is due to horny goat weed containing icariin, a type of bone-building flavonoid.

 

One clinical study found that taking horny goat weed with calcium supplements for 24 months reduced rates of osteoporosis in the spine and hips in postmenopausal women more than taking calcium supplements alone. This is due to the estrogenic activity of some components of horny goat weed extract.

 

  • Cancer:

Aqueous extracts of horny goat weed have been shown to have a role in inhibiting the growth of new blood vessels (angiogenesis), thus deterring the growth of cancerous tumors. Some in vitro studies have indicated that these extracts have a mild role in inhibiting the growth of cancer cells and have found that icariin alone is effective in returning cancerous cells back to their normal non-cancerous condition.

 

Warnings Against the Use of Horny Goat Weed

 

  • Pregnancy & Breast-feeding:

It is preferable not to take horny goat weed during pregnancy since there is a possibility of harm to the fetus. It is also preferable for nursing mothers to stay away from taking horny goat weed due to insufficient studies and information about the effect of this herb on breastfeeding women.

 

  • Hemorrhagic Diseases:

Horny goat weed can slow down the blood clotting process, thus increasing the likelihood of bleeding as well as increasing the severity of hemorrhagic diseases.

 

  • Hormone-sensitive Conditions:

Horny goat weed works similarly to estrogen and can raise its levels in some women. This makes some conditions such as breast cancer more severe and more dangerous.

 

  • Low blood pressure:

Horny goat weed lowers blood pressure and can cause people with naturally low blood pressure to feel faint.

 

  • Surgery:

Horny goat weed should be avoided for two weeks before any surgery because of its effect on blood clotting, which increases the possibility of bleeding during the procedure.

 

Side Effects of Horny Goat Weed

 

Horny goat weed has some side effects, as do all medicines and herbal supplements. You should consult your doctor if you experience any of the following side effects:

 

  • Mood changes and aggression.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
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  • Feeling flushed and overheated.
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  • Cramps and severe breathing problems (if high doses are taken).

 

Drug Interactions with Horny Goat Weed

 

Caution should be exercised when taking horny goat weed with the following medications:

 

  • Estrogens

 

Horny goat weed has the same effects as estrogen. It also increases estrogen levels in the blood in some women thus increasing the side effects of estrogen medications if taken together.

 

Some of these drugs include: estradiol, ethinyl estradiol, conjugated estrogens, etc…

 

  • Liver Enzyme-altering Medications:

 

The liver houses enzymes which are responsible for modification and elimination of some medications. Horny goat weed can change the rate of these modification and elimination mechanisms, thus possibly increasing the side effects of such medications. Therefore, you should consult your doctor if you want to take horny goat weed because of this interaction.

 

Some of these drugs include: clozapine, haloperidol, olanzapine, theophylline, ketamine, dexamethasone, sertraline, valproic acid among many others.

 

  • Antihypertensive Drugs and Anticoagulants:

 

Taking horny goat weed with antihypertensives can cause a sharp drop in blood pressure. Additionally, the possibility of bleeding may increase when taken with anticoagulants.

 

Some of these medicines include: captopril, enalapril, losartan, valsartan, furosemide, aspirin, diclofenac, heparin, warfarin, etc…

 

Dosage of Horny Goat Weed

 

The appropriate dose of horny goat weed depends on several factors such as age, gender, medical history and medical status. It is recommended to take 5 g of horny goat weed three times daily when treating cases of atherosclerosis and erectile dysfunction.

 

In cases of hay fever, it is recommended to boil 500 mg of horny goat weed in 250 ml of water for 10-15 minutes and consume it three times daily.

 

Further studies are still required to establish an accurate and appropriate dosing range. It should always be remembered that not all natural products are fully safe therefore it is important to adjust their dosage and consult your doctor before taking horny goat weed or any other supplements.

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