Horny Goat Weed: Good for Your Libido, Bones, Nerves and More

horny goat weed or barrenwort

Story at-a-glance -

  • Traditionally used as a natural aphrodisiac, horny goat weed is an intriguing herb with a name that fits it perfectly
  • Recent studies show that it may not only be useful for improving your intimate life, but it benefits other aspects of your well-being too, including your bone and heart health
  • Find out more about its uses and how you can grow it in your own garden

Also known as Epimedium, horny goat weed is a hardy, perennial plant  that grows on dry, shady areas beneath shallow-rooted trees. It can grow as short as 6 inches to as high as 3 feet, with a width of 12 to 24 inches. Its colorful foliage and flowers provide good groundcover, which is why it’s used as an ornamental plant in Western countries.1

The term “Epimedium” actually refers to a plant genus with around 52 plant species,2 with E. koreanum, E. sagittatum and E. brevicornum being some of the most commonly used ones for medicinal purposes.3 Some of its other names include barrenwort, rowdy lamb herb and bishop’s hat.

Horny goat weed has been used as a natural aphrodisiac in Chinese traditional medicine for around 2,000 years.4 The Chinese called it “yin yang huo,” which loosely translates to “licentious goat plant.” This herb got its intriguing name from a herder who noticed that his goats became more sexually active after grazing on the Epimedium that grew near the fields.5

Horny Goat Weed Benefits Your Health in Various Ways

The benefits of horny goat weed are more than just an old wives’ tale, since there is actual scientific evidence to back up its efficiency. Researchers have isolated more than 260 compounds from this plant.6 Many of its benefits are associated with its active compound icariin. Some of its other beneficial constituents include flavonoids, polysaccharides, sterols and magnoflorine,7 an alkaloid with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.8

According to a 2007 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, oral administration of Epimedium koreanum dry extract to a group of aged rats for 10 days led to increased numbers of intromission and ejaculation. This means that horny goat weed may not only be used as an aphrodisiac, but it may also help in the management of erectile dysfunction.9

Another separate study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2010 supports Epimedium’s use as a potential treatment for erectile dysfunction, as it’s found to have neurotrophic effects. It also helps inhibit phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5),10 an enzyme responsible for controlling blood flow to the penis. When inhibited, this enzyme promotes an erection.11 In addition to stimulating sexual activity and helping with erectile dysfunction, horny goat weed may also provide the following benefits:

  • Helps inhibit postmenopausal bone loss: A study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research found that the phytoestrogen flavonoids derived from the Epimedium plant help inhibit bone loss in late postmenopausal women without causing detectable hyperplasia.12
  • Helps protect your nerves: According to a 2013 study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Epimedium extract helps promote the recovery of damaged nerves and improve nerve regeneration.13
  • Helps fight against certain types of cancer: Different studies have shown that icariin and its derivatives, icaritin and icariside II, may help inhibit the growth of cancer cells in the breast,14 prostate,15 lungs,16 stomach17 and kidneys.18
  • Helps lower the risk for atherosclerosis: A study published in the journal Frontiers of Pharmacology shows that icariin provides multiple atheroprotective properties, such as reducing DNA damage, curbing proliferation of smooth muscle cells and regulating inflammatory responses, among others.18,19

What Else Is Horny Goat Weed Used For?

In addition to the health benefits mentioned above, horny goat weed is also traditionally used for managing the following health issues:20

Joint pain

Memory loss

Liver disease

Mental and physical fatigue

Bronchitis

Chronic leukopenia (low white blood cell levels)

It’s important to note that there’s not enough evidence to support the efficiency of horny goat weed for treating the aforementioned health problems. If you’re planning to use it for these purposes, make sure that you consult your physician first.

Horny Goat Weed Side Effects To Be Aware Of

Horny goat weed comes with a list of side effects and interactions, which must be considered before you add it into your regimen. In one case report, a 77-year-old man experienced rashes, pain and burning sensations after taking horny goat weed with ginkgo to improve his memory and libido.21

Another case report involved a man with congestive heart failure who experienced shortness of breath, chest pain and arrhythmia after taking Epimedium daily for two weeks.22 Other adverse effects that are associated with long-term usage of this herb include:23

Dizziness

Vomiting

Dry mouth

Thirst

Nosebleed

Spasms

Severe breathing problems

You should also avoid consuming horny goat weed if you’re pregnant and/or breastfeeding, since there’s not enough evidence to guarantee that it’s safe for you or your baby. People with bleeding disorders or low blood pressure should also steer clear of this herb, as it may exacerbate these conditions.

How to Grow Horny Goat Weed in Your Own Garden

Whether you want to take advantage of horny goat weed’s medicinal benefits or you simply want its heart-shaped foliage to revamp your garden, growing this plant at home is a great idea. Here’s how:24

  1. Give your horny goat weed a rich soil to grow in by adding 2 inches of peat moss and 3 inches of compost in your planting soil.
  2. Gently remove the horny goat weed from the nursery pot and place it in a planting hole. Make sure that the hole has the same depth and width as the nursery pot.
  3. Fill the planting hole with soil and press lightly around the base of the plant. If you’re planting multiple horny goat weeds, make sure that the planting holes are 8 to 10 inches apart.
  4. Water the horny goat weed immediately and always keep its soil moist, especially during hot, dry and windy weathers.
  5. During the early spring, it’s best to add 2 to 3 inches of compost on the soil around the plant. You should also cut off foliage and stems that have been damaged during the winter to allow for new growth.

Try Making This Simple Horny Goat Weed Tea Recipe

Once you’ve successfully grown your own Epimedium, you can harvest its leaves and brew them into tea to obtain this plant’s beneficial compounds. Here’s a simple recipe from LeafTV25 that you can follow:

How to Make Horny Goat Weed Tea

Ingredients:

1.3 ounces of horny goat weed leaves, chopped or ground

1 cup water

Raw honey (optional)

Procedure:

1. Put the horny goat weed leaves in a tea infuser and then place the infuser in a cup.

2. Boil a cup of water in a teakettle. Remove the kettle from the heat and pour boiling water into the cup.

3. Allow the leaves to steep for five minutes before removing the infuser.

4. You can serve the tea as is or sweeten it with a bit of honey.

If you don’t have an infuser, you can simply steep the loose horny goat weed leaves right in the cup and then separate them from the tea later using a strainer.26

How to Store Horny Goat Weed Properly

Proper storage helps prolong the life of your freshly harvested horny goat weed. As with other types of herb, you need to wash it thoroughly to remove any debris and insects that may cause rapid decay. You should also get rid of dry or yellowed leaves, since their flavor has been compromised.

After washing the horny goat weed, pat it gently with a paper towel to get rid of the excess water then wrap it in a damp paper towel to keep it from drying out. Place the horny goat weed in an airtight glass container to keep the oxygen out.27

Other Natural Ways to Boost Your Libido

Boosting your sex drive and addressing sexual dysfunction is not just a matter of taking natural aphrodisiacs. Keep in mind that your libido is also linked to your lifestyle and dietary habits, which means that no matter how much horny goat weed you consume, your sex drive may not improve if your lifestyle and diet are getting in the way. Follow these strategies to naturally boost your intimate life:

Eat a healthy diet

Optimize your vitamin D levels

Exercise regularly

Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol

Get plenty of high-quality sleep

Manage your stress levels

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Horny Goat Weed

Q: What does horny goat weed do?

A. Horny goat weed is good for  improving sexual activity in both men and women, since it’s a natural aphrodisiac.28 Aside from helping manage erectile dysfunction, It may also help inhibit bone loss, lower the risk of cancer, 29 improve nerve health30 and inhibit atherosclerosis, among others.31

Q: Does horny goat weed work?

A. Yes, the efficiency of horny goat weed in terms of improving sexual activity and regulating sexual dysfunction has been proven by modern studies. Its anti-cancer, antioxidant, anti-atherosclerosis and immunological function modulation abilities are also backed by pharmacology studies and clinical practice.32,33

Q: How long does horny goat weed take to work?

A. The effects of horny goat weed may be felt 30 to 90 minutes after consumption.34

Q: Is horny goat weed safe?

A. Horny goat weed is considered safe if taken in small amounts for a short period of time.35 However, there are still side effects associated with this herbal remedy, so take caution when using it.

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