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Men’s Health: Does Horny Goat Weed Work for Erectile Dysfunction?

What Is ED?

Highlights

  1. Horny goat weed is a supplement used to remedy erectile dysfunction (ED).
  2. Horny goat weed is sold over the counter. It can be taken as a tablet, capsule, powder, or tea.
  3. The side effects for horny goat weed are minor when it is taken over a few month’s time. There may be nosebleeds, dizziness, and rapid heartbeat.

Horny goat weed is a supplement used to remedy erectile dysfunction (ED).

ED is defined as the inability to get and maintain an erection firm enough to have sexual intercourse. Most men have experienced times when they were unable to sustain an erection, but that doesn’t mean they have ED. However, if this happens on a regular basis, you may have ED.

Although you can have ED at any age, it becomes more common as men age. In the United States, approximately 5 percent of 40-year-old men and somewhere between 15 and 25 percent of 65-year-old men have ED, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center.

How Erections Happen

When you’re sexually stimulated, nitric oxide signals a chemical called cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) that causes the smooth muscle to relax, resulting in an inflow of blood into three tube-like cylinders in the penis which then leads to an erection.

With erectile dysfunction, an enzyme named protein phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) interferes with the nitric oxide and cGMP that relaxes the smooth muscle in the arteries. As a result, the blood can’t move through the arteries and create an erection.

What Is Horny Goat Weed?

Horny goat weed is sold over the counter. The active ingredient is icariin, the extract of a Epimedium plant that’s reported to benefit men who have ED. It’s sold as a tablet, capsule, powder, and tea.

Horny goat weed is also used to treat:

  • high blood pressure
  • hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
  • low libido in men and women
  • symptoms associated with menopause
  • osteoporosis
  • brain injury
  • hay fever
  • fatigue

How Does Horny Goat Weed Work?

Icariin inhibits the activity of the PDE5 that’s blocking dilation of the arteries in the penis. This allows blood to fill the arteries and the three cylinders in the penis and create an erection. The prescription medication sildenafil (Viagra) works in much the same way.

Where Is Horny Goat Weed Found?

Horny goat weed has a long history of use in traditional Eastern medicine. According to legend, its name came about because a goat herder noticed his flock became sexually stimulated after eating the plant.

The botanical name for horny goat weed is Epimedium. It’s also called yin yang huo, barrenwort, rowdy lamb herb, randy beef grass, and brain tonic of the immortals. The plant is native to parts of China, Japan, and Korea. Today, it’s widely grown as an ornamental plant in many areas of the world, including the United States.

Does Horny Goat Weed Really Work?

As with many supplements, the claims about the effectiveness of horny goat weed are expansive. As is also true with many supplements, research on the effects of horny goat weed on humans is limited.

A study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine investigated its effects on rats. Researchers found that rats treated with purified extract of horny goat weed showed improved erectile function.

Another study found that icariin is effective in inhibiting human PDE5, the substance that blocks erections, in test tubes. It also determined that sildenafil (Viagra) is 80 times more potent than icariin.

Side Effects of Horny Goat Weed

The side effects for horny goat weed are minor when it is taken over a few month’s time. There may be nosebleeds, dizziness, and rapid heartbeat. Large amounts taken at once can result in spasms and breathing problems.

There is no set dosage for horny goat weed other than what is on the package, but it is suggested that you take the supplement for around a month to start seeing results. The supplement is always working in the background even if you skip or day. Results vary from person to person.

Warnings

According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, horny goat weed does come with some risks. The organization says that people with heart disease or hormone-sensitive cancer should talk to their doctor before taking the herb. The herb can lead to sweating or feeling hot, but more research needs to be done on the effects.

The organization also points to two cases in which the herb led to medical emergencies. One man experienced rash, pain, and a burning sensation after taking the herb along with ginkgo. Another man with congestive heart failure was hospitalized with symptoms of shortness of breath, chest pain, and arrhythmia after taking the herb.

Some medications and medical conditions may place you at greater risk if you take horny goat weed. These include:

  • medications that treat high blood pressure (statins)
  • medications that cause irregular heartbeat
  • medications that thin your blood
  • heart disease
  • hormone-sensitive cancer, such as breast cancer or ovarian cancer
  • thyroid disease

If you take any of these medications or have any of the conditions listed above, you should speak with your doctor before taking horny goat weed.

You should also avoid ibuprofen and over-the-counter pain relievers while taking the supplement.

Horny goat weed may cause an allergic reaction in some people if they have allergies to plants in the Berberidaceae family. Some symptoms of a reaction include rash, sweating, or feeling hot.

thumbs up Pros
  1. It is easily accessible in multiple forms and sold over the counter.
  2. It has also been found to reduce the effects of fatigue and joint pain.
thumbs down Cons
  1. Large amounts taken at once can result in spasms and breathing problems.
  2. It may interact negatively with certain medications.

Horny goat weed has other medical properties and is sometimes used to improve bone density. It may also help treat hypertension, heart disease, bronchitis, and even polio.

It works by smoothing muscle tissue. Any strained tissue will get a bit of relief. This gives you a great chance of recovering from fatigue, joint pain, and numbness.

Horny goat weed can be dangerous when too much is consumed. There is no set prescription dosage because it is an over-the-counter herb. There is also not much scientific data to back it up as a medically sound supplement.

The verdict is mixed on the effectiveness of horny goat weed. It appears to have some beneficial properties. However, more research is needed to learn if it’s effective and safe for the general public. If you are experiencing ED, talk to your doctor before choosing any treatment options. 

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