Horny goat weed is an incredible herb with a funny history. A Chinese goat herder noticed that animals who ate the plant’s leaves had an increased interest in sex. This incredible herb doesn’t only work for goats!
A time-tested herbal supplement, horny goat weed is often used by men to boost sex drive and improve sexual performance. However, the aphrodisiac qualities of this herb apply equally to both males and females. Women have also started to use it, with great success.
What Is Horny Goat Weed?
Despite the silly name, horny goat weed (Epimedium grandiflorum) has held an esteemed place in traditional medicine for ages. It has a particularly long history in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), where it’s called “yin yang huo” or Herba epimedii.
The main active ingredient in horny goat weed, icariin, is a flavonoid with strong antioxidant properties. Icariin also promotes a normal response to inflammation.[2, 3] People use horny goat weed for a variety of health issues, ranging from erectile dysfunction (ED) and low testosterone to supporting bone and heart health.
You can find horny goat weed in extract, tincture, capsule, or powder form. You can even take horny goat weed tea. While many people think of this herb for men, you can also use horny goat weed for women with excellent results.
Top Horny Goat Weed Benefits
Horny goat weed boosts libido and improve sexual performance, but its potential benefits don’t end there. Horny goat weed may also improve circulation, increase muscle strength, enhance bone health, and more.
Below are the top benefits that this herb — and its active ingredient icariin — provide.
1. Boosts Sex Drive
A healthy sex life can play an important role in overall quality of life. And in traditional medicine, horny goat weed is a common remedy for low libido. The herb may balance hormone levels and stimulate blood flow — important factors in sex drive and sexual performance. It works in several ways, including the ones below.
If you have trouble getting or keeping an erection, this can affect your sex life. Many people turn to horny goat weed in these situations. Icariin (the active ingredient in horny goat weed) boosts the production of nitric oxide in the penis, a substance that helps blood vessels dilate. As blood vessels dilate, it increases blood flow to the penis, resulting in an erection.
For those who want to know more details, icariin halts the action of PDE5 — an enzyme that otherwise decreases blood supply to the penis. This is the same biochemical action that enables the “little blue pill” to work!
Icariin has a twofold effect. Not only does it mimic the effects of testosterone in the body, but it also directly boosts testosterone levels in the blood.
Horny goat weed also supports blood flow throughout the body. The more blood circulating in the body, the more blood gets delivered to the sexual organs. In men, greater blood circulation increases the strength of an erection. Blood flow also enhances sexual arousal in both men and women.
In short, horny goat weed helps your cardiovascular system and boosts libido by enhancing blood flow throughout your body.
2. Adds Happiness to Your Day
Anxiety, stress, and depression can affect sex drive, and horny goat shows promise for promoting a positive mood. Horny goat weed may balance cortisol — a well-known “stress hormone.” Reducing your body’s exposure to cortisol naturally boosts mood.
Icariin also promotes normal levels of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), a chemical indicator of stress in the body. Higher CRF correlates with feelings of fear and anxiety, so lowering its levels benefits your mental wellness.
Icariin also influences two other stress-related compounds, interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor-necrosis-factor alpha (TNF-alpha), part of the well-known hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.
3. Promotes Nerve Cell Growth
It appears horny goat weed works through both the neuroendocrine and immune systems. The icariin in horny goat weed acts like a “neurotrophin” — a molecule that helps with nerve cell growth and repair.
Nerves that line the penis influence pleasure. By improving nerve growth, the theory is that horny goat weed will increase sexual enjoyment. And of course, healthy nerves are important not only for sexual enjoyment but also for your brain and entire nervous system.
4. Fortifies Your Bones
Looking for extra bone support? Horny goat weed holds promise as a natural and complementary therapy for people concerned about their bone health.
Icariin stimulates new bone cells to form, improving bone density.[12, 13] As women go through menopause, they are at greater risk of bone loss and conditions like osteoporosis. Icariin appears to improve bone strength and reduce bone loss over time.[12, 13]
Horny goat weed’s support for a healthy skeletal system is particularly important in older individuals.
5. Supports a Healthy Heart
Since horny goat weed supports circulation and new blood vessel formation, it is good for the heart. Horny goat weed’s heart-protecting effects come mainly from its antioxidant properties. Icariin can prevent cell death (apoptosis).[14, 15]
Icariin is also anti-inflammatory and, as mentioned, has antioxidant properties. If you have heart health risk factors, this herb can support your cardiovascular system.
In addition to horny goat weed, you can find other vitamins and supplements to support a healthy heart. A healthy heart plays a vital role in a thriving sex life. Check out our article about healthy heart tips.
6. Reduces Fatigue
Who isn’t tired these days? With work, kids, daily stress, and more, most people consider low energy one of their biggest concerns. Good news: Horny goat weed may boost your vitality and help fight fatigue.
This power herb offers anti-fatigue and energy-boosting benefits, especially when used after exercise. Icariin appears to decrease the build-up of lactic acid, which makes muscles tired and sore.
Additional Health Benefits
Horny goat weed finds many more applications in traditional Eastern medicine. Healers may recommend the herb to:
- Support healthy blood pressure
- Reduce joint and back discomfort
- Support kidney health
- Boost liver health
- Discourage memory loss & forgetfulness
- Reduce nocturia (waking in the night to urinate)
Other Herbs for Libido
Horny goat weed is not the only herb that can enhance your sex drive. Multiple herbs are often combined in natural products to support libido and sexual function.[19, 20] These include the following popular libido herbs:
An exotic cooking herb, saffron is also an aphrodisiac in traditional medicine. Saffron may increase erection frequency, ability to reach orgasm, and arousal.
More than just an ingredient for pumpkin pie, nutmeg may also bring spice to the bedroom. Nutmeg can increase sexual desire without side effects.
Used in Unani medicine, also known as Arabian or Islamic medicine, clove has a positive impact on sexual activity.
The essential mineral zinc is linked to normal fertility, testosterone levels, and libido in men. Be sure to get enough zinc for a healthy sex life.
A super-herb and superfood, moringa leaf contains a stunning array of nutrients and protein to support vitality in men and women. It offers a boost of sustained energy and stimulates sex drive and arousal.
How Should I Take Horny Goat Weed?
Most horny goat weed supplements sold on the market come in capsule form. You can also make a hot cup of horny goat weed tea adding the hereto boiling water. You can also find horny goat weed sold in herbal extracts.
In traditional Asian medicine, horny goat weed is typically combined with other compounds, rather than taken on its own. It might be most beneficial in multi-herb formulations.
Horny goat weed supplements vary in quality and purity. Look for a high-quality, organic product. Some men or women like to take 3 to 4 capsules before sexual activity. If you want a boost to your male or female vitality, give horny goat weed a try. It’s a generally safe herb with positive effects.
Horny Goat Weed Side Effects
Horny goat weed liquid extract, capsules, and other supplement forms are generally safe to consume. Although unusual, minor side effects may include nosebleed, dizziness, or increased heartbeat.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid horny goat weed. If you have low blood pressure, take caution that horny goat weed may lower it further. If you engage in long-term use of horny goat weed and experience any change in heart rate or breathing, contact your healthcare provider for advice. Other medications may increase the risk of side effects.
Points to Remember
Horny goat weed (Epimedium) is often used to boost libido and improve sex drive and performance. Although men more commonly use it, horny goat weed also works well for women.
The herb’s active ingredient is icariin, a compound with antioxidant properties. In addition to promoting a healthy sex drive, testosterone levels, and erectile function, icariin may also support circulation, bone health, and nerve growth, particularly in the penis.
Horny goat weed’s long history of use in China and the Middle East, combined with anecdotal reports and current research, suggests this herb is a great natural herbal supplement. Horny goat weed is generally safe to consume for most people. If you have any health condition, it’s always a good idea to check with your healthcare provider.
Have you tried horny goat weed for libido or another use? Share your experience below!
- Corazza O, et al. Sexual enhancement products for sale online: raising awareness of the psychoactive effects of yohimbine, maca, horny goat weed, and Ginkgo biloba. Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:841798.
- Yao LH, et al. Flavonoids in food and their health benefits. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2004;59(3):113-122.
- Shen R, Wang J-H. The effect of icariin on immunity and its potential application. Am J Clin Exp Immunol. 2018; 7(3):50-56.
- Pan J, et al. Understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying the effects of light intensity on flavonoid production by RNA-seq analysis in Epimedium pseudowushanense B.L.Guo. PLoS One. 2017;12(8):e0182348.
- Shindel AW, et al. Erectogenic and neurotrophic effects of icariin, a purified extract of horny goat weed (Epimedium spp.) in vitro and in vivo. J Sex Med. 2010;7(4 Pt 1):1518-1528.
- Xin ZC, et al. Effects of icariin on cGMP-specific PDE5 and cAMP-specific PDE4 activities. Asian J Androl. 2003;5(1):15-18.
- Zhang ZB, Yang QT. The testosterone mimetic properties of icariin. Asian J Androl. 2006;8(5):601-605.
- van Anders SM. Testosterone and sexual desire in healthy women and men. Arch Sex Behav. 2012;41(6):1471-1484.
- Wang YQ, et al. Comparison of pharmaceutical chemistry difference of effective parts from yin teng gu bi kang prescription in normal rats and rats with acute blood stasis. Zhong Yao Cai. 2013;36(12):1973-1978.
- Yang J, et al. Construction of a small-caliber tissue-engineered blood vessel using icariin-loaded β-cyclodextrin sulfate for in situ anticoagulation and endothelialization. Sci China Life Sci. 2018;61(10):1178-1188.
- Pan Y, et al. Effects of icariin on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis action and cytokine levels in stressed Sprague-Dawley rats. Biol Pharm Bull. 2006;29(12):2399-403.
- Zhao J, et al. Icariin: a potential osteoinductive compound for bone tissue engineering. Tissue Eng Part A. 2010;16(1):233-243.
- Li X-F, et al. Icariin augments bone formation and reverses the phenotypes of osteoprotegerin-deficient mice through the activation of Wnt/β-Catenin-BMP signaling. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:652317.
- Ke Z, et al. The cardioprotective effect of icariin on ischemia-reperfusion injury in isolated rat heart: potential involvement of the PI3K-Akt signaling pathway. Cardiovasc Ther. 2015;33(3):134-140.
- Tang Y, et al. Icariin promotes angiogenic differentiation and prevents oxidative stress‐induced autophagy in endothelial progenitor cells. Stem Cells. 2015;33(6):1863-1877.
- Fang J, Zhang Y. Icariin, an anti-atherosclerotic drug from Chinese medicinal herb horny goat weed. Front Pharmacol. 2017;8:734.
- Wang B, et al. Anti-fatigue properties of icariin from Epimedium brevicornum. Biomedical Research 2014;25 (3):297-302.
- Yan FF, et al. Herba Epimedii water extract elevates estrogen level and improves lipid metabolism in postmenopausal women. Phytother Res. 2008 Sep;22(9):1224-1228.
- Kotta S, et al. Exploring scientifically proven herbal aphrodisiacs. Pharmacogn Rev. 2013;7(13):1110.
- Lim P. Asian herbals and aphrodisiacs used for managing ED. Transl Androl Urol. 2017;6(2):167-175.
- Kotta S, et al. Exploring scientifically proven herbal aphrodisiacs. Pharmacogn Rev. 2013 Jan-Jun; 7(13): 1-10.
- Tajuddin, et al. An experimental study of sexual function improving effect of Myristica fragrans Houtt. (nutmeg) BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine. 2005;5:16.
- Tajuddin, et al. Effect of 50% ethanolic extract of Syzygium aromaticum (L.) Merr. & Perry. (clove) on sexual behaviour of normal male rats. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2004;4:17.
- Dhawan K, et al. Beneficial effects of chrysin and benzoflavone on virility in 2-year-old male rats. J Med Food. 2002 Spring;5(1):42-48.
- Brooks NA, et al. Beneficial effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on psychological symptoms and measures of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women are not related to estrogen or androgen content. Menopause. 2008;15(6):1157-1162.
- Gauthaman K, et al. Aphrodisiac properties of Tribulus terrestris extract (Protodioscin) in normal and castrated rats. Life Sci. 2002;71(12):1385-1396.
- Zhang G, et al. 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. 2007;22(7):1072-1079.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.