Epimedium (botanical name Epimedium grandiflorum) is a flowering plant belonging to the barberry family, called Berberidaceae. This species is indigenous to China, Korea and Japan. As this herb encloses icariin, it is likely to possess aphrodisiac attributes and it is considered to arouse sexual activity in goats - hence, its common name Horny Goat Weed. Generally, this herb is available in the form of a capsule along with other substances or sold in the market in the form of herbal flakes or as a powder under the brand name ‘Horny Goat Weed'. The plants of this species have vivid red stems and green leaves resembling the shape of the heart with some bristles on their underside. The herb normally grows up to a height of anything between 6 inches to 9 inches (15 cm to 23 cm) and bears pale purple hued blossoms in spring.
In Chinese medicine, epimedium is regularly employed in the form of a strong herbal tea. In addition, traditionally, the yellowish-green leaves of the herb are drenched in wine prior to using it to prepare pills. In Chinese, the herb is called yin yang huo, which when literally translated into English means ‘the herb meant for lustful aged goat'.
It is important to note that epimedium tablets are ought to be taken strictly as prescribed by a qualified herbalist. Compared to several other herbs, epimedium is non-toxic. However, using this herb for a prolonged period may result in a number of side effects, including vomiting, light-headedness, increased dehydration or thirst, dry mouth and even nosebleeds. Similarly, taking this herb in very high amounts may cause amplified reactions, convulsions as well as respiratory troubles. It is advisable that individuals enduring prostate problems or suffering from high blood pressure (hypertension) would be better off if they keep away from taking this herb.
It may be noted that epimedium is a resourceful Chinese herb that has been traditionally employed to cure infertility, impotence, absent-mindedness, arthritis and back aches. Owing to the aptitude of epimedium to dilate or widen the capillaries as well as other blood vessels, this herb is employed to make blood circulation to the brain and the sexual organs easier. At the same time, epimedium helps to lower blood pressure and is beneficial for those enduring hypertension. In addition, this herb also promotes male sex hormone production as well as tones up the liver.
Epimedium offers a number of health benefits and is employed to treat several conditions, some of which are discussed in brief below.
People belonging to various cultures have testified that Horny Goat Weed endorses augmented libido, increases erectile function and also provides relief from the symptoms of menopause. Although the scientists have so far focused on the usefulness of epimedium for men as well as its use in treating erectile dysfunction (ED), in contemporary times, sexual performance of women and the loss of sex drive among them are also vital issues. Findings of latest studies involving epimedium show that taking a dose of Horny Goat Weed extract on a regular basis every day is highly effective in the form of enhancing sexual performance in the case of men as well as women. In effect, the extract obtained from the herb helps to perk up sexual energy and endurance.
It is believed that Horny Goat Weed has the ability to bring down high blood pressure by means of dilating or widening the blood vessels. At the same time, this herb is thought to inhibit the production of hormones by the adrenal glands, which may obstruct the flow of blood to the sex organs. It is said that men have enhanced penile erection owing to this effect of epimedium, and it is also believed that women also gain from the augmented flow of blood and possibly also from other alkaloids and sterols that have actions like testosterone in the plants.
Findings of various studies on epimedium have also demonstrated that this herb considerably enhances testosterone in mice. As mentioned earlier, Horny Goat Weed or epimedium is a Chinese herb, which has been used by medical practitioners since ancient times, and in China, this herb has been especially employed in the past to ease liver, back, joint and knee problems. In effect, the Chinese Academy of Sciences still advocates the habitual use of epimedium to inhibit the aging process, since the herb also enhances the quality of life in general.
Animal as well as pharmacological researches undertaken with epimedium in China suggest that this herb augments the production of sperm, enhances sexual craving and also invigorates the sensory nerves. In addition, this herb also improves the copulating activities in animals.
Extracts obtained from epimedium (contain polysaccharides and glycosides) help in kindling the immune system. In addition, these extracts of epimedium have also demonstrated the aptitude to annul suppressed immunity in animal studies as well as clinical experiments undertaken on humans. Glycosides enclosed by the herb enhance coronary flow, lower the blood pressure to some extent and also show effects that help to protect the liver. Studies undertaken with epimedium on rats enduring kidney ailments have shown that the herb lowered the intensity of BUN (blood urea nitrogen) as well as serum creatinine.
In a controlled trial, a decoction prepared using epimedium has proved to be extremely useful for treating patients enduring chronic kidney failure and requiring hemodialysis (dialysis of blood, particularly using an artificial kidney). In addition, this herb also helps in improving the quality of the patients' lives, in general.
In effect, researchers have undertaken vitro as well as in vivo experiments conducted with epimedium with a view to find the herb's impact on osteoporosis. When tested in a test tube, this herb has shown to augment bone re-absorption by means of osteoclasts (a large multi-nucleate cell directly linked to the areas of bone re-absorption, such as in a fracture that is healing) and, in the case of rats, epimedium has been found to enhance the mineral content in their body as well as encourage formation of bones.
The leaves of epimedium contain alkaloid magnaflorine, a variety of polysaccharides, flavonoids, glycosides and sterols.
Side effects and cautions
As of now, it is not known whether the use of the herb epimedium is contradicted for any condition or there are any warnings regarding the use of this herb. Nevertheless, excessive use of the herb, which is often the prescribed dosage of this medication, may result in side effects, such as increased thirst, dizziness, nausea and even nosebleed.
How it works in the body
Chemical analysis of epimedium has revealed that it encloses chemical compounds that are likely to augment blood circulations as well as enhance sexual craving and function. This herb encloses phytoestrogens, which are plant chemicals that to some extent work similar to the female hormone estrogen that may possibly diminish bone loss among women in postmenopausal stage.