Thursday, 11 February 2010

Epimedium (Horny Goat Weed) Species, Icariin, and Their Use as Aphrodisiacs

Epimiedium is a genus of some sixty species of small flowering herbs, most of which are native to China and East Asia, although some species grow as far away as Europe. The plants are often colloquially known as Horny Goat Weed, Barrenwort, or by their Chinese name Yin Yang Huo.

Epimedium species have been used for centuries in Chinese herbal medicine as aphrodisiacs. Legend has it that a goatherd noticed that his animals became more amorous after eating the plant, hence the tongue-in-cheek colloquial name of Horny Goat Weed.

Today it is known that the active ingredient of Epimedium is the flavonol icariin, which has been shown to have a similar action to the commercial synthetic chemical sildenafil; more popularly known by the brand name Viagra.

All of the sixty species of Epimiedium contain icariin in some quantity, but the two species most commonly cultivated for the purposes of producing extract are E. grandiflorum and E. sagittatum, both of which are thought to contain the highest natural quantities of icariin.

Today, Horny Goat Weed continues to gain in popularity as an herbal alternative to Viagra. It is sold in health food shops and online in strengths ranging from 5% to 60%; strengths above 60% are usually reserved for laboratory use. It is sold as a dry herb, in tablet form or capsule form, and is regularly blended with other herbs such as Tribulus terrestris and Ginkgo biloba.

Icariin works by boosting the body’s natural production of nitric oxide in the tissue of the penis, leading to increased blood flow and blood pressure within the penile tissue, which in turn causes a larger and harder erection than would otherwise be achieved. The similarity of its action to the synthetic compound Viagra has been repeatedly demonstrated in many animal experiments, and it therefore appears that the claims made about Epimedium extract’s aphrodisiac and erectile enhancing properties are quite justified.

There are no reported side-effects to consuming Epimedium extract

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