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Horny Goat Weed

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Names of Horny Goat Weed, past and present

Chinese: yin yang huo / xian ling pi
French: epimede / herbe cornee de chevre / Fleur des elfes
Spanish: hierba de Cabra en Celo
German: Elfenblume
Italian: herba epimedii
English: barrenwort / horny goat weed / rowdy lamb herb / bishop's hat / fairy wings
Latin (scientific nomenclature): Epimedium grandiflorum (other nomenclatures exist, depending on the species)

Background and History

Horny goat weed is a weed of a semi-vine-like nature that thrives well in waste places such as abandoned lots and untended gardens. It is charcterised by its somewhat heart-shaped leaves, and for its spindly, 'spider-like' white to carnation-hued flowers. Generally considered native to China and several parts of Asia, horny goat weed also thrives in several European countries, although its status is more that of a weed than a medicinal or ornamental plant, unlike its status in China or Japan. In Asiatic countries, horny goat weed is chiefly cultivated for its flowers, although in China, it is largely grown for purposes more medicinal than ornamental.

Horny Goat Weed
Horny Goat Weed (Rowdy Lamb Herb yellow)
Photo by Jun's World - via Wikipedia - lic. under CCA 2.0

In the west, horny goat weed is typically cultivated as a ground-cover plant grown in tropical gardens. Because of this, its medicinal purposes are often overlooked by most gardeners, although a large number of herbalists now actively grow horny goat weed for medicinal purposes, usually to meet the demand for the herb. Traditionally, only Chinese varietals were actively chosen for medicinal purposes, but now, even western cultivars have been employed for medicinal purposes, chiefly due to the increase in the demand and availability of the herb. [1]

General and Esoteric Uses

Horny goat weed is, as the name suggests, a weed that is thought to enhance sexual function. Long known in China and some parts of Asia as a medicinal plant, its reputation as an aphrodisiac herb has been established since ancient times. Traditionally ascribed by Chinese herbalists for the treatment of frigidity, it is now commonly taken as a food supplement or alternative drug to enhance sexual vigour and improve male potency. This medical action is caused due to the chemical compound icariin, which is thought to function in much the same way as Viagra, only without a majority of its unsavoury side-effects. [2]

Aside from its reputed aphrodisiac effects, horny goat weed has also been shown to be beneficial for menopausal women, as aside from improving male sexual performance, it also acts as a normalising the often fluctuating levels of estrogen in a menopausal woman's body. It may also help to improve or boost her libido well as allay the symptoms of hot flashes. When consumed in moderation, horny goat weed may even help to relieve the symptoms associated with osteoporosis and osteoarthritis by stimulating bone tissue. [3]

Horny goat weed is typically prepared as a decoction or as a tincture in Traditional Chinese Medicine, with the dried leaves of the plant usually allowed to macerate in rice wine or some other kind of alcoholic beverage and drunk in very small amounts as a tonifying drink daily. Nowadays, horny goat weed is typically ground into a powder and encased in gelatin capsules and sold as food supplements, although extracts of its active compound icariin have also been made available in several 'strengths' or potencies, typically as an alternative for Viagra. [4] While horny goat weed is generally safe when used regularly in moderation, its active compound may possess hepatotoxic side-effects if taken in excess, so it is best to steer clear of highly potent extracts, and instead opt for the more traditional methods of consumption (i. e. decoctions, tinctures).

References & Further Reading

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epimedium
[2] http://altmedicine.about.com/od/herbsupplementguide/a/HornyGoatWeed.htm
[3] http://www.hornygoatweedeffects.com/5-things-to-know-about-horny-goat-weed/
[4] http://www.hornygoatweedeffects.com/pros-and-cons-of-using-horny-goat-weed/

Main article researched and created by Alexander Leonhardt, © herbs-info.com 2013

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