Composition

Horny Goat Weed has 2,000 years used as a sex-enhancer in China.Many cultures report that horny goat weed supports libido, erectile function, and helps to relieve menopausal discomfort. One ingredient, maca, is reported to support erectile problems, for men and women with low libido, and for women undergoing menopause. Horny Goat Weed (epimedium) is comprised of several species of epimedium, a leafy plant which grows in the wild, most abundantly at higher altitudes.
Horny Goat Weed is used as an herbal aphrodisiac because it increases blood flow to the genital area. Referred to as Yin-Yang Huo in China, where it originates, Horny Goat Weed also lowers blood pressure by dilating capillaries and blood vessels while slowing the adrenal production that can prevent blood from reaching the genitalia. Epimedium is grown as an ornamental herb in Asia and the Mediterranean region, and various species are used for medicinal purposes, including Epimedium sagittatum, Epimedium brevicornum, Epimedium wushanense, Epimedium koreanum, and Epimedium pubescens.
The leaves of Horny Goat Weed contain a variety of flavonoids, polysaccharides, lignans, sesquiterpenes, phenolic and penethylol glycosides, ionones, sterols, and an alkaloid called magnaflorine.
Therapeutic effects of Horny Goat Weed include invigorating kidney function, reversing male and female infertility, strengthen tendons and bones, decreasing muscular spasm, relieving coughs and lowering blood pressure. The herb has also been used for liver and kidney toning and has improved the life of chronic renal failure patients in a Chinese study.

Horny Goat Weed Claims

Because of the traditional use of epimedium for treating fatigue and boosting sex drive, the majority of the claims for Western dietary supplements center around sex drive: ?Boosts libido (sex drive) ?Increases energy levels ?Enhances recovery from exercise (via cortisol-control) ?Makes you more sexy (not really, but this is what the ads would suggest)

Horny Goat Weed Theory

The use of epimedium as a medicinal herb dates back to at least 400 A.D., where it has been used as a tonic for the reproductive system (boosting libido and treating impotence) and as a rejuvenating tonic (to relieve fatigue). Epimedium is thought to work via modulation of cortisol levels (the primary stress hormone). Under conditions of high stress, the increased cortisol levels are known to cause fatigue and depress sex drive – so bringing cortisol levels back into normal ranges is also thought to help restore normal metabolism, energy levels and libido.

Scientific Support

Animal studies have shown that epimedium may function a bit like an adaptogen (such as cordyceps, rhodiola, ashwagandha, and ginseng) by increasing levels of epinephrine, norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine when they are low (an energy-promoting effect), but reducing cortisol levels when they are elevated (an anti-stress effect). There is also evidence that epimedium can restore low levels of both testosterone and thyroid hormone (bringing low levels back to their normal levels) – which may account for some of the benefits of epimedium in improving libido (sex drive). Animal studies using epimedium have shown a reduction in bone breakdown, an increase in muscle mass, and a loss of body fat-each of which may be linked to the observed return of abnormal cortisol levels back to normal values (and rhythm). In a series of studies conducted in humans and animals by Chinese researchers, immune-system function was directly suppressed and bone loss was accelerated, by using high-dose synthetic cortisol (glucocorticoid drugs). Subsequent administration of epimedium extract reduced blood levels of cortisol and improved immune immune-system function (in the humans) and slowed bone loss and strengthened bones (in the animals).

Safety

It is interesting to note that although at least 15 fifteen active compounds have been identified in epimedium extracts, (luteolin, icariin, quercetin, and various epimedins), many supplement companies currently use alcohol extracts standardized only for high levels of icariin. The traditional use of epimedium, however, is as a hot-water decoction (tea), which would result in a very different profile of active constituents when compared to the high-icariin alcohol extracts that are more commonly used in commercial products. Although at least one test test-tube study has shown icariin to protect liver cells from damage with by various toxic compounds, other feeding studies (in rodents) have suggested that high-dose icariin may be associated with kidney and liver toxicity. 

There have been no reports of adverse side effects associated with the traditional preparation of epimedium (water-extracted) at the suggested dosage (250 to 1,000mg per day).

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