Epimedium are a genus of plants that are commonly known as Horny Goat Weed. They have also been known as Rowdy Lamb Herb, Bishop's Hat, Barrenwort, and Fairy Wings. It has been said that a Chinese goat herder noticed that after consuming this herb, his goats became more sexually active. Consequently, Epimedium has been popularised as a potential aphrodisiac.
Although Epimedium was popularised in China, they are commonly cultivated throughout many western countries such as the USA.
Benefits from consuming Epimedium largely come from the Icariin flavonoid present in the herb. This compound has an action on a few different biological pathways, including nitric oxide synthesis (Chiu et al, 2006).
Epimedium is best known for its potential to increase male libido. Because of the large amounts of anecdotal evidence surrounding this herb, scientists also recently also became curious about the efficacy of this herb. Indeed, it does not take long to find some supporting evidence behind using Epimedium. First of all it has been shown that Horny Goat Weed extract does exhibit an effect similar to, although not as potent, as Viagra (Ning et al, 2006). Although there have been numerous positive effects on animal models, there have not yet been any studies performed on people (Ho & Tan, 2011).
In animal models, Epimedium has been found to increase the level of blood testosterone compared to controls (Zhang & Yang, 2006). It has also been reported that supplements containing Epimedium can cause an increase in testosterone to the point that doctors suspected anabolic steroid use (McDonald et al, 2011). Such increases in testosterone, coupled with increases in nitric oxide production (Chiu et al, 2006) are likely to result in increased strength and lean gains when combined with weight training.
Epimedium has been used as a traditional herbal aphrodisiac for centuries, and it is likely to be safe. However, this herb has not currently been as well studied by the scientific community as some other herbs. One investigation showed that Epimedium was not mutagenic, but may be toxic at 80 g/kg (Sui et al, 2006).
Due to the lack of trials in human subjects, it is difficult to establish the recommended dosage for this ingredient. Animal studies suggest that this may be 15 to 30 mg/kg/day (Ou & Li, 2010), which translates to about 1 to 2 g per day. This ingredient can be taken either before workouts and/or before bed.
Epimedium can be found as stand-alone supplement as a herb or tablet/capsule. It can also be found in testosterone boosters.
Epimedium can be stacked with oestrogen blockers and other testosterone boosting herbs such as tribulus terrestris and long jack. You can consider adding horny goat weed to your existing testosterone booster if it is not already an ingredient.
Chiu et al (2006), Epimedium brevicornum Maxim extract relaxes rabbit corpus cavernosum through multitargets on nitric oxide/cyclic guanosine monophosphate signaling pathway. Int J Impot Res, 18: 335-342
Ho & Tan (2011), Rise of Herbal and Traditional Medicine in Erectile Dysfunction Management. Curr Urol Rep, 12: 470-478
McDonald et al (2011), A novel case of a raised testosterone and LH in a young man. Clinica Chimica Acta, 415: 21-22
Ning et al (2006), Effects of icariin on phosphodiesterase-5 activity in vitro and cyclic guanosine monophosphate level in cavernous smooth muscle cells. Urology, 68: 1350-1354
Ou & Li (2010), Effect on enhancing physical strength and anti-stress activity of flavonoids from the Chinese medicinal plant Epimedium koreanum Nakai, Scientific Research and Essays, 5: 883-886
Sui et al (2006), The Safety Evaluation of Herba Epimedii Water Extract. Carcinogenesis, Teratogenesis & Mutagenesis, DOI: CNKI:SUN:ABJB.0.2006-06-007
Zhang & Yang (2006), The testosterone mimetic properties of icariin. Asian J Androl, 8: 601–605