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Horny goat weed (Epimedium spp.)

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Also listed as: Epimedium spp.
Related terms
Background
Evidencetable
Tradition
Dosing
Safety
Interactions
Attribution
Bibliography

Related Terms
  • Acetylicariin, acuminatoside, anhydroicaritin, apigenin, baohuoside I, baohuoside II, barrenwort, benzene, Berberidaceae (family), bishop's hat, breviflavone B, buxueyangyan mixture, caohuoside B, chrysoeriol, desmethylanhydroicaritin, desmethylicaritin, diphylloside A, diphylloside B, Epimedii folium, Epimedii herba, epimedin A, epimedin B, epimedin C, Epimedium acuminatum Franch., Epimedium brevicornum Maxim., Epimedium cremeum, Epimedium coactum, Epimedium davidii, Epimediumdiphyllum, Epimedium fargesii, Epimedium flavone, Epimedium grandiflorum Morr., Epimedium grandiflorum var. flavescens, Epimedium hunanense, Epimedium koreanum Nakai, Epimedium leishanense, Epimedium leptorrhizum, Epimedium myrianthum, Epimedium pubescens Maxim., Epimedium sagittatum (Sieb. et Zucc.) Maxim., Epimedium sempervirens, Epimedium truncatum, Epimedium wushanense T.S.Ying, Epimedii, epimedokoreanin B, epimedokoreanoside I, epimedoside A, epimedoside E, fairy wings, herba Epimedii, huichun zhibao, hyperin, hyperoside, icariin, icarisid I, icarisid II, icaritin, ikarisoside A, ikarisoside B, ikarisoside C, ikarisoside F, Japanese epimedium, kaempferol, korepimedoside A, korepimedoside B linolenic acid, luteolin, magnoflorine, oleic acid, O-methylicariin, palmitic acid, prenyflavone, quercetin, rowdy lamb herb, sagittatoside A, sagittatoside B, sterols, syringaresinol, tannin, vitamin E, wanepimedoside A, xian ling pi, xianlinpi, xin-qin granule (long-spur epimedium), yangheye, yin yang huo, zuo-gui-wan.
  • Selected combination products: Enzyte® (Epimedium, niacin, Panax ginseng, Tribulus terrestris, Avena sativa (oat), zinc oxide, Lepidium meyenii (maca), Muira puama, Ginkgo biloba, L-arginine, and saw palmetto), Equiguard® (Epimedium brevicornum, Morindae officinalis, fructus Rosa laevigatae, Rubus chingii, Schisandra chinensis, Ligustrum lucidum, Cuscuta chinensis, Psoralea corylifolia, Astragalus membranaceus), Tangshenqing (TSQ) (Astragalus membranaceus, Panax notoginseng, Epimedium brevicornum, etc.), tian-huang-ling (larvae of silkworm with botrytis, milk vetch, long-spur epimedium), zuo-gui-wan (rehmannia, Chinese yam, wolfberry fruit, dogwood fruit, cyathula root, dodder seed, antler glue, tortoise plastron glue, Epimedium, morinda root).

Background
  • The leaves of as many as 15 Epimedium species are used to make yin yang huo, an herb in traditional Chinese medicine. The name literally means "obscene goat leaves of pulse plants," which is translated as "horny goat weed" in English. Epimedium species that are used to make horny goat weed grow in China and Korea. The leaf of the plant is most commonly used as medicine, although other parts may sometimes be used.
  • Horny goat weed is rarely used as a single ingredient. It is traditionally used as an ingredient in a tonic to help promote health.
  • There is a lack of well-designed studies to support the use of horny goat weed. The herb has been studied for possible benefits in clogged arteries, menopause, and sexual disorders. More research is needed to determine its safety and effectiveness.

Evidence Table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. GRADE *


Early studies suggest that horny goat weed extracts may help improve bone density. Although the results are promising, more research is needed before conclusions can be made.

C


Horny goat weed is traditionally used to treat heart disease. Some research has suggested that the herb may improve symptoms of blood vessel diseases. More studies are needed before firm conclusions can be made.

C


Some research has suggested that a combination of horny goat weed and Chinese yam may improve symptoms and quality of life in people who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Although this is promising, more research is needed in this area.

C


Some research has suggested that horny goat weed extract may benefit sex hormone and lipid levels in postmenopausal women. More research is needed before firm conclusions can be made in this area.

C


Early research suggests that a horny goat weed mixture with or without alprostadil may improve symptoms of diabetic kidney disease. Although this is promising, more research is needed before firm conclusions can be made.

C


Early research suggests that a combination product containing horny goat weed may help treat polycystic ovarian syndrome. More research is needed in this area.

C


Horny goat weed is traditionally used to increase fertility. Early research suggests that the herb may improve sexual performance and quality of life in people being treated for kidney failure. However, more research is needed before conclusions can be made.

C
* Key to grades

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use
B: Good scientific evidence for this use
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)


Tradition / Theory

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

  • Abortion, adrenal gland stimulation, aging, allergy/hay fever, Alzheimer's disease, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, asthma, blood thinner, breathing difficulty, cancer, chronic bronchitis, cold prevention, cough, erectile dysfunction, exercise performance enhancement, fatigue, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, HIV/AIDS, hyperhomocysteinemia (high homocysteine levels in blood), immune stimulation, immune suppression, infertility, irregular menstrual cycles, kidney protection, liver disease (chronic), liver protection, low white blood cell count, memory, menopause, muscle ache, nerve disorders, nerve regeneration, pain, paralysis, quality of life, sexual arousal, thyroid disorders, tonic.

Dosing

Adults (18 years and older)

  • In general, various traditional doses have been used. These include 6-15 grams of horny goat weed daily, a decoction (made from five grams of horny goat weed simmered in 250 milliliters of water for 10-15 minutes) three times daily, horny goat weed granules, powdered horny goat weed herb in capsules, or five milliliters of 20% tincture three times daily before meals.
  • To treat chest pain, four to six 0.3-gram tablets (equivalent to 2.7 grams of raw material in each tablet) have been taken by mouth twice daily for one month, stopped for 7-10 days, then continued in a second series.
  • To treat chronic bronchitis, four to six 0.3-gram tablets (equivalent to 2.7 grams of raw material in each tablet) have been taken by mouth twice daily for one month, stopped for 7-10 days, then continued in a second series.
  • To treat hormonal effects in postmenopausal women, 300 milliliters of horny goat weed extract has been taken by mouth daily for six months.
  • To treat nerve disorders, four to six 0.3-gram tablets (equivalent to 2.7 grams of raw material in each tablet) have been taken by mouth twice daily for one month, stopped for 7-10 days, then continued in a second series.
  • Doses of two milliliters of horny goat weed (equivalent to one gram of raw material) have been injected into the muscle.

Children (under 18 years old)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose for horny goat weed in children.

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • Avoid if allergic or sensitive to horny goat weed (Epimedium grandiflorum), its parts, or related plants in the Berberidaceae family.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • In general, horny goat weed is well tolerated. Side effects related to the stomach appear to be most common.
  • Horny goat weed may cause diarrhea, dry mouth, fever, muscle spasms, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Horny goat weed is possibly safe when taken by mouth at commonly used dosages (about five grams daily). It is possibly safe when taken by mouth as 300 milliliters of horny goat weed extract daily for up to six months.
  • Use cautiously in people who have heart disease. Horny goat weed may cause changes in heart rhythm.
  • Horny goat weed may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people with blood pressure disorders or in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that lower blood pressure.
  • Use cautiously in people who have musculoskeletal disorders. Horny goat weed may worsen symptoms.
  • Use cautiously in people who have mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder. Horny goat weed may cause aggression or irritability.
  • Use cautiously in people who have immune disorders. Horny goat weed may affect the immune system or worsen symptoms.
  • Horny goat weed may increase the risk of bleeding. It may cause nosebleed. Caution is advised in people with bleeding disorders or those taking drugs that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.
  • Use cautiously in people who are taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
  • Use cautiously in people who have homocysteine disorders.
  • Use cautiously in people who have thyroid disorders. Horny goat weed may affect thyroid activity.
  • Use cautiously in people who have respiratory disorders. Horny goat weed may cause breathing difficulty when taken in large doses.
  • Use cautiously in people who have dizziness. Horny goat weed may cause dizziness.
  • Use cautiously in children and in pregnant or breastfeeding women, due to a lack of safety information.
  • Avoid in people who have hormonal disorders or those taking birth control. Horny goat weed may affect hormone levels.
  • Avoid in people who have yin deficiency, based on Chinese philosophy.
  • Avoid if allergic or sensitive to horny goat weed (Epimedium grandiflorum), its parts, or related plants in the Berberidaceae family.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • There is a lack of scientific evidence on the use of horny goat weed during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Interactions

Interactions with Drugs

  • Horny goat weed may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, antiplatelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).
  • Horny goat weed may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking drugs that lower blood pressure.
  • Horny goat weed may also interact with agents that may affect blood vessel width, agents that may affect heart rate, agents that may affect the immune system, agents that may affect the nervous system, agents that may treat liver disorders, agents that may treat heart disorders, androgens, antiaging agents, anticancer agents, antivirals, birth control, cholesterol-lowering agents, fertility agents, hormonal agents, kidney agents, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), osteoporosis agents, steroids, and thyroid agents.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Horny goat weed may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.
  • Horny goat weed may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking herbs or supplements that lower blood pressure.
  • Horny goat weed may interact with androgenics, antiaging herbs and supplements, anticancer herbs and supplements, antioxidants, antivirals, birth control, cholesterol-lowering herbs and supplements, fertility herbs and supplements, herbs and supplements that may affect blood vessel width, herbs and supplements that may affect heart rate, herbs and supplements that may affect the immune system, herbs and supplements that may affect the nervous system, herbs and supplements that may treat heart disorders, herbs and supplements that may treat liver disorders, hormonal herbs and supplements, kidney herbs and supplements, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), osteoporosis herbs and supplements, steroidal herbs and supplements, and thyroid herbs and supplements.

Attribution
  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

Bibliography
  1. Chen KM, Ge BF, Ma HP, et al. The serum of rats administered flavonoid extract from Epimedium sagittatum but not the extract itself enhances the development of rat calvarial osteoblast-like cells in vitro. Pharmazie 2004;59(1):61-64.
  2. Ho CC, Tan HM. Rise of herbal and traditional medicine in erectile dysfunction management. Curr Urol Rep. 2011;12(6):470-478.
  3. Li J, Lee L, Gong Y, et al. Bioassays for estrogenic activity: development and validation of estrogen receptor (ERalpha/ERbeta) and breast cancer proliferation bioassays to measure serum estrogenic activity in clinical studies. Assay.Drug Dev.Technol. 2009;7(1):80-89.
  4. Lin CC, Ng LT, Hsu FF, et al. Cytotoxic effects of Coptis chinensis and Epimedium sagittatum extracts and their major constituents (berberine, coptisine and icariin) on hepatoma and leukaemia cell growth. Clin Exp.Pharmacol.Physiol 2004;31(1-2):65-69.
  5. Liu TZ, Chen CY, Yiin SJ, et al. Molecular mechanism of cell cycle blockage of hepatoma SK-Hep-1 cells by Epimedin C through suppression of mitogen-activated protein kinase activation and increased expression of CDK inhibitors p21(Cip1) and p27(Kip1). Food Chem Toxicol. 2006;44(2):227-235.
  6. Ma H, He X, Yang Y, et al. The genus Epimedium: an ethnopharmacological and phytochemical review. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011;134(3):519-541.
  7. Ma A, Qi S, Xu D, et al. Baohuoside-1, a novel immunosuppressive molecule, inhibits lymphocyte activation in vitro and in vivo. Transplantation 9-27-2004;78(6):831-838.
  8. Oh MH, Houghton PJ, Whang WK, et al. Screening of Korean herbal medicines used to improve cognitive function for anti-cholinesterase activity. Phytomedicine. 2004;11(6):544-548.
  9. Partin JF and Pushkin YR. Tachyarrhythmia and hypomania with horny goat weed. Psychosomatics 2004;45(6):536-537.
  10. Philips M, Sullivan B, Snyder B, et al. Effect of Enzyte on QT and QTc intervals. Arch Intern Med. 2010;170(15):1402-1404.
  11. Sun Y, Fung KP, Leung PC, et al. Characterization of medicinal Epimedium species by 5S rRNA gene spacer sequencing. Planta Med 2004;70(3):287-288.
  12. Wang ZQ and Lou YJ. Proliferation-stimulating effects of icaritin and desmethylicaritin in MCF-7 cells. Eur.J Pharmacol. 11-19-2004;504(3):147-153.
  13. Wu H, Lien EJ, and Lien LL. Chemical and pharmacological investigations of Epimedium species: a survey. Prog.Drug Res 2003;60:1-57.
  14. Yan FF, Liu Y, Liu YF, et al. Herba Epimedii water extract elevates estrogen level and improves lipid metabolism in postmenopausal women. Phytother.Res. 2008;22(9):1224-1228.
  15. Zhao YL, Song HR, Fei JX, et al. The effects of Chinese yam-epimedium mixture on respiratory function and quality of life in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. J Tradit Chin Med. 2012;32(2):203-207.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)


The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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