Horny Goat Weed: More Than Just a Name
“Behind the funny name of horny goat weed stands a time-tested aphrodisiac that increases libido in men and women, and improves erectile function in men.” – Chris Kilham, Discovery Health
Epimedium, known in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) also as horny goat weed, enjoys over 2,000 years of use and a colorful folk heritage. The plant was reputedly a favorite of the sexually hyperactive yin yang, a mythic creature which enjoyed one hundred orgasms a day. Do not try this at home.
Today horny goat weed and its extracts are recommended for enhancing libido in both men and women and for improving male sexual function. The plant is also widely employed to relieve symptoms of PMS and menopause. The flavonoid icariin is presumed to be responsible for these unique activities, but this has not been conclusively established.
At a recent dinner with a group of six medical doctors in Shanghai, I asked how effective the plant really is. Doctors Diao Yuan Kuang and Xiao Tong Shen, both clinicians at China’s famous Longhua hospital told me that horny goat weed is unsurpassed in TCM both for sex enhancement and for relieving PMS and menopause-related symptoms. Each described a long and successful history of use of this plant, especially for women.
Horny goat weed has a hypotensive effect, and may be contraindicated for people with very low blood pressure. Because TCM is basically “teapot medicine,” a supplementary dosage for horny goat weed is hard to establish. The recommended intake of 6 – 12 grams of the herb boiled as tea probably translates roughly into 250 – 500 milligrams of extract standardized to 10% icariin. Let your experience be your guide.
Behind the funny name of horny goat weed stands a time-tested aphrodisiac that increases libido in men and women, and improves erectile function in men. Known also as Epimedium or Yin Yang Huo, horny goat weed was first described in ancient classical Chinese medicinal texts. Today, horny goat weed holds an important place in Traditional Chinese Medicine and is gaining popularity around the world.
Used by practitioners for over 2,000 years, horny goat weed is several species of epimedium, a leafy plant which grows in the wild, most abundantly at higher altitudes. The leaves of the plant contain a variety of flavonoids, polysaccharides, sterols and an alkaloid called magnaflorine. And while the exact way that horny goat weed works remains unknown, the plant has long been employed to restore sexual fire, boost erectile function, allay fatigue and alleviate menopausal discomfort.
When I decided to research horny goat weed in China, I made contact with Shanghai Dingxun Botanical Products, which makes extracts of horny goat weed, informing them of my intended visit. With plans laid and backpacks of film and camera equipment, we boarded a jet in Boston and headed off to Shanghai, on the southeastern coast of mainland China and the East China Sea.
What the Experts Say
On our first evening in hot, tropical Shanghai, we gathered for dinner with six of Shanghai’s top doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The group at our table constituted a Chinese medical brain trust of such grand stature; we were humbled to sit in the same room. As we ate, Medical Doctor Diao Yuan Kuang explained the virtues of TCM.
“There was this legendary goat like creature called the Yin Yang Huo that had sex over a hundred times a day.When plants have myths attached to them—especially significant myths—that’s an indication that they’re held in very high regard. That’s always an important tip off for me. With Horny Goat Weed there certainly is.” – Chris Kilham, Sex, Love & Intimacy, Personal Life Media
“Our tradition of practice is 5,000 years old. We know from very good experience that TCM is highly effective. We successfully treat many difficult diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and Parkinson’s. In TCM, we look at the whole person, while Western physicians look at the disease. And we rely on herbs and foods to treat most health problems.”
I popped the question foremost on my mind. “What do you think about epimedium?” I asked. “Is it truly effective as a sex enhancer?” There were smiles all around, and the affirmative shaking of heads. “Oh, yes, yes,” exclaimed Dr. Kuang. “We have all used epimedium for decades in our practices. It is the very best sexual tonic for both men and women.”
I probed further. Does the plant truly help with erectile function as some claim? Both Dr. Kuang and Dr. Xiao Tong Shen explained that in clinical practice, they have used epimedium to successfully treat erectile problems, to boost waning libido, and to rebuild youthful sexual vitality. “It gives you back your sexual strength,” noted Dr. Kuang with emphasis. Hearing unequivocal confirmation of horny goat weed’s sex-enhancing effects from the top docs in China gave me confidence that the plant is the real deal.
The Bozhou Herb Market
When I told Jerry Wu, president of Dingxun Botanicals, that I wanted to see herb markets, he took that as a clear request to take us to the largest herb market on Earth. “We are going to the herb market in Bozhou, which will require a little travel.” Jerry told us. The 12-hour road trip took us from Shanghai, on the coast of Jiangsu Province, to China’s Central Plains region at the far northwestern corner of neighboring Anhui Province. The agriculturally diverse region is also home to large-scale cultivation of numerous crops, including an astounding 600,000 acres of medicinal herbs!
Bozhou has a history of more than 400 years in the commercial cultivation and trading of medicinal herbs, and the city is home to the annual Chinese national medicinal herbs fair. Of the four major herb markets in China, Bozhou is the largest. Occupying 85 acres, the market is home to more than 6,000 traders who sell their healthful wares five days a week, at an annual sales volume of about $600 million U.S.
No amount of prior explanation could have adequately prepared us for the grand scale of the market, which was jammed with thousands of people and thousands of herbal displays. Large jute and hemp sacks of loose herbs stood packed against each other from one end of the hall to the other. As we struggled through pressing crowds, Jerry explained the use of various medicinal herbs.
When dealers noticed our apparent interest in epimedium, they broke out in smiles. “Very good for sex,” one told us. Another remarked, “That will make you sexually strong.” The comments we received were pretty universal. I inquired into the tonnage of horny goat weed that sold every year. Nobody knew for sure, but traders estimated sales of over 100 tons per year. Without a doubt, amidst the awesome spectacle of the world’s largest herb market, horny goat weed was declared the reigning king of herbal sex enhancers.
A Mountain of Horny Goat Weed
After our stay in Bozhou, we headed in a southeasterly direction toward Tianmushan, a large mountain area in the northern corner of Zhejiang Province. About ten hours of hard driving put us there. The next day as we climbed the majestic Tianmu Mountain, a botanist named Sheng explained the collection of epimedium, horny goat weed.
“All epimedium is picked wild. It grows all over, so there is a lot. We only ever pick the leaves, never the roots. So epimedium is always there. And since nobody applies any chemicals to the wild plants, it is clean and pure.”
The tropical sun beat down on us when we stepped out of the woods, and we were drenched in sweat as we made our way up the mountain. “Most of the epimedium on the mountain has already been picked this year,” Sheng informed us. “But further up near the peak we will find plenty. The pickers don’t like to climb that high.” Farther up we came to a rock outcropping, where we saw clusters of epimedium.
From that point on toward the peak we found numerous clusters which had escaped the attention of pickers who had collected the plant only a month before. It was no Everest climb, but it wasn’t a walk in the park either. We were hot, soaked with sweat, and elated.
What About Supplements?
You’re not likely to travel to Tianmushan to pick horny goat weed. Instead, you’ll probably walk into a health food store where horny goat weed supplements are available. Look for supplements that supply approximately 500 milligrams of horny goat weed per capsule. The best products are those which are standardized to a flavonoid called icariin.
You’ll find horny goat weed products which contain 10 percent icariin. Two to four capsules per day should be sufficient to boost flagging libido and juice up your sex life. Remember that horny goat weed has been used safely for more than 2,000 years. The reason? It works.