Go to page content
All Things Health Team
Written by All Things Health Team

Reviewed by Dr Andre Budihardjo, MM and Physician Brandon Yew on October 7, 2022

Horny Goat Weed: The Ancient Natural Viagra to Get You Going

Make a long-lasting intimacy in your relationship. See how horny goat weed can enhance sexual function and libido.

Unique flowers of barrenwort, bishop's hat, fairy wing or horny goat weed

Most men have that one time — or several times — when they couldn’t get or keep an erection. It’s not just a man’s problem, as this can also affect their relationships. In Johor alone, the prevalence of self-reported erectile dysfunction is 81.5%, ranging from mild to severe. But, instead of reaching for Viagra, why not try horny goat weed? Don’t worry, it’s a herb that has been used for thousands of years. 

This heart-shaped leafy herb has many other names: yin yang huo, barrenwort, fairy wings, and rowdy lamb herb. It’s a natural aphrodisiac that contains icariin that works to inhibit phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5). In doing so, icariin relaxes the blood vessels, increases blood flow to the penis, and helps maintain an erection.

So, why is it named horny goat weed? Read on to learn the story behind this stimulant herb, how to use it, and a guide to consuming herbs for sexual health.

Millennia of Trial-and-Errors for Aphrodisiacs

Male virility isn’t just the basis of individual confidence. It is what it takes to drive success. Evolution favours successful individuals to leave behind descendants and having more mouths to feed in turn spurs the necessity to gather more resources. 

From emperors to peasants, the ancient Chinese experimented with numerous herbs and even minerals in search of the magic formula to boost or restore their manliness. While some of them worked, many came with horrible side effects and were eventually discarded. One unfortunate example was the actinolite (阳起石). It is a mineral that contains asbestos, which causes lung cancer. Another doomed concoction was the 5-mineral powder (五石散), which was, in fact, a slower-acting poison that eventually killed those who consumed it over prolonged periods.

Close up of male horned goat.
Legend has it that horny goat weed got its name from goats, which became sexually stimulated after consuming the plant.

Sometime during 420–589 AD, Chinese goat herders noticed that their goats went into heat more frequently, increased mating times, and fertility significantly improved after consuming the leaves of a plant. Shortly after, a renowned Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) physician, Hongjing Tao (陶弘景), confirmed its effectiveness in humans. He coined a name that befitted its discovery, horny goat weed (Herba Epimedii, 淫羊藿). It subsequently became the equivalent of Viagra. From then on, for over a thousand years, TCM physicians regularly prescribed horny goat weed to treat a variety of ailments, including sexual dysfunction.

Today, modern scientific methods have identified the active component of horny goat weed. It demonstrated to promote the healing of damaged penile nervous tissue in rats. Horny goat weed benefits include potentially helping treat erectile issues and nerve injuries in humans.

How is Horny Goat Weed Used in TCM?

According to Senior TCM Physician Brandon Yew from Real Health Medical clinic in Singapore, TCM physicians use horny goat weed as a tonic among the blend of herbs to improve sexual health. “You can consume it on its own or combined with other ingredients, though the latter is more common,” he says.

Horny goat weed is by nature, warm and pungent. Physician Yew explains, “It strengthens kidney yang (warm energy) and the kidneys govern sexual reproductive functions in TCM.” Thus, deficient or impaired kidney function will increase the risks of male erectile dysfunction (ED), impotence, and premature ejaculation, as well as infertility in women. 

As TCM physicians use horny goat weed as a tonic, its usage is not only for enhancing male libido or boosting reproductive capacity. According to Physician Yew, this ancient herb can also dispel Cold, Wind, and Dampness. This improves tolerance to cold, relieves musculoskeletal and joint pains, stiffness, spasms, and numbness. According to modern pharmacological studies, it is also effective against hay fever by reducing white blood cells as well as potentially being effective against atherosclerosis.

Asian traditional practitioner checking pulse of a patient before treatment
The general health condition of a person or a particular organ can be assessed by measuring the pulse in TCM.

Horny goat weed isn’t commonly used as a standalone herb. “Please consult a TCM professional as the doses and safety of use can differ from person to person, depending on their unique body constitution,” Physician Yew advises.

Alternatively, for individuals who do not have preexisting medical conditions or concerns but look to enhance performance in the bedroom, there are ready capsules based on general formulations with complementary herbs.

Things to take note of when consuming horny goat weed

In general, horny goat weed is a safe remedy for everyone. However, there are several groups of people who should not consume horny goat weed. “Generally avoid usage for those with yin (cool energy and bodily fluids)-deficient or yang-excess body condition. To be safe, please consult a TCM professional,” physician Yew explains. 

For the most part, it’s best to not self-medicate. Studies have shown that while horny goat weed can be a potent remedy for sexual dysfunction, consuming it in high doses can cause sweating, heatiness, mood changes, and heart palpitations. Therefore, this herb is not advisable for people with heart conditions. Additionally, pregnant and lactating women should avoid consuming this herb.

Other TCM Herbs with Similar Nature

In TCM, there are many similar herbs that enhance virility. A TCM physician may prescribe some of them together with horny goat weed, while others interchangeably. Here are some of the more common ones:  

  • Malaytea scurfpea fruit (bu gu zhi补骨脂): Warms the Kidneys and tonifies yang, secures essence and reduces urination, treats seminal emissions and impotence 
  • Songaria cynomorium herb (shuo yang锁阳): Tonifies Kidneys, invigorates yang 
  • Cistanche (rou cong rong肉苁蓉): Warm in nature. Strengthens Kidney yang and improves sexual reproductive function
  • Cordyceps (dong chong xia cao冬虫夏草): Tonifies Kidney yang, nourishes Kidney essence. Used to treat impotence and premature ejaculations with thin semen due to Kidney Deficiency 
  • American ginseng (hua qi shen or pao shen花旗参或老山泡参): The king of all herbs, ginseng is a reputed aphrodisiac that can help treat sexual dysfunction, enhance sexual behaviour, and increase fertility in men. 

All in all, horny goat weed might be a solution to your bedroom woes. Another tip to improve your performance in bed is not to stress over it. Try to relax and focus on your partner. Lastly, speak to your TCM physician to formulate the most suitable concoction for you according to your unique body conditions and sexual needs.

References

  1. PMC. 2010. Erectogenic and Neurotrophic Effects of Icariin, a Purified Extract of Horny Goat Weed (Epimedium spp.) In Vitro and In Vivo.  [Accessed 3 January 2022] 
  2. US National Library of Medicine. 2014. Sexual Enhancement Products for Sale Online: Raising Awareness of the Psychoactive Effects of Yohimbine, Maca, Horny Goat Weed, and Ginkgo biloba.  [Accessed 3 January 2022] 
  3. US National Library of Medicine. 2013. Ginseng and male reproductive function.  [Accessed 3 January 2022] 
  4. National Library of Medicine. 2019. Prevalence and predictors of erectile dysfunction in adult male outpatient clinic attendees in Johor, Malaysia.  [Accessed 6 January 2022] 
  5. Wiley. 2015. Horny Goat Weed.  [Accessed 6 January 2022] 
  6. PeaceHealth. 2015. Horny Goat Weed. [Accessed 6 January 2022]  

Share this article on

Was This Article Useful to You?

Want more healthy tips?

Get All Things Health in your mailbox today!

Subscribe to our newsletter

Related Articles

A person holding a ginger root freshly harvested from the ground. 
Wellness & Nutrition

Differences Between Fresh and Dried Ginger Roots

Fresh and dried ginger roots are both popular in cooking and medicinal use. While they may seem similar, they have different traits. Find out the differences and how you can add them to your diet.

Read More
A cup of green tea with dried leaves on a wooden top
Wellness & Nutrition

How Detox Tea Helps to Manage Cholesterol Levels

How could you flush bad cholesterol out? Lifestyle changes are needed, but for a start, add detox tea to your diet to help manage cholesterol levels.

Read More
Man pushes away unhealthy high blood pressure foods placed on while table to his left, while fresh vegetables are to his right.
Wellness & Nutrition

7 High Blood Pressure Foods to Avoid  

Knowing which high blood pressure foods to avoid helps address hypertension. We list the foods that are notorious for causing dangerously high blood pressure.

Read More

The contents of the All Things Health website are for informational and educational purposes only.
Our website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.