What Is Barrenwort (Epimedium)?
Barrenwort, more commonly known as Horny Goat Weed, is a herb that comes from the genus Epimedium. The evergreen plant is generally found in China but can also be found in other parts of Asia and in the Mediterranean. The flower has four small sepals that shed when the flower blooms. Because of its shape it is also known as the bishop’s hat. Epimedium can be grown and its seeds thrive in well-drained, moisture-retentive soil.
This native Chinese plant has been used for centuries in medicine throughout China, Japan, India and other Asian countries specifically to help improve sexual function and stimulate the libido. It is also used to stimulate kidney function and in traditional Chinese medicine is considered to be a yang tonic.
Yang is said to embody active outward energy which means that yang tonics are typically used to stimulate and to help the function of organs in the body. Barrenwort itself can be divided into dozens of species and subspecies. 15 of these species and subspecies are thought to have medicinal properties.
How Does Epimedium Work?
Epimedium or Barrenwort works by inhibiting the PDE-5 enzymes. Inhibiting PDE-5 enzymes is considered to be a first line of treatment for erectile dysfunction, which could explain Barrenwort’s effectiveness with improving sexual function. Barrenwort also raises nitric oxide and stimulates vasodilation or widening of the blood vessels. This can effectively increase blood flow without raising blood pressure.
The species of Barrenwort that have medicinal properties contain icariin, a flavonoid phytonutrient that can have many therapeutic effects, including the increase of circulation to sexual organs, increase in sex drive and erectile function. The stimulation of nitric oxide is attributed directly to icariin.
Barrenwort Uses and Benefits
Barrenwort is a beneficial herb that has a variety of uses. While the supplement is not approved by the FDA for treatment of medical conditions, anecdotal evidence suggests that it can beneficial for the following:
- other sexual dysfunction;
- osteoporosis and arthralgia;
- chronic mental and physical fatigue;
- memory loss;
- chronic bronchitis;
- coronary heart disease;
- high blood pressure;
- chronic hepatitis;
- postmenopausal bone tissue degeneration;
- viral myocarditis.
Barrenwort can have many health benefits. Other than its more widely known use as an aphrodisiac, Epimedium can help to increase levels of serotonin, dopamine, and epinephrine while reducing cortisol levels. This makes the supplement very effective for helping people who suffer from excessive stress. Reducing excess cortisol in the body can also lead to an improved immune system, increased muscle density, and reduced bone deterioration. It can also restore thyroid and testosterone levels.
In addition, the supplement has been used as an anti-asthmatic, anti-rheumatic, anti-bacterial, vasodilator, and cough suppressant. It has also been used as a hypoglycemic tonic to reduce blood sugar and in the treatment of arthritis, chronic bronchitis, viral infections in the heart, hypertension, lumbago, and weakness of limbs. There is some talk of Barrenwort being used for cancer although more studies need to be done in this area. Some studies, however, have successfully shown that icariin was able to inhibit tumor formation in certain types of cancer like breast cancer, leukemia and liver cancer.
Epimedium for Sexual Performance and ED
Barrenwort has been used as an aphrodisiac in eastern medicine and natural medicines for over a thousand years. Evidence shows that horny goat weed can alleviate symptoms of erectile dysfunction (ED), premature ejaculation (PE), and strengthen one’s libido. By stimulating blood flow to the penis, Barrenwort can help men to gain and keep an erection.
Since an erection occurs when blood fills the corpus cavernosum in the penis, vasodilation can expand the blood vessels and promote effective blood flow to that area.
Barrenwort also works to stimulate the male sex organs, much like testosterone, increasing the secretion of semen. PDE-5 compounds can prevent blood flow from reaching the penis effectively, resulting in erectile dysfunction. The icariin in Epimedium inhibits PDE-5 and does not have the long list of side effects that a synthetic PDE-5 inhibitor can have and can be thought of as safer than drugs such as Viagra, Cialis or Priligy.
Barrenwort and Bodybuilding
Because Barrenwort stimulates the release of nitric oxide and vasodilation, it is also used by bodybuilders. Improved blood flow contributes to faster repair and recovery time after a workout. Better circulation can deliver vitamins, blood-bound nutrients, and growth and repair hormones faster and more effectively throughout the body.
Studies show that the ingestion of icariin, the primary ingredient in Barrenwort, increases blood flow to the brain thereby improving learning and memory. In fact, some studies have shown that icariin can improve memory impairment in Alzheimer’s patients.
Also, a study done on icariin showed that the substance can protect neurons from memory loss. In particular, the use of icariin is said to help people who suffer from impaired spatial memory. So icariin can work both as a preventative measure against memory loss and can help to reverse memory loss that already exists.
Bone Loss Prevention
Epimedium has also been used in the treatment of osteoporosis. Studies showed that Barrenwort’s active ingredient, icariin was successful in suppressing the loss of bone mass and bone strength and increased trabecular bone mineral density. Some chemicals in Epimedium have estrogenic activity which makes them particularly helpful in preventing bone loss.
A 2007 study from the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research showed that phytoestrogen from Epimedium helps to prevent bone loss in late postmenopausal women over a two year period. Since the decrease of estrogen during menopause is thought to be a primary factor in the increased risk of osteoporosis and other bone disorders, Epimedium can be an effective treatment to help prevent bone loss.
Some studies done on Barrenwort suggest that the herb may also be effective in delaying aging and the onset of age-related diseases. While there is no one drug out there that can make us young again, Epimedium does have the ability to “reset” age-related metabolites through antioxidant properties. This protects the body against free radical damage and allows us to stay younger, longer.
Positive Influence on Mood
Since Epimedium is effective in lowering stress and reducing depression and anxiety, the supplement can help to greatly improve mood. It acts as an antidepressant by decreasing hyperactivity in the HPA axis (hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands axis) from decreasing cytokine levels. Mood can also be enhanced due to Barrenwort’s ability to increase sex drive, help with sexual dysfunction and promote good, healthy cognitive function.
Benefits for Women
A lot of men use Barrenwort in the treatment of their own sexual issues, but the herb can be an effective treatment for women as well. Since Epimedium can elevate mood, stimulate energy, and promote feelings of arousal, the supplement can be just as effective for women as for men. It’s particularly helpful for sexual dysfunction when that dysfunction arises from hormonal imbalances in the body. This herb is a part of herbal Viagra which is now available in pill form to purchase online.
Side Effects and Precautions
The main ingredient of Barrenwort, icariin can vary in concentration across different supplements but even in high quality brands that can have up to 60% icariin, the supplement is well tolerated with few side effects if it is taken correctly. Some side effects can occur with unusually high doses:
- gastrointestinal distress;
- tachyarrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms);
- decreased activity in the thyroid gland;
- joint pain;
- muscle spasms;
- increased aggression/irritability;
- shortness of breath/difficulty breathing.
Side effects compared to other sexual enhancing herbs:
|Horny Goat Weed||Ginkgo Biloba||Maca|
|Fever||Head rush||Altered menstrual cycle|
|Increased heart rate||Anxiety||Painful intestinal cramps|
|Aggressiveness||Feeling blood warming||Severe gastritis|
|Irritability||Tinnitus||Increased blood pressure|
|Increased heart rate||Moodiness|
|Dizziness||Increased heart rate|
|Anxiety and nausea||Worse PMS symptoms|
Barrenwort is largely thought to be quite safe if taken in the proper dosage. However, you should consult with your doctor if you’re taking prescription medications or have any medical conditions. It is possible for Epimedium to interact adversely with prescription, herbal, and over-the-counter medications. Specifically, it may interact with anticoagulant/antiplatelet drugs by increasing the effectiveness of the medication which can lead to risk of excessive bleeding.
Is Barrenwort Safe?
The icariin in Barrenwort may also interact with antihypertensive drugs. Because it has hypotensive effects it can cause blood pressure to drop too much when used in conjunction with antihypertensive medication. It’s also contraindicated for the drugs Vasotec, Altace, Zestril, Prinivil, Capoten, and Lisinopril. Side effects can also occur when combined with estrogenic compounds, although the likelihood of this is low.
Epimedium does not seem to interact with any foods but take care when using in conjunction with herbs and supplements such as ginkgo biloba, cloves, red clover, quassia, angelica, garlic, ginger, turmeric, stinging nettle, L-arginine, danshen, willow, lycium, coenzyme Q10, theanine, fish oil, cat’s claw, and casein peptides.
To Use or Not to Use?
Barrenwort can be found for sale through online pharmacies. It comes in various forms such as tablets, pills, leaf extract powders and capsules. As of now, it does not come in paste form.