What is Epimedium?
Many people turn to exotic sounding supplements to enjoy many health and beauty benefits, such as boosting memory or ageless skin. Epimedium, or Horny Goat Weed, as it is most often referred to, is one such supplement. Native to China, Epimedium has long been used in Chinese medicine to promote wellness and to boost mental acuity.
Epimedium is extracted from an evergreen flowering plant that comes from the Berberidaceae botanical family. This plant is native to the Mediterranean and Asia, but can mostly be found in China. In traditional Chinese medicine, the extract is called Xian Ling Pi or Yin Yang Huo and is commonly used to treat a variety of conditions.
Epimedium is often referred to as Horney Goat Weed because of its aphrodisiac affects. One legend claims that a herder noticed the amorous activities of goats after consuming the plant.
Other names for Epimedium are fairy wings, bishop’s hat, rowdy lamb herb, randy beef grass, and barrenwort.
How Does Epimedium Work?
Epimedium is loaded with antioxidant activity due to its flavonoid content. One main active ingredient in Epimedium is icariin. Icariin has been observed to relax the smooth muscle tissue, which controls the involuntary muscles. Researchers believe that Epimedium relaxes the central nervous system, allowing it to switch from flight or fight mode to rest mode.
Epimedium contains phytoestrogen, which mimics the effects of estrogen. It is believed that the phytoestrogen content in Epimedium helps with erectile dysfunction at a cellular level. If you are interested in taking Epimedium for this purpose, discuss the option with your physician, as this treatment is only effective when a certain strength of the extract is taken.
The flavonoid level contained within the Epimedium supplement determines the strength of Epimedium. The FDA doesn’t regulate supplements; so it is important to remember safety and efficacy are not necessarily guaranteed, so give your physician a call.
Benefits of Epimedium
Epimedium has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to treat a wide array of conditions and ailments. Currently there is no scientific evidence backing up the following claims, however, anecdotal evidence suggests the taking Epimedium may be effective for the following:
The aphrodisiac benefit should not come as any surprise, given the supplement’s nickname and history. It is believed that the icariin compound contained in the extract boosts desire by relaxing the smooth muscles and allowing blood to flow to all the necessary places.
When blood flow is unimpeded, everything works as it should. This is also believed to help assist with treating erectile dysfunction. More controlled studies need to be done to determine how effective this treatment is though.
2) Boosts Memory
The increased blood flow also encourages blood flow to and from the brain, boosting its overall functioning. Good blood flow to the brain helps enhance cognition and boost memory. Cognition is also believed to be enhanced by the supplement’s antioxidant activity.
3) Alleviates Menopause Symptoms
The phytoestrogen affect of Epimedium is believed to help balance estrogen and estradiol levels in menopausal women. Unpleasant symptoms often occur because a woman’s hormones are thrown out of whack during this time.
When balance occurs, a women is less likely to suffer from such symptoms as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and increased irritability.
4) Soothes PMS Symptoms
Epimedium’s balancing affect on hormones is also great for women experiencing hormone fluctuations during PMS. PMS is a significant condition, because it afflicts women every month and can have a negative impact on their life.
Some hallmark symptoms of PMS are irritability, cramps, breast tenderness, acne, nausea, etc. Epimedium helps to get these erratic hormones in balance, therefore toning down the unpleasant symptoms.
5) Prevents Bone Loss
Some preliminary studies have found that Epimedium may help prevent bone loss in menopausal women, due to it’s content of active phytochemicals and icariin.
6) Anti-Aging Effects
One of the most recognized beneficial effects of taking Epimedium are its anti-aging properties. Rich in antioxidants, Epimedium tracks down cell-damaging free radicals and helps to reverse the damage done.
Buying supplements like Epimedium can be tricky as there are many discrepancies and variations in labels, depending on what source you buy your supplements from. When shopping around for Epimedium, consider the following.
- The percentage of active ingredients, such as icariin, dictate the efficacy of the supplement. So if your physician recommends a certain percentage of icariin, check the label to make sure there is a match.
- Often when purchasing supplement, you’re not sure what other ingredients you’re getting. Because the FDA does not regulate supplements and vitamins, they are often diluted with other ingredients that make the supplement less potent or sometimes even dangerous.
- When choosing which supplement to take, make sure that the active ingredient makes up the majority of the supplement’s content. You get what you pay for, especially when it comes to Epimedium. Epimedium with high concentrations of icariin tend to be expensive, so be weary of cheaper versions, which might not contain any icariin at all.
Precautions and Side Effects
Before taking Epimedium, please consider the following:
- Always consult a physician before taking any supplement or vitamin, especially since they are not regulated by the FDA and may not be safe.
- There is currently no strong scientific research to back up the claims of Epimedium, so take with care.
- Some side effects have been reported when taking epimedium when taken in high doses. These side effects are dizziness, nausea, and increased thirst. To avoid these side effects, take only as directed.