Horny goat weed is a traditional Chinese medicinal herb. Some claim it can help treat erectile dysfunction and osteoporosis. However, scientific evidence to support this is limited.

People used the herb as an alternative medication for:

Human research data to support the use of horny goat weed is limited at best. However, some anecdotal evidence and animal and cell studies claim health benefits.

This article explores the uses, dosages, and side effects of horny goat weed.

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Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common problem affecting people of all ages, particularly those over 40. Estimates claim that 30-50 million people in the United States experience ED. At times, people may experience psychological conditions, such as depression or anxiety, that may cause or contribute to ED.

Many people claim that horny goat weed can be a natural remedy for ED. However, these claims are often anecdotal, and research is lacking.

An older study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine assessed the effects of horny goat weed on nerve damage in animals and cellular trials. The researchers reported that icariin, the active component of horny goat weed, might show positive and promising effects in treating ED resulting from nerve injury.

Although there is some evidence that horny goat weed may help treat the cellular mechanisms of ED, additional research is necessary.

At this time, there is not enough research to confirm the safety of horny goat weed during or after pregnancy. A 2020 paper published in Medicine did, however, evaluate its potential application as a treatment for infertility.

The findings suggest that horny goat weed may improve endometrial thickness in people with a thin endometrium. The endometrium is the lining of the uterus.

An endometrium less than 7 millimeters (mm) during ovulation may make embryo implantation more difficult. The researchers cite the need for more comprehensive studies.

Learn more about endometrial thickness here.

Horny goat weed and breastfeeding

There are also unknowns about nursing while supplementing with horny goat weed. The Department of Health and Human Services advises against herbal supplements while breastfeeding or chestfeeding.

Studies have yet to identify the potential risks of horny goat weed consumption in pregnancy on fetuses, newborns, and children so a person should not use it.

Horny goat weed may have other potential benefits. However, research into other uses primarily involves animal and cellular studies and there is a lack of definitive human evidence to confirm many of its uses.

For example, a 2017 review found that horny goat weed may have antiosteoporosis properties in rats menopausal rats.

Other cell research has revealed the following possible effects:

  • anticancer effects
  • radiosensitizing effects
  • reversal of multidrug resistance in some tumor cells

Atherosclerosis is a condition where the arteries in the neck harden. For people with atherosclerosis, a mixture containing horny goat weed may be beneficial and result in improved symptoms and clinical tests.

People with hay fever may experience symptom relief from an herbal preparation featuring horny goat weed, according to older findings cited in ISRN Allergy.

However, those in the study took a supplement containing several other herbs, making it difficult to assess the value of horny goat weed for allergies on its own.

As with any medications, herbs, and supplements, it is important for people to speak with their doctor before using horny goat weed. A doctor can work out its safety and dosage based on an individual’s needs and medical history.

Alternative medication should not take the place of traditional medication. People should also follow recommendations from their primary care practitioner.

As with any medication or herbal supplement, some people may experience side effects or adverse reactions when using horny goat weed. Possible side effects may include:

  • breathing problems
  • racing heart
  • increased energy
  • sweating
  • feelings of being hot

It is important for people to speak with a doctor about these or any other side effects that occur with the use of horny goat weed.

Horny goat weed may have negative interactions with certain medications, including:

People should not take horny goat weed if they:

  • have hormone-sensitive cancer, as the herb has been shown to promote estrogen production
  • have heart disease, as it can potentially lead to rapid, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, and excitability
  • have a known sensitivity to Epimedium
  • are taking aromatase inhibitors such as anastrozole, exemestane, and letrozole
  • a doctor advises against it

Anyone considering using horny goat weed should discuss it with their doctor first. Health experts can determine if horny goat weed is right for someone and what the appropriate dosing would be.

There have not been enough studies to recommend the use of this herb and to ensure its safety.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other government agencies do not monitor the quality, purity, or safety of herbs and extra caution is recommended.

More studies are needed to guarantee safety and identify potential side effects. If anyone does purchase herbs, they should be sure to buy from a known and reputable source.

Horny goat weed is commonly used as an alternative herbal medicine for ED.

The herb has ties to traditional Chinese medicine. However, clinical studies on the purported benefits of horny goat weed have yet to confirm its efficacy.