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Herb Reference Guide



This plant comes from the Berberidaceae family and is endemic to China. There are about 50 species of this plant and most of the species exhibit similar characteristics. Horny Goat Weed, the common name of this plant, surely raises some eyebrows and deserves some brief explanation. Legend has it that a Chinese goat herder noticed an unusually high amount of sexual activity from a flock that was grazing on this plant. The name stuck, but other common names for this plant come from the shape of the flower; Bishop’s Cap and Fairy Wings. This points to the importance of using the latin binomial system of identifying plant material used as medicine since often times there are many common names based on regional preference and use. Using the scientific name makes it very clear which genus and species you have.


One of the active constituents that have received the most attention in this plant is Icariin. This is a flavonol component related to Kaempferol. There are numerous activities associated with this constituent, including antioxidant properties, circulatory supportive and cardiovascular supportive properties.* A research review of Icariin revealed several references to the inhibition of Phosphodiesterase type 5.* This mechanism may explain the use of Epimedium as to support stamina and optimize performance in men.*

Uses of Epimedium


This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.

Active Constituents

Icariin (flavonol glycosides)

Parts Used

  • Herb

Important precautions

Not for use during pregnancy. If you have a medical condition or take pharmaceutical drugs please consult your doctor prior to use.

Additional Resources

Jiang Z, Hu B, Wang J, et al. (2006). “Effect of icariin on cyclic GMP levels and on the mRNA expression of cGMP-binding cGMP-specific phosphodiesterase (PDE5) in penile cavernosum”. J. Huazhong Univ. Sci. Technol. Med. Sci. 26 (4): 460-2.

Xie J, Sun W, Duan K, Zhang Y (June 2007). “Chemical constituents of roots of Epimedium wushanense and evaluation of their biological activities”. Nat. Prod. Res. 21 (7): 600-5.