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ED is a common and embarrassing problem that can be tricky to manage. Although Viagra is always an option, supplements provide another avenue of treatment. Horny goat weed is a potential supplement but is just all-name with no delivery? Read to find out.

Currently, it is estimated that 20 percent of men are suffering from erectile dysfunction [1]. This is not a disease limited to the elderly and even males in their 20s and 30s are susceptible to erectile insufficiency [2]. The etiologies of this erectile dysfunction vary and can be due to chronic circulatory problems, medication side effects or even anxiety disorders [3]. Although treatment options are available, there is an inherent stigma about taking medications like Viagra so many patients may be reluctant to utilize the "little blue pill." Thankfully, natural supplements for erectile dysfunction are available over-the-counter to help alleviate some of these erectile problems. In previous articles, I have discussed some of the vitamins and dietary supplements for ED that you could consider that could help your erectile dysfunction. We have already found that supplements like DHEA increase libido and L-arginine offers help for erectile dysfunction and they can be used to help improve erections, but they are not entirely reliable. In this article, we are going to review another natural supplement that goes by the name of horny goat weed. Regardless of how promising the name may sound, we are going to review medical studies to determine "can horny goat weed treat erectile dysfunction?" 

Mechanism of Action of Horny Goat Weed 

Horny goat weed is a herbal supplement that has been used for centuries and is now one of the most common active ingredients in sexual enhancement supplements. To finally put an end to the suspense, horny goat weed got its name because of its aphrodisiac properties. According to legend, ancient Chinese goat farmers noticed that after goats consumed this herb, they were more sexually active, and farmers began experimenting with the compound themselves. [4]

The active ingredient that is believed to give horny goat weed its potency is a compound referred to as icariin. This compound is believed to increase nitric oxide (NO) synthesis in the penis. If you don't remember from previous articles, NO helps dilate your capillaries and bring more blood into tissues [5]. This is essential to create and maintain an erection. As a compound by itself, icariin has low oral bioavailability, poor absorption, and a short plasma half-life. This essentially means that if you take it as a monotherapy, your stomach will destroy everything for it has a chance to work. Thankfully, if it is taken within a capsule, the outside layer will protect it. 

It appears that the compound is relatively safe and toxicity is limited to just minor nausea and potentially upset stomachs. In one case, however, a patient did develop tachycardia and had to stop supplementation. [6]

Is Horny Goat Weed Actually Effective? 

Now that we know the mechanism of action suggests that NO synthesis is increased, we can actually see if this horny goat weed supplement will make any difference. To prove to see if our ancient Chinese account of horny goat weed actually making goats horny, it would be wise to determine if this natural treatment for erectile dysfunction can actually work on animals. In one study, rats were given various dosages of icariin to determine if there was a beneficial effect on erectile potential. At the conclusion of the study, there was a consistent trend where the higher the icariin dose, the higher the NO levels in the rat tissue and more prolonged the erection. This shows that this could be one of the vitamins and dietary supplements for ED in animals, at least. [7]

We know that horny goat weed can improve the sex life of rats but this does little to impact humankind. Let's further our investigation with human trials. In this particular study, 78 male patients aged 25 to 50 were enrolled all suffering from mild to moderate erectile dysfunction. Patients received two tablets of icariin daily for a period of 12 weeks and erectile potential and sexual satisfaction was accessed at the end of the period. This study concluded with males receiving the icariin tablets significantly reported better erections than patients from the control groups. The improvement was almost 50 percent more erections compared to controls where no difference was realized. When asked if they would continue the product afterward, 90 percent of patients taking horny goat weed reported that they would be glad to continue the medication while only 3 percent of the control group felt it was worth consuming the product. More than 50 percent of those in the treated group also reported that their satisfaction levels were either "very good" or "excellent." [8]

All in all, when asked "can horny goat weed treat erectile dysfunction?" it appears that the answer is a resounding "yes!" Regardless of the name, this compound is well-tolerated, there are limited side effects, and patients showed a significant improvement compared to the controls proving that a "placebo effect" is not occurring. In this case, do as the goats do. 

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