Epimedium is a herb that belongs to the genus of plants and family Berberidaceae. Other names for epimedium are Yin yang Huo, horny goat weed, barrenwort, bishop’s hat, and fairy wings. The geographic location of these herbs is mostly in China. Epimedium is an evergreen and deciduous spider-like plant, which grows in spring.
It is used as a dietary supplement for several health purposes. It is a Chinese traditional medicinal herb. Furthermore, it is beneficial in treating several medical conditions like erectile dysfunction, osteoporosis, fatigue, nerve pain, hay fever, and atherosclerosis.
History of epimedium:
Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist, named epimedium species in the year 1753. There are 65 accepted species for the epimedium plant. Western areas are harvesting some hybrids and varieties of epimedium herb for 100-150 years. West cultivates an array of these Chinese herbs while many of these herbs are yet to name (newly discovered).
Botanists found several new species of epimedium in the year 1990 due to the hard work of Darrell Probst ( Massachusetts) and Mikinori Ogisu (Japan). Farmers found the epimedium plant when they noticed an increase in the sexual activities of goats. These goats grazed on epimedium farms.
Mechanism of action
Epimedium species have been utilized for the treatment of erectile dysfunction in Traditional Chinese Medicine for many years. Icariin is the most active component of Epimedium species, and it has been demonstrated to exert inhibitory activity against phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5). In addition to an erection-promoting role, Icariin has testosterone-mimetic properties. Finally, Icariin has also been demonstrated to increase the intracavernous pressure (ICP) response in penile tissue triggered by cavernous nerve stimulation and enhances nitric oxide production.
Effects of icariin on phosphodiesterase-5 activity in vitro and cyclic guanosine monophosphate level in cavernous smooth muscle cells. Ning H, Xin ZC, Lin G, Banie L, Lue TF, Lin CS. Urology. 2006 Dec; 68(6):1350-4.
Potent inhibition of human phosphodiesterase-5 by icariin derivatives. Dell’Agli M, Galli GV, Dal Cero E, Belluti F, Matera R, Zironi E, Pagliuca G, Bosisio EJ. Nat Prod. 2008 Sep; 71(9):1513-7.
The testosterone mimetic properties of icariin. Zhang ZB, Yang QT. Asian J Androl. 2006 Sep; 8(5):601-5.
Icariin enhances endothelial nitric-oxide synthase expression on human endothelial cells in vitro. Xu HB, Huang ZQ. Vascular Pharmacol. 2007 Jul; 47(1):18-24.