Horny goat weed can be used to restore sexual fire.

©iStockphoto.com/Brandon Blinkenberg

Behind the funny name of horny goat weed stands a time-tested aphrodisiac that increases libido in men and women, and improves erectile function in men. Known also as Epimedium or Yin Yang Huo, horny goat weed was first described in ancient classical Chinese medicinal texts. Today, horny goat weed holds an important place in Traditional Chinese Medicine and is gaining popularity around the world.

Used by practitioners for over 2,000 years, horny goat weed is several species of epimedium, a leafy plant which grows in the wild, most abundantly at higher altitudes. The leaves of the plant contain a variety of flavonoids, polysaccharides, sterols and an alkaloid called magnaflorine. And while the exact way that horny goat weed works remains unknown, the plant has long been employed to restore sexual fire, boost erectile function, allay fatigue and alleviate menopausal discomfort.

When I decided to research horny goat weed in China, I made contact with Shanghai Dingxun Botanical Products, which makes extracts of horny goat weed, informing them of my intended visit with my wife Shahannah. With plans laid and backpacks of film and camera equipment, we boarded a jet in Boston and headed off to Shanghai, on the southeastern coast of mainland China and the East China Sea.