Desire Creeping Up

When researchers from the University of Milan led by Mario Dell'Agli's studied horny goat weed, they didn't focus on whether the plant encourages sexual desire. Instead, they focused on chemical interactions between the plant's compounds and substances found in the human body. The result was the discovery that the compound icariin could block an enzyme that can prevent men from having erections [source: Kahn].

Horny Goat Weed Benefits

Proponents of horny goat weed believe it has a lot of positive attributes, from anti-inflammatory properties to positive effects on the immune system. With so many potential uses of the supplement, it's tough to pin down the best one.

The most widely-known benefit of horny goat weed is its purported relation to sexual health. The early uses of the plant were to improve sexual performance and desire. Today, people use it to try to increase sexual desire or treat erectile dysfunction. In late 2008, the University of Milan presented a study in which a compound called icariin found within horny goat weed showed potential to compete with impotency medications [source: Brahic].

Other common uses of horny goat weed include treating hay fever and atherosclerosis. The effects of hay fever, which is caused by allergens in the air, are supposed to be lessened when the person consumes a mixture of horny goat weed and other herbs such as ginger, licorice, nettle and butterbur. The effects of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, can supposedly be minimized when horny goat weed is combined with other herbs like garlic and green tea. However, studies measuring the benefit of horny goat weed on these conditions have produced conflicting results [source: Blue Shield of California].

In addition to these main fixes, horny goat weed is said to improve a range of other issues within the body, including liver and kidney problems. Others cite the herb as a treatment for bronchitis, hepatitis, memory loss, high blood pressure, heart disease and fatigue [source: Fairview]. In all of these cases, however, more research is needed before we know for sure.

Read on to learn about the side effects of horny goat weed.