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The Practical Herbalist

Horny Goat Weed

Horny Goat Weed, or Licentious Goat Wort is probably one one the most interesting herb names that you will find in the world of herbal medicine. Several years ago one of the supplement makers ran TV ads featuring an animated goat wearing a white suit and gold chains suggesting to men and women that this is the herb that they need to increase libido and sexual performance. The ads were distasteful and I am glad to have not seen one in many years. For those who may see this in a store and are interested in trying this type of supplement, there are some safety considerations that should be known. This is a medicine and not a food, and should be treated as such.

The use of various herbs and foods as aphrodisiacs goes back into the mists of time. Horny Goat Weed is just one of many and the name suggests how its use may have come about. Most of these agents are classified by Chinese Medicine as "Kidney Yang tonics". These herbs tend to "warm" or add energy to the Kidney system, which in Chinese medicine is responsible for growth and development as well as reproductive function. For people who have low energy, particularly a cold sluggish feeling in the body with cold feelings in the low back and legs, this type of tonification can be helpful.

Adding warm energy to the patient can be a bad idea for some people. Some people just run “hot” and this type of tonification can create problems. A person who is red faced and is easy to anger, does not need any more heat in their life. Young people also rarely need any extra energy, and a herb like this would be more of a recreational drug to get an energy buzz, rather than effective medicine. A patient population that is of greater concern is menopausal age women. Women in this time frame of life often have a decrease in libido. Increasing heat in a patient who already has hot flashes can make those hot flashes worse. This is more of a concern when the herb is used alone. Some traditional herbal formulas for menopausal symptoms, use horny goat weed in small quantities to balance some of the cooling and nourishing herbs that are used to treat menopausal symptoms. This is particularly true if the woman was going in to this time of life with deficient energy to start with.

In the end, many of the warnings I have given about other herbs apply. Herbs should be mixed in appropriate ways to control side effects and they should be prescribed by someone who is knowledgeable about the herbal dynamics, as well as what the patient needs. It is also important to remember that just because it is an all natural herb, does not mean it is automatically safe for everyone to use. The goal should always be better health, rather than a quick fix- stimulant like- energy rush.

David Bock

This article was from David's LakeCountryOnline.com column, "The Practical Herbalist"

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David Bock, C. Ac., Dipl. OM, FABORM
Wisconsin Certified Acupuncturist
National Board Certification in Oriental Medicine
Fellow American Board Of Oriental Reproductive Medicine

Bock Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine
888 Thackeray Trail #206
Oconomowoc, Wisconsin 53066