WebMD Health News
Louise Chang, MD
Sept. 25, 2008 -- Erectile dysfunction is nothing
to laugh about. But what if ED could be helped by an extract from a plant
called horny goat weed?
Horny goat weed and related herbs have purportedly been treatments for
sexual dysfunction for years.
Now scientists may be a step closer to discovering how compounds from horny
goat weed may work.
The ability to get and maintain an erection depends upon blood flowing into
the penis and staying there long enough. One way drugs like Viagra work is to inhibit an
enzyme called PDE-5, thereby keeping blood flowing to the penis.
Researchers, led by Mario Dell'Agli at the University of Milan, found that
the main compound in horny goat weed, called icariin, acted the same way that
The research team studied a handful of plants and the compounds in them.
They found that out of all the plant compounds, icariin was the most potent of
Scientists tested icariin and other plant compounds in a lab by exposing
them to an enzyme that regulates blood flow to the penis. They also chemically
modified the icariin and found that its effect in the lab was similar to that
They write that this "is a promising candidate for further development."
They warn, however, that some plant extracts could actually "interfere with
ED is a condition that affects some 18 million men in the U.S.
The study is to be published in the Oct. 24 issue of the Journal of
SOURCES:Dell'Agli, M. Journal of Natural Products, Oct. 24, 2008.News release, American Chemical Society.
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