Viagra, Cealis, and Horny Goat Weed

by Jeanine Adinaro on February 18, 2010

in Chinese Herbs

My husband sent me a link to this science blog with a review on a patent dispute between Pfizer, makers of Viagra, and Eli Lilly & Co., makers of Cialis. And though I am not entirely clear on the legal details, somehow the Chinese herb, Yin Yang Huo, aka Horny Goat Weed, has entered into the patent dispute.

But what I particularly want to highlight about this author’s review of Viagra versus Yin Yang Huo is his comment:

“Horny goat weed extract must be used at unbelievably high concentrations – far more than can be achieved in the bloodstream – to cause only 1/10th the effectiveness of sildenafil  [active ingredient in Viagra] in a rabbit penile blood vessel model.”

And I would like to suggest that maybe that’s not a bad thing.

Let’s look at some of the rare but serious  side effects of Viagra:

  • Vision loss
  • Sudden hearing loss
  • An erection that does not subside on its own, a condition called priapism which requires medical treatment in order to avoid damage to the penis

I double checked my herbal references to be sure, but there is no mention of priapism as a possible side effect of Yin Yang Huo. There are cautions against overuse and mention of treating the underlying cause, but no mention of Yin Yang Huo causing vision or hearing loss either.

I once heard a collegue editorialize that the beauty of herbal medicine is humans had a chance to evolve with the plants we use and so our bodies have a better ability to process and assimilate their medicinal properties. This is as opposed to highly concentrated, lab synthesized drugs which are so foreign to our bodies they wreak havoc and often annihilate the liver and kidneys.

Maybe so. Here’s my take on things- if your sexual dysfunction is such that you don’t respond to herbal treatments like Yin Yang Huo, maybe your body is trying to tell you something, like that you aren’t healthy enough for sexual activity. And maybe you should try addressing that issue instead of just covering it up with Viagra or Cealis.

Incidentally, in traditional use, Yin Yang Huo is a good herb for erectile dysfunction. However, any Chinese herbalist worth his license won’t just hand you a bag of it and send you along. Typically, it’s combined with other herbs to help with those underlying health problems. Further, once those other health problems start to resolve, the herbalist will probably also reduce or remove the Yin Yang Huo from the formulation and give the body a chance to start working on its own again.

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