How Much Icariin Equals Viagra?

Herbal extracts dominated the treatment of erectile dysfunction (ED) for thousands of years, and every traditional medicine had some remedies for it. However, things changed in the 20th century, with a higher focus on pharmacological compounds.

Fortunately, science is now restarting to study some traditional medicines in search of treatments more potent than Viagra. They have identified icariin as one such perspective natural compound.

The Resurgence of Natural Remedies for ED

ED continues to rise among men, along with a fall in fertility levels. This is due to an altered lifestyle, dietary issues, lesser physical activity, and higher levels of mental stress. Environmental toxins are another reason for the higher rate of sexual problems among men.

Natural remedies differ from pharmacological drugs in many ways. In pharmacological medications, generally, a single compound is responsible for all the actions. Natural remedies contain multiple compounds that act in synergy.

Comparing natural compounds with pharmacological compounds is not the right way, as natural compounds frequently need the support of other natural biochemicals. This is the reason why isolated natural compounds fail to help, but they work when taken as a full extract. Science is yet to understand many things.

Modern science studied several herbs to recognize effective remedies for ED. More well-tested herbs at present are Tribulus Terrestris, Panax ginseng, Piper guineense, Yohimbine, Epimedium herbs (icariin), to name the few (1).

Epimedium, commonly called horny goat weed, has especially received lots of attention from researchers due to its content of icariin. Researchers found that this substance works in a very similar way to Viagra. Thus, many compare horny goat weed to Viagra.

How Icariin Compares to Viagra?

Science shows that icariin works in quite a similar way to PDE5 inhibitors like Viagra. Thus, it is known to influence the NO-cGMP pathway. It results in dilated penile blood vessels and hard erection. However, it is not precisely similar to Viagra, as it affects other receptors and pathways, too (2, 3).

There are very few studies that ever-compared icariin and Viagra directly. One such study tried to understand how they compare with each other in PDE5 inhibition. The study found that isolated icariin is not as potent as sildenafil/Viagra in PDE5 inhibition. However, at the same time, little modification to icariin results in a compound that is almost 80 times more potent than icariin (4).

So, what do we learn from the lab experiment? It means that isolated icariin will not work as well as taking a whole herbal extract. In the herbal extract, icariin gets modified. Herbal extracts also have other supporting natural compounds. Icariin works by acting in a few different ways, too, not just by PDE5 inhibitions. This explains why natural sources of icariin are comparable to Viagra/Sildenafil.

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