Home / Chinese Herb / EPIMEDIUM [淫羊藿, YIN YANG HUO]


images_optName : Epimedium

Chinese Name : 淫羊藿

Latin Name : Herba Epimedii


This herb is the dried aboveground parts of the whole plant (leaves and stems included) of Epimedium brevicornum Maxim., E. Sagitatum (Sieb et Zacc) Maxim., or E.koreanum Nakai of the family Berberidaceae. It is mainly grown in the Guangxi, Hubei, Shaanxi, and Sichuan provinces of China, and in Korea. The plant is collected in the summer and autumn months when the leaves and branches are abundant. It is dried after removing any impurities and subsequently used unprocessed or stir baked  with sheep fat.

In ancient times the Chinese believed that the plant had strong aphrodisiae properties. Goats seen eating the plant were said to be drawn to excessive copulation. Epimedium is also named xian ling pi and was used to treat sterility, barrenness, and sexual dysfunctions, and as an antirheumatic.

Use of Epimedium in TCM

Pungent and sweet in taste, and warm, it acts on the liver and kidney meridians.

Effects, Medicinal Uses, and Combinations

  1. Invigorates the kidney yang and improves gonadotrophic activities.
  • For impotence, lassitude, weakness of the loins and knees, and frequent urination due to a deficiency of kidney yang, epimedium is commonly used alone in a decoction or tincture, or used along with prepared rehmannia root, cornus (shan zhu yu), curculigo rhizome (xian mao), morinda root, and lycium fruit.
  • For female infertility due to coldness of the uterus, epimedium is combined with Chinese angelica, cornus, cinnamon bark, curculigo rhizome, and processed aconite root in a decoction.
  1. For chronic cough, dyspnea, and bronchitis due to deficiency of yang, epimedium is mixed with psoralea fruit (bu gu zhi), walnut kernel, and schisandra fruit.
  2. Epimedium dispels Wind and eliminates Dampness: for arthralgia, muscular spasm, and numbness of the hands and feet due to Bi-Syndrome, epimedium  is blended with clematis root, xanthium fruit (cang er zi), enidium (chuan xiong), and cinnamon bark.
  3. Suppresses the hyperactivity of the liver yang: for hypertension due to yin deficiency, high blood pressure, and for female menopause, epimedium is prescribed with curculigo rhizome (xian mao), morinda root (ba ji tian), schisandra fruit, anemarrhena (zhi mu), Chinese angelica, and phellodendron, as in the patented recipe Er Xian Tang (R-27).


In a decoction of 6 to 15 g. In powders or tincture preparations, 6 g or less.


People with hyperactivity of the kidney yang, caused by deficiency of yin, should avoid using epimedium.

Side Effects and Toxicity

No abnormalities were observed at the suggested oral dose.  Some patients complained about dryness of the mouth, stomach discomfort, nausea, or vomiting with large doses. The symtoms disappeared after patients stop taking the herb. The LD50 of the concentrated decoction of the herb in mice was 36 g/kg by intraperitoneal  administration.

Chemical Constituents

Epimedium has many species and each contains somewhat diferrent chemical ingredients. The leaves and stems of E. Sagittatum contain flavonoids, lignans, phenolic glycosides, sesquiterpenes, ionone, and penethylol glycoside. Flavonoids  include ikarisoside A-F, icaritin 3-0-L-rhamaoside sagittatosides A-C, and sempervirenosides A and B. Other isolated ingredients include polysaccharides, flavonol glycoside icariin, olivil epimedine, des-o-ethylicardine, magnoflorine,sterols, tannin, pamitic acid, linolic acid, and vitamin E.

Pharmacological Findings

  1. Stimulates sexual hormones production, strengthens sexual desire, and serves as an aphrodisiac. Oral administration of the concentrated decoction of the plant promoted semen secretion.
  2. Lowers blood sugar in experimental rats.
  3. Antitussive expectorant and antiasthmatic.
  4. Enhances the immune system. Improves DNA synthesis. The polysaccharide of the plant was found to accelerate the production of T-suppressor cells of immunized mice and to inhibit the antibody production in recipient mice.
  5. Lowers blood pressure via enlargement of blood vessels and diuresis
  6. Regulates cardiac arrhythmia.
  7. Antibacterial and protects against the polio virus and staphylocorens aureus in vitro.
  8. Leukopenia induced by immunosuppressors showed improvement with epimedium.