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‘Natural Viagra' gets scientists excited

An extract from a plant called horny goat weed may help the 50 per cent of men worldwide aged over 40 who suffer from erectile dysfunction at some point, reports WebMD.

Horny goat weed, also known as Barrenwort, Bishop's Hat, Fairy Wings, Horny Goat Weed, or Yin Yang Huo, and other herbs from the same family are said to have been used as sexual dysfunction treatments for years, and scientists have now inched a little closer to discovering exactly how it works.

Blood needs to flow into – and stay in the penis in order to get and maintain an erection. Viagra and its many copies work by inhibiting PDE-5, an enzyme that helps keep blood flowing to the penis.

Now University of Milan researchers have discovered that icariin, the main compound in horny goat weed, acts the same way Viagra does.

The scientists examined icariin alongside other plant compounds by adding an enzyme that regulates penile blood flow, and found that icariin was the most potent out of all the plants tested.

When they chemically modified the icariin they found its effect mimicked that of Viagra, noting that this is “a promising candidate for further development."

The researchers also warned however, that some plant extracts may interfere with erectile function.

The University of Milan study will be published in the October issue of the Journal of Natural Products.