English: Epimedium herbs

Chinese: 淫羊藿

Parts used: Dried aerial part

TCM category: Tonic herbs for Yang Deficiency

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): PungentSweet

Organ affinity: Kidney Liver

Scientific name: Epimedium brevicornum, Epimedium sagittatum, Epimedium pubescens, Epimedium wushanense or Epimedium koreanum

Other names: Horny goat weed, barrenwort, bishop's hat, fairy wings

Use of Yin Yang Huo (epimedium herbs) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Isolate the aerial parts (leaves and small branches) and dry under the sun

Dosage: 6 - 12 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Tonifies the Kidney Yang. Expels Wind-Damp-Cold Bi Pain. Strengthens Lung Qi and assists in expectoration.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Yin Yang Huo may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Impotence Seminal emission Weakness of the limbs Rheumatic athralgia Climacteric hypertension

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those with Yin Deficiency with Heat signs. It should not be used for extended periods of time; using this herb inappropriately may result in dizziness, dry mouth, thirst, vomiting or nosebleed.

Common TCM formulas in which Yin Yang Huo is used*

Er Xian Tang

Source date: 1950 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes Yin and tonifies Yang of the Kidneys. Clears Empty Heat. Regulates the Directing and Penetrating Vessels.

Conditions targeted*: Perimenopausal syndromeEssential hypertension and others

Yin Yang Huo is a king ingredient in Er Xian Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

Read more about Er Xian Tang

Zan Yu Dan

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 14 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms and tonifies the Kidneys.

Conditions targeted*: Erectile dysfunctionInfertility in male and others

Yin Yang Huo is a king ingredient in Zan Yu Dan. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Zan Yu Dan, Yin Yang Huo tonify the Kidneys and strengthen the Kidney Yang.

Read more about Zan Yu Dan

Key TCM concepts behind Yin Yang Huo's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Yin Yang Huo belongs to the 'Tonic herbs for Yang Deficiency' category. Tonic herbs are used for patterns of Deficiency, when one lacks one of the 'Four Treasures' (Qi, Blood, Yin and Yang). Yang Tonics are generally used in combination with a small amount of Yin tonics. If Yin is deficient, neither Qi nor Yang herbs alone will be effective. The most common symptoms associated with Yang Deficiency are low libido and impotence. It is worth mentioning that another very effective remedy against Yang Deficiency is regular exercise.

Furthermore Yin Yang Huo is Warm in nature. This means that Yin Yang Huo tends to help people who have too much 'Cold' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Cold in their body are said to either have a Yin Excess (because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang Deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition Yin Yang Huo can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Yin Yang Huo also tastes Pungent and Sweet. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Pungent ingredients like Yin Yang Huo tends to promote the circulations of Qi and Body Fluids. That's why for instance someone tends to sweat a lot when they eat spicy/pungent food. On the other hand Sweet ingredients tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Yin Yang Huo is thought to target the Kidney and the Liver. According to TCM, the Kidneys do not only regulate the urinary system but also play a key role in the reproductive system and the growth and aging process of the body. The Liver on the other hand is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and the Body Fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions.