The following medicinal effects have been attributed to the standard medicinal species Epimedium brevicornum, as well as the alternative species Epimedium sagittatum, Epimedium wushanense, and Epimedium koreanum:
- Warm Lung qi and strengthen the Lung’s ability to “open the 100 vessels”: chronic cough, poor immune function, poor circulation, arthritic pain. The flavor of Yinyanghuo is described as pungent in most classical texts, and in the province of Hunan an alternate name for this herb is Feijingcao (Lung Channel Weed). From the perspective of modern research, Epimedium stimulates low immune function, oxygenates blood, and regulates blood pressure.
- Warm Kidney yang and consolidate the fire of mingmen: strengthen bones, reduce weakness of the knees and lower back; benefits sexual function, potency, and fertility; promotes healthy urinary function, relieves pain and atrophy of the genitals; increase memory. In mythological lore, the tonic quality of goat and venison meat as well as the sexual potency of these animals is often attributed to the fact that they love to forage for this plant in the wild. While Yinyanghuo is not one of the paradigmatic yang tonics introduced in the ancient formula classic Shanghan lun, the 17th century herb scholar Li Shizhen specifically classified it as a medicinal that “benefits the function of the Vital Gate of Life (mingmen) and the Triple Warmer.” Later jingfang practitioners, such as those belonging to the Fire Spirit School of Sichuan herbalism, thus greatly value this herb and frequently include it in their prescriptions along with aconite, cinnamon and ginger. In folk herb usage, Yinyanghuo is most often steeped in wine to produce a single herb tonic intended to strengthen bones and increase sexual potency. From the perspective of modern research, Yinyanghuo slows down the aging process, regulates adrenal function, prevents osteoporosis, and shortens recovery time after bone fractures.
- Benefit clarity of vision and prevent degeneration of the eyes. Li Shizhen specifically mentions Yinyanghuo as an herb suitable for the treatment of eye diseases associated with old age, such as cataracts and glaucoma.
Yinyanghuo’s combined action of tonifying and connecting the “upper and lower sources of water “ (Lung and Kidney) is similar to that of Shanyao, which is therefore mentioned by classical texts as a suitable alchemical partner of Epimedium.