A systematic review of traditional uses, phytochemistry, pharmacology and toxicity of Epimedium koreanum Nakai

J Ethnopharmacol. 2024 Jan 10;318(Pt B):116957. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2023.116957. Epub 2023 Aug 6.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Epimedium koreanum Nakai (E. koreanum), a member of the genus Epimedium in the family Berberidaceae, is a well-known and well-liked traditional herb used as a "kidney tonic". For thousands of years, it has been utilized for renal yang deficiency, impotence, spermatorrhea, impotence, weakness of tendons and bones, rheumatic paralysis and discomfort, numbness, and constriction.

Aim of the study: The paper aims to comprehensively in-depth, and methodically review the most recent research on the traditional uses, phytochemistry, pharmacology, and toxicity of E. koreanum.

Materials and methods: Scientific databases including Web of Science, PubMed, Google Scholar, Elsevier, Springer, ScienceDirect, Baidu Scholar, and CNKI and medicine books in China were searched for relevant information on E. koreanum.

Results: In traditional uses, E. koreanum is frequently used to treat various diseases like erectile dysfunction, infertility, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, asthma, kidney-yang deficiency syndrome, etc. To date, more than 379 compounds have been discovered from various parts of E. koreanum, including flavonoids, lignans, organic acids, terpenoids, hydrocarbons, dihydrophenanthrene derivatives, alkaloids, and others. Research has revealed that the compounds and crude extracts have a wide range of pharmacological effects on the reproductive, cardiovascular, and nervous systems, as well as anti-osteoporosis, anti-tumor, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, hepatoprotective, and antiviral properties. Besides, the crude extracts show potential hepatotoxicity.

Conclusion: Based on recent domestic and international research investigations, E. koreanum contains a wealth of chemical components with pronounced pharmacological activities. Its traditional uses are numerous, and the majority of these traditional uses have been supported by contemporary pharmacological investigations. Crude extracts, on the other hand, can result in hepatotoxicity. Therefore, additional in vivo and in vitro experimental research on the pharmacology and toxicology of E. koreanum are required in the future to assess its safety and efficacy. This will give a firmer scientific foundation for its safe application and the development of new drugs in the future.

Keywords: Epimedium koreanum Nakai; Pharmacology; Phytochemistry; Toxicity; Traditional uses.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury* / drug therapy
  • Epimedium*
  • Erectile Dysfunction* / drug therapy
  • Ethnopharmacology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional
  • Phytochemicals / therapeutic use
  • Phytochemicals / toxicity
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use
  • Plant Extracts / toxicity
  • Yang Deficiency / drug therapy


  • Phytochemicals
  • Plant Extracts