Herbs & Botanicals
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Cistanche (rou cong rong)
What is cistanche? What is it used for?
Cistanche is a hardy, shrub-like plant native to the desert regions of Mongolia and northern China. It is shaped somewhat like a cross between a pine cone and a pineapple, with thick, fleshy stems and large, yellow flowers that grow smaller as the plant's apex. The stems are gathered in the spring, dried in the sun and cut into slices for medicinal use.
In traditional Chinese medicine, cistanche is used to replenish blood and strengthen kidney yang. It is most commonly used to treat impotence and premature ejaculation (as part of a formula containing rehmannia root, dadder seed and schisandra); pain in the lower back and knees (as part of a formula containing morinda root and eucommia bark); and constipation (as part of a formula containing hemp seed). Some studies suggest cistanche can treat some cases of infertility and lower blood pressure.
How much cistanche should I take?
The standard dose of cistanche is 10-20 grams daily, boiled in water for oral use.
What forms of cistanche are available?
Dried cistanche leaves are available at many herbal shops and Asian markets. The leaves are steeped in boiling water and drunk as a cistanche tea. Some shops may also sell powdered cistanche or cistanche extracts.
What can happen if I take too much cistanche? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?
Cistanche is extremely safe. The American Herbal Products Association has given it a class one rating, meaning that it can be consumed safely when used appropriately. However, because it is a warm, tonifying herb, it should not be used by patients with dry mouth or diarrhea, or patients diagnosed with yin deficiency. As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions with cistanche. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking cistanche or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.
- Hadady L. Chinese herbs enhance sexual vitality. Nutrition Science News March 1999.
- Hadady L. Mighty aphrodite. Chinese herbs enhance sexual vitality for men and women. Health and Nutrition May 1999.
- Liu W, Ogata T, Sato S, et al. Superoxide scavenging activities of sixty Chinese medicines determined by an ESR spin-trapping method using electrogenerated superoxide. Yakugagu Zasshi 2001;121(4):265-270.
- McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R (eds.) American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, p. 32.
- Xiong Q, et al. Hepatoprotective activity of phenylethanoids from cistanche deserticola. Planta Med 1998;64(2):12025.