Herbs & Botanicals
Cuscuta (tu si zi)
What is cuscuta? What is it used for?
Cuscuta is a leafless plant with branching stems, which can reach a height of approximately five feet. It is a parasitic plant: cuscuta has no chlorophyll and cannot make its own food through photosynthesis, so it grows on other plants and uses their nutrients for its own means. As such, it is considered a destructive weed, and is especially harmful to valuable crops like alfalfa, beans and potatoes.
In traditional Chinese medicine, cuscuta seeds have been used for thousands of years. The seeds are described as having a neutral nature and a pungent, sweet taste. They are associated with the kidneys and liver, and are often used in formulas that help balance both yin and yang deficiencies, depending on the patient's condition.
Specifically, cuscuta seeds are used in conjunction with other herbs to treat a wide range of conditions, ranging from impotence, premature ejaculation and frequent urination, to blurred vision and dry eyes. Because of its ability to reduce the loss of fluids from the body, cuscuta was once considered a "longevity herb."
How much cuscuta should I take?
Typically, herbalists recommend a patient take between 9-15 grams of cuscuta seed, but this dosage can vary, depending on the condition(s) being treated.
What forms of cuscuta are available?
Whole, dried cuscuta seeds can be found at Asian markets. Some stores also sell cuscuta seed powder.
What can happen if I take too much cuscuta? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?
There are no reports of adverse effects associated with cuscuta, provided the herb is used in the doses normally prescribed. As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions with cuscuta seeds. However, it should not be taken by patients suffering from constipation, or by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care professional before taking cuscuta seeds or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.
- Al-Menoufi OA, Farag Samia A, Tantawy I. Effect of dodder (cuscuta chinensis) on the productivity of some varieties of alfalfa (medicago sativa). In: Moreno MT, et al. (eds.) Advances in Parasitic Plant Research. Junta de Andalucia, Dirección General de Investigación Agraria, Cordoba, Spain, pp. 393-398.
- Chevallie A. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. New York; DK Publishing, 1996.
- PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Press, 1998, p. 254.
- Sherman T D, Vaughn KC. Dodder (cuscuta pentagona) roots lack microtubules and tubulin protein. Weed Science Society of America Abstracts 1992;32:54.
- Teeguarden R. Radiant Health: The Ancient Wisdom of the Chinese Tonic Herbs. New York: Warner Books, 1998, pp. 206-207.