Herbal Glossary : Semen Cuscutae

Original plant of Semen Cuscutae Dried seeds Name Latin Name: Semen Cuscutae
Common Name: Cuscuta seed, Chinese Dodder seed
Scientific Name: Cuscuta chinensis Lam
Chinese Name: 菟絲子
Pinyin Name: Tu si zi Origin The ripe seed of Cuscuta chinensis Lam.; an annual voluble parasitic herb of the family Convolvulaceae. Where Does It Grow? It is mainly distributed in Jiangsu, Liaoning, Jilin, Hebei, Shandong and Henan provinces of China. Nature and Taste It is sweet in taste, warm in nature and manifests its therapeutic actions in the liver, kidney and spleen meridians. Identified Active Components/ Major Chemical Constituents Chemical constituents in Semen Cuscutae include biological alkaloids, anthraquinone, coumarin, flavones, glycoside sterols, terpene, tannic acid and others. Compounds that contain flavones include quercetin, astragalin, and hyperin, with the total flavone amount being approximately 3.0% in the raw herb. Compounds that include sterols include: cholesterol, campesterol, beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol and beta-amyrin. The amino acid content is approximately 0.076%, and the total polysaccharide content is 8.5%-9.2% in the raw herb. Microelements identified so far in this herb are calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), and copper (Cu).
Historical Use

The Chinese name of Tusizi is actually comprised of three Chinese words. The first word "Tu" (菟) incorporates the word "rabbit" (兔)below the character for "herb"(). The second word "Si" (絲) means "filament,"and the third word "Zi" (子) refers to "seed". During the Ming Dynasty, Li Shizhen wrote in the Bencao Gangmu (Compendium of Materia Medica) "Below the herb Tusizi, there lies the root of a 'hidden rabbit'. Without that root, its filament does not grow. If the 'hidden rabbit' is withdrawn, the filament herb will die... As the young root of the herb looks like a 'rabbit', it is given the name of 'rabbit filament' (Tusi)."

The main effect of Tusizi is to replenish the kidney essence or "jing" in order to support healthy sexual and reproductive functioning. Through the mother-son relationship between kidney and liver, it also benefits the eyes, tendons and other physiological functions related to the kidneys and liver.

The uses of this herb date back to the Bencao Gangmu which described its functions as "invigorating deficiencies, benefiting qi (vital energy) and strengthening and promoting health." It goes on to say: "Taken appropriately on a long term basis, it benefits the eyes, keeps the individual fit and prevents aging ... Due to its nourishment of the muscles and yin, and reinforcement of the tendons and bone, it is mainly used to treat excessive coldness in male genital organs, involuntary discharge of semen, dribbling during urination, a bitter taste in the mouth accompanied by a dry and thirsty feeling and to treat an accumulation of cold blood."

Li Shi Zhen thought the herb worked by "obtaining and gathering together the harmonized and normal yang qi. The single stem coming out from the whole plant is formed by "sensing" the qi of the branch. Hence, it tends to invigorate defensive qi and support an individual's tendons and vessels." In Chinese medicine, the liver governs the tendons and vessels. The liver, being a wood organ, needs a mother, which contains a water element. This water element is represented by the kidneys whose main function is to store essence or "jing." This essence is what gives the tendons and vessels their nourishment. Therefore, it is said that the kidneys and liver share a mother-son relationship. What is It Used for in TCM? Today, Semen Cuscutae is used in Chinese medicine to invigorate the kidneys and consolidate kidney essence (jing), nourish the liver, improve eyesight, arrest diarrhea and soothe an unborn fetus.
1. It is used in syndromes caused by a kidney deficiency that exhibit symptoms such as lower back pain, erectile dysfunction, involuntary discharge of semen, urinary frequency and leucorrhea. 2. It is used for symptom treatment of blurred and dark vision and decreased visual acuity, which are caused by insufficient nourishment of the eyes due to liver and kidney deficiencies. 3. It treats diarrhea problems caused by spleen and kidney deficiencies. 4. It is used for cases of abnormal fetal movement caused by liver and kidney deficiencies. 5. It can also be used in increased thirst symptoms caused by a kidney deficiency. Pharmacological Actions 1. Chronic Prostatitis Clinical studies A formula of Semen Cuscutae, Rhizoma Dioscoreae Hypoglaucae, Rhizoma Dioscoreae, Fructus Alpiniae Oxyphyllae, Rhizoma Alismatis, Fructus Corni, and Herba Patriniae was used once per day to treat 53 cases of chronic prostatitis, for periods ranging from one to three months. The overall effective rate was reported to be 90.6%. 2. Improve Sperm Abnormality Clinical studies Semen Cuscutae was used together with Herba Cistanches, Fructus Lycii, Radix Polgoni Multiflori, Radix Rehmanniae Praeparata and Fructus Schisandrae to treat 105 cases of sperm abnormality. In this review paper, the type of sperm abnormality was not defined. The patients took the medicine either once a day or every other day. One month was regarded as one treatment period. After three treatment periods, 31 cases demonstrated complete recovery, 65 cases showed some extent of recovery while 11 cases experienced no change. 3. Gynecological Effects Clinical studies Effective in treating threatened abortion: Radix Dipsaci, Colla Corii Asini, Radix Codonopsis Pilosulae, Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae and Semen Cuscutae were used to treat 110 cases of threatened abortion. The patients took the medicine once a day for 10 days, and the overall effective rate was found to be 96.36%

Effects on small uteruses (lnfantile uterus): In a study of 46 cases of infantile uteruses, patients were treated with a compound formula containing Semen Cuscutae , Radix Morindae Officinalis, Rhizoma Curculiginis, Herba Epimedii, Cervus elaphus, Radix Rehmanniae Praeparata and Radix Polgoni Multiflori. Starting from the 5th day of the menstrual cycle, the medication was taken, together with 1mg diethylstilbestrol, once a day for 20 days. Following treatment, 37 cases showed complete recovery while nine cases demonstrated improvement. Animal studies Gavage feeding 25g/kg Semen Cuscutae water extract to mice once a day for ten days was able to promote keratinization of vaginal tract epithelium and increase the weight of the uterus. 4. Improve Chranic Bronchits Clinical studies Effective in treating threatened abortion: Radix Dipsaci, Colla Corii Asini, Radix Codonopsis Pilosulae, Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae and Semen Cuscutae were used to treat 110 cases of threatened abortion. The patients took the medicine once a day for 10 days, and the overall effective rate was found to be 96.36%

Effects on small uteruses (lnfantile uterus). In a study of 46 cases of infantile uteruses, patients were treated with a compound formula containing Semen Cuscutae , Radix Morindae Officinalis, Rhizoma Curculiginis, Herba Epimedii, Cervus elaphus, Radix Rehmanniae Praeparata and Radix Polgoni Multiflori. Starting from the 5th day of the menstrual cycle, the medication was taken, together with 1mg diethylstilbestrol, once a day for 20 days. Following treatment, 37 cases showed complete recovery while nine cases demonstrated improvement. 5. Delay Cataract Formation Animal studies Delay cataract formation in rats:
Rats on a galactose diet were given by gavage 4g/kg/day of a Semen Cuscutae water extract for 30 consecutive days. Results showed that Semen Cuscutae could delay the formation of cataracts in rats with a reported overall effective rate of 33.3%14. It was suggested that Semen Cuscutae did this by reducing the activity of aldose reductase and other enzymes that are responsible for galactose induced cataract formation and by enhancing the activities of sorbitol dehydrogenase, hexokinase, and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase in the rat eye lens. 6. Yang Strengthening Effects Animal studies Improve the overall wellness of yang deficient mice:
After mice were rendered yang deficient by hydrocorticoid treatment, mice were gavage fed with a 5g/kg Semen Cuscutae decoction once a day for 7 days. It was observed that their body, kidney and thymus gland weight increased as well as increasing their white cell count, red cell count, hemoglobin content and superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity. Male mice gavage fed with 5g/kg Semen Cuscutae decoction once a day for 10 consecutive days showed prolonged swimming and hypoxia survival times. When fruit flies were fed with 0.5, 1.0 and 2.0% Semen Cuscutae water extracts for 10 days, their copulation frequency, within 11 minutes, increased. Their copulation rate increased by 47.49%, 65.52% and 78.86%, respectively. 7. Effects on Na+/K+-ATPase activity Animal studies Mice gavage fed with a 6g/kg Semen Cuscutae decoction once a day for 10 days showed increase in Na+/K+-ATPase activity. 8. Effect on Heart Rate and Blood Pressure Animal studies Modulate heart rate and blood pressure: Decoction and tincture preparations of Semen Cuscutae were shown to affect contractility in an in vitro toad heart model. Heart rate was shown to increase with the decoction preparation but was reduced with the tincture. Intravenous injection of a 0.1g/kg Semen Cuscutae decoction to anaesthetized dogs showed reduction in their blood pressure. 9. Effects on the Endocrine System Animal studies Modulate the function of the anterior pituitary-hypothalamus-ovary axis:
When female rats were fed by gavage with 10g/kg water extract of Semen Cuscutae twice a day for five consecutive days, the weights of their anterior pituitary glands, ovaries and uterus were increased. Although no change in plasma LH levels was noted, the numbers of hCG/LH receptors increased such that the Ka value was smaller when compared to the control group.

Increase LRH sensitivity in ovariectomized rats: Ovariectomized rats were fed by gavage with 10g/kg water extract of Semen Cuscutae twice a day for five days. On day six, following anesthesia, the animals were i.v. injected with d-C-LRH (luteinizing releasing hormone). Results showed that Semen Cuscutae was able to further promote luteinizing hormone (LH) secretion induced by LRH. Plasma LH levels of Semen Cuscutae treated rats reached its highest peak 90 minutes after d-C-LRH injection with an average percentage increase of 241.58%. This study demonstrated that the stimulatory effects of Semen Cuscutae on yellow body (corus luteum) production along the hypothalamus-pituitary-ovary axis were not due to its direct stimulation on the pituitary; but thought to be due to Semen Cuscutae's ability to increase ovary receptor sites sensitive towards LRH and LH, respectively. 10. Anti-aging Effects Animal studies Mulberry leaves, soaked with a 20% Semen Cuscutae decoction, were fed to silkworms three times a day. Results showed that Semen Cuscutae could prolong the larval stage of the worms, as well as their lifespan. 11. Anti-cancer Effects Cell culture studies At concentrations of 300mg/ml and 3000mg/ml, Semen Cuscutae water extracts were able to inhibit DNA synthesis in Ehrlich ascite carcinoma cells. 12. Anti-bacterial Effects Cell culture studies Decoction of Semen Cuscutae has been shown to have in vitro inhibitory effects on Staphylococcus, Shigella flexneri, and Bacillus typhosus.
Toxicity

Acute toxicity: The LD50 of ethanol extracts of Semen Cuscutae injected intradermally (i.d.) into mice was found to be 2.465g/kg

Subchronic toxicity: Rats gavage fed with 30-40g/kg of Semen Cuscutae water extract did not appear to have any intoxification symptoms. Furthermore, when rats were administered with 4.15g/kg Semen Cuscutae water extract or tincture, once a day for 70 days by gavage feed, no developmental abnormality and/or pathological change was noted.

Administration and Dosage

A decoction is typically made with 10-15g of Semen Cuscutae with three to four cups of boiling water until the volume is reduced by half. A decoction is usually taken orally and split into two doses but this dose may taken all at once or escalated depending on the person's condition and recommendation by the Chinese medicine practitioner

Adverse Effect, Side Effects and Cautions It is contraindicated in individuals with excessive fire in the kidneys that increase libido and prolong erectness of the penis or in individuals who have constipation and dry stools.