Cassia seed, also called semen cassiae in the Latin or pharmaceutical name and Jue Ming Zi in Chinese name, is known as a Chinese herb that is good at soothing the eyes and helping weight loss. For this reason, it is one of the most popular choices among office workers since very often they are sedentary and require staring at computer screen all the time. According to legend, there once was an old Taoist priest who still had clear eyes and sharp ears though he was already more than 100 year old. Many people thus were attracted and down on their knees begging for the magic arts of longevity. To their surprise, this old Taoist priest said that he had no secret recipe at all but ate cassia seeds on daily basis. Today modern pharmacological studies also confirmed that this herb has an obvious effect on the prevention and treatment of various eye diseases, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and constipation.
What is cassia seed?
Just as its name implies, it refers to the dried mature seeds of Cassia obtusifolia L. or Cassia tora L., which is a plant in the family Leguminosae. Other names also include cassia tora seed, Cao Jue Ming, seed of sickle senna, and Foetid Cassia Seeds. In China it is mainly produced in Anhui, Guangxi, Sichuan, Zhejiang, Guangdong and other places. The best collecting season is autumn when the fruits are ripe. And then it needs to dry in the sun, collect the seeds, and then remove the impurities. And it is usually used raw or fried.
Cassia obtusifolia is an annual suffruticose herbaceous plant, which grows between 0.5 to 2 meters. And there are many branches on the upper part. Pinnately compound leaf is alternate; petiole is 2 to 5cm; leaflets are 3 pairs; blade is obovate or obovate-oblong, 2 to 6cm long, 1.5 to 3.5cm wide, and with rounded apex and cuneate base. Flowers are axillary in pair and the top ones are acervate; peduncle is very short; pedicel is about 1 to 2cm; sepals are 5 and obovate; corolla is yellow, obovate, 12 to 15mm long, and with 5 petals and base with claws. Pod is slender, four edged, 15 to 20cm long, 3 to 4mm wide, and with 2 to 4cm stalk. Seeds are numerous, nearly in prismatic shape or sometimes slightly flat, light brown, bright, and with linear oblique groove on each side. It usually blooms from June to August and fruits from August to October. Habitats include hills, roadside, barren mountain, hillside, and woodland.
Cassia obtusifolia seeds contain anthraquinone compounds, cassiaside, mucus, proteins, sitosterol, amino acids and fatty oil. And anthraquinone compounds mainly include emodin, physcion, chrysophanol, aloe-emodin, obtusifolin, obtusin, chryso-obtusin, aurantio-obtusin and their glycosides and rhein. Cassia tora has almost the same chemical constituents except for the obtusifolin and its glycosides. In addition, it also contains chrysophanol-1-bgentiobiside.
Cassia seed benefits
So, what is cassia seed good for? Actually it provides with a lot of health benefits. Clinical experiments show that its products, including cassia seed supplement, tea, extract, seed oil, and powder, can help on at least 4 major aspects. To begin with, in TCM remedies it is an essential herb for treating a variety eye infections, such as hot eyes, swelling and pain eyes, blurred vision, photophobia, excessive tearing, and more; then, cassia seed pillow can tremendously improve sleep quality by removing heat and soothing the nerves; furthermore, it can be used as a laxative to relax bowel and treat constipation; finally, it can also make herbal slimming tea that really work thanks to its purging activity, which can interfere with the absorption of fats and carbohydrates.
Modern semen cassiae pharmacology
1. All its water extract, alcohol-water extract, and ethanol extract can lower blood pressure;
2. It can reduce total cholesterol and triglyceride;
3. Its injection can lead to thymus atrophy in mice and enhance the phagocytic function of phagocyte;
4. The anthraquinones contained are a mild laxative;
5. Its alcohol extract (removing the alcohol) has inhibition on Staphylococcus aureus, staphylococcus albus, Corynebacterium diphtheriae, Bacillus megaterium, typhoid bacillus, Salmonella paratyphi, Bacillus paratyphosus, and escherichia coli;
6. Its water extract has different degrees of inhibition on dermatophytes.
Selected herbal remedies on cassia seeds
In the Chinese Materia Medica, it is defined as salty and bitter in flavor and neutral, cool, and non-toxic in medicinal properties. And it acts on three meridians of liver, gall bladder and kidney. Basic functions include dispelling the wind, clearing heat, relieving internal fire, and removing dampness. Common cassia seed uses and indications are wind-heat type common cold, influenza, acute conjunctivitis, damp-heat jaundice, acute and chronic nephritis, morbid leucorrhea, scrofula, carbuncle and boils, and mastitis. Recommended cassia seed dosage is from 9 to 15 grams in decoction.
1. Jue Ming Zi San from Yin Hai Jing Wei (Essential Subtleties on the Silver Sea). It is used with Huang Qin (Scutellaria Baicalensis), Chi Shao (Red Peonies) and Mu Zei (Herba Equiseti Hiemalis) for the treatment of liver-heat induced hot red eyes, photophobia, and excessive tearing.
2. Jue Ming Zi Wan from Zheng Zhi Zhun Sheng (The Level-line of Patterns & Treatment). It combines with Ju Hua (Chrysanthemum Morifolium), Qing Xiang Zi (Celosia Seeds), Chong Wei Zi (Fructus Leonuri), etc. to treat headache and red eyes due to wind-heat attacking upward.
3. Jue Ming San from Yin Hai Jing Wei. It is formulated with Shan Zhu Yu (Asiatic Cornelian Cherry Fruit), Sheng Di Huang (Rehmannia), etc. to cure blurred vision and dim eyesight caused by liver-kidney yin deficiency.
4. Jue Ming San from Seng Shen Ji Fang (Prescriptions collected by Monk Shen). It is used alone for blindness, in which there are no other eye problems but seeing things like through a silken cloth.
5. Jue Ming Zi San from Tai Ping Sheng Hui Fang (Taiping Holy Prescriptions for Universal Relief). It works with Man Jing Zi (Vitex Fruit Seed) to improve eyesight.
Cassia seed side effects and contraindications
As mentioned above, cassia seed is of slightly cold in nature, which makes it inadvisable to the patients who are more likely to suffer from diarrhea and stomach pain. And use it with care in people who have diarrhea and hypotension. In addition, because of its purging nature, women during pregnancy should stay away from it. The latest study found that long-term consumption of this herb might lead to irregular menstruation, or even abnormal endometrium that could induce premature labor.