The medicinal part of cnidium monnieri, also known as She Chuang Zi in Chinese herbal medicine, is its fruits or seeds, which have long been considered an essential herb for skin diseases and pruritus. Chen Shi-duo, a skillful physician lived in Qing Dynasty, ever commented in his medical work of Ben Cao Xin Bian (New Chapters on Materia Medica) that: “Cnidium seeds have amazing healing properties for both external and internal treatments. In comparison, the external use is even better.” Nowadays, this herb is commonly used for erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, genital eczema, trichomonas infection, postpartum uterine prolapse, chronic, non-healing skin ulcers in children, allergic dermatitis, sumac allergy, tinea manus (hands) and tinea pedis (foot), abnormal vaginal discharge, pharyngitis, peripheral neuritis, and so on. What’s more, it is reported that cnidium can increase both man and woman’s libido and treat male and female infertility.
What is cnidium monnieri?
Medicinally it mainly refers to the ripe fruits of Cnidium monnieri (L.) Cuss., which is a member of the family Umbelliferae. And its other common names include Cnidii Monnieri Fructus, Cnidium Seed, Cnidium Fruit, Fructus Cnidii, She Chuang Dze (Literally meaning “snakes bed seeds”), She Chuang, Monnier’s snowparsley, Cnidium Monnier, Cnidium Monnieri Fructus, Selinum monnieri, and the like. In China it is primarily produced in provinces of Hebei, Shandong, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, and Sichuan. All of them are uncultivated and usually harvested in summer and autumn harvest when the fruit is ripe. Next the impurities need to be removed and the fruits should be dried in the sun and used raw clinically.
This is an annual herb, 30 to 80cm in height. Stems are erect, cylindrical, and with longitudinal edges and sparsely fine pubescence. Radical leaf is with a handle and a base that looks like a short and wide sheath; blade is ovate, 2-3 pinnatifid, and with linear-lanceolate lobes and acute apex; leaves on upper part of a stem resemble radical leaves but have shorter petioles. Compound umbel is acrogenous or lateral, with 10 to 25 inflorescence stems and 8 to 10 basal involucral bracts; small linear bracts are 8 to 10 in number; calyx teeth are obsolete; petals are white, obovate, and with concave apex and a narrow fold uvula; stamens are 5 and alternate with petals; filaments are slender; anthers are oval; ovary is inferior, and with 2 styles that have conical base. Cremocarp is oval, glabrous, and with winged edges. Bloom time is from April to July and the fruiting time is from June to August. Habitats include low hills, fields, roadsides, ditches, river wetlands, etc.
The cnidium fruit contains 1.3% volatile oil, which is mainly composed of l-Pinene, l-Camphene, bornyl isovalerate, and isoborneol. In addition, it still contains Osthole, Cnidimine (Edultin), Isopimpinellin, bergapten, dihydrooroselol (Columbianetin), ColuInbianadin, o-Acetyl columbianetin, Cnidiadiu, etc.; cnidium monnier root contains Cnidimine, Isopimpinellin, Alloimperatorine, xanthotoxol, Imperatorine, etc.; cnidium monnieri seed mainly contains Bergapten, orosclol, and edultin.
Cnidium monnieri benefits
So, how does this herb work? To better illustrate its health benefits, comparing it with Di Fu Zi (Kochia Scoparia) is a good idea since these two Chinese herbs are known for their ability of relieving itching and medicinal uses of curing eczema, pruritus vulvae, and abnormal vaginal discharge. Actually cnidium fruit is good at dispelling cold, removing dampness, and killing parasites to relieve itching, which is ideal for itch and scabies caused by cold-dampness or deficiency-cold; kochia scoparia fruit is specialized at clearing heat and promoting diuresis to relieve itching that is due to damp-heat. Besides, the former one can still warm kidney and tonify Yang in order to treat impotence, uterus-cold induced infertility, and lumbago caused by dampness; the latter one also cures difficult urination and difficulty and pain in micturition due to heat stranguria.
Modern pharmacological actions of cnidium monnier
1) It can extend mating period and increase the weight of the uterus and ovaries in mouse;
2) Cnidium extract also has androgenic effect, which can increase the weight of mouse’s prostate, seminal vesicles, and levator ani muscle; 3) It inhibits resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and dermatophytes;
4) It can extend the lifespan of chicken embryo infected with Newcastle disease virus (NDV);
5) Xanthotoxol contained has strong anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects;
6) In addition, it treats an abnormal heart rhythm, lowers blood pressure, promotes expectoration, relieves asthma, delays aging, enhances memory, produces local anesthesia, enhances memory, prevents mutation, resists osteoporosis, kills sperm, and so on.
Sample cnidium recipes on herbal remedies
According to the Chinese Materia Medica, it is acrid and bitter in flavor and warm in nature. It goes to meridians of spleen and kidney. Major Cnidium monnieri effects and functions are warming kidney, tonifying Yang, removing dampness, destroying parasites, dispelling wind, and arresting itching. Main cnidium monnieri uses and indications include impotence; wet, itchy and clammy scrotum; womb-cold induced sterility in female; cold-damp induced morbid leukorrhea; itchy, sore, swollen vagina; arthralgia due to wind and dampness; scabies and eczema. Recommended cnidium monnieri dosage is from 3 to 9 grams in decoction. But you can buy other cnidium monnieri products out there, such as cnidium monnier supplements, extract, capsules, cream, powder, pills, tincture, and the like.
1) Zan Yu Dan from Jing Yue Quan Shu (Jingyue’s Complete Works). It is formulated with Dang Gui (Dong Quai), Gou Qi Zi (Goji Berry), Yin Yang Huo (Arial Parts of Epimedium), Rou Cong Rong (Cistanche), etc. to treat impotence due to kidney deficiency and infertility caused by cold uterus.
2) She Chuang Zi San from Jin Gui Yao Lue (Essential Prescriptions of the Golden Coffer). It is ground into powder and coupled with Qian Fen (lead powder) to cure itchy vagina due to cold and dampness.
3) She Chuang Xi Fang from Seng Shen Ji Fang (Prescriptions collected by Monk Shen). It is coupled with Cu Mei (vinegar-prepared plum) to heal prolapse of uterus.
4) San Zi Wan from Qian Jin Fang (Thousand golden essential prescriptions). It is matched with Wu Wei Zi (Fructus Schisandrae Chinensis) and Tu Si Zi (Cuscuta) to treat erectile dysfunction and uterus-cold infertility.
5) She Chuang Xi Wan from Fang Mai Zheng Zong (Orthodox School of Recipes and Pulse Study). It is equipped with Shan Zhu Yu (Japanese Cornelian Cherry), Fructus Schisandrae Chinensis, Che Qian Zi (Plantain Seeds), Xiang Fu (Cyperus), Bai Fan (Alum), and Lu Jiao Jiao (Deer Horns) to make pills for the treatment of morbid leukorrhea caused by cold and dampness.
Clinical research of cnidium herb
According to reports, cnidium-based remedies have a satisfactory curative effect in treatment of acute exudative dermatitis, scabies, impetigo, eczema, cervical erosion, vaginitis, vulva white lesions, chronic pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, peripheral neuritis and other diseases. And here are some clinical cases for your reference.
a) 607 cases of pruritus have been treated with Pi Fu Jing injection (literally meaning “skin clean”), which is mainly composed of cnidium and Cang Er Zi (Cocklebur), 2ml each time, and twice a day. And the efficiency was 83.6%.
b) 180 cases of ringworm of the foot have been treated with compound topical lotion, which consists of cnidium, acetic acid, ethanol, and water. And the efficiency was 100%.
c) 118 cases of asthmatoid bronchitis and bronchial asthma have been treated with Total coumarins of Fructus Cnidii (TCFC), 80mg each time, 3 times a day, and 10 days as a course of treatment. And efficiency was 87.3%.
Cnidium monnieri side effects and contraindications
Toxicology tests on animals showed that the oral mouse LD50 for cnidium monnieri seed was 2.44g/kg. As you can see, it is with a low toxicity. Through clinical observation, it is found non-toxic and with no side effects if taken in the conventional dose of decoction. Due to the volatile oils contained and the strong odor emitted during decocted, in large dose it may lead to a burning sensation inside, nausea, dry mouth, drowsiness, and stomach upset in some individuals. Besides, when used externally it may cause topical skin redness and itching. TCM wise, it shouldn’t be used in the cases of damp-heat in lower energizer, kidney-yin deficiency, hyperactivity of ministerial fire, and insecurity of the essence gate.
a) Lin Chuang Pi Fu Ke Za Zhi (Journal of Clinical Dermatology), 1983; 1:15;
b) Zhong Yao Cai (Journal of Chinese Medicinal Materials), 1996;8:427;
c) Zhong Yao Cai (Journal of Chinese Medicinal Materials), 1988;9:410.