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Cnidium Seed (she chuang zi)

What are cnidium seeds? What are they used for?

Cnidium seeds are derived from the cnidium plant, which grows throughout China. A typical cnidium is round, dark yellow in color, and has a pleasant aroma. According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, cnidium seeds are characterized as acrid, bitter and warm.

Cnidium seeds are most commonly used to treat itchy skin, rashes, eczema and ringworm, typically in the genital area. These conditions are treated by grinding cnidium seeds with water into a solution and applying to the skin. Cnidium seeds are also taken internally to treat vaginal discharges and/or increase sexual potency. Cnidium is often combined with herbs such as cuscuta and schisandra to treat infertility and impotence; in many classical traditional Chinese medicine texts, cnidium is used as a form of aphrodisiac.

How much cnidium should I take?

The amount of cnidium seeds to be used depends on the condition being treated. Generally, between 6-15 grams of cnidium seeds are taken internally. Cnidium seeds can also be ground up and combined with water to make poultices for skin conditions.

What forms of cnidium seeds are available?

Cnidium seeds are available in bulk form at Asian markets and some specialty health food stores. Cnidium can also be found in pill and powder form in combination with other herbal products.

What can happen if I take too much cnidium? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

There are no known tolerance levels for cnidium seeds. In addition, the American Herbal Products Association has given cnidium a class I rating, meaning that it is safe when taken in appropriate levels. However, cnidium seeds should not be used for hot or sore skin that is excessively dry. They should not also be taken at the same time patients are taking peony root, croton seed or fritillaria.

As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions with cnidium. As always, make sure to speak with a qualified health care provider before taking cnidium or any other herbal product or dietary supplement.


  • Lu J. Treatment of 146 cases of hair loss with tuofa zaisheng san and shengfa shui. Journal of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine 1987;7(7):438-439.
  • McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A (eds.) American Herbal Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, p. 34.
  • Tang B, Treatment of alopecia areata mainly with Chinese herbs. Hunan Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 1987;3(3):55, 61.
  • Watanabe H. Candidates for cognitive enhancer extracted from medicinal plants: paeoniflorin and tetramethylpyrazine. Behavioural Brain Research Feb 1997;83(1-2):135-41.
  • Yoshiro K. The physiological actions of tang-kuei and cnidium. Bull Oriental Healing Arts Inst USA 1985;10:269-78.


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Date Last Modified - Wednesday, 17-Dec-2008 12:58:52 PDT