Cuscuta herb and seed supplement health benefit by Ray Sahelian, M.D.

April 5 2014

Cuscuta, or Dodder plant, is a parasitic vine that wraps around other plants for nourishment. Also known as Tu-Si-Zi, it is used in China for kidney deficiency and is one of the commonly used Chinese Herbs. Cuscuta seed has a high content of flavonoids and has strong antioxidant properties. It has been found in studies to have positive effects on sperm health and motility, invigorates the reproductive system, and has antioxidant benefits. I could not find any human studies involving cuscuta seed. Below you will find research articles on semen cuscutae. Semen in Chinese herbology means seed. You can find this herb in a sexual enhancing product called Passion Rx.

Cuscuta side effects, safety, caution and risk
Cuscuta seed extract has not been studied to any great extent in the Western medical literature, and hence we don't have much information on it potential benefits and harm. One side effect that could occur when used in high dosages is insomnia or shallow sleep.

  •      Sexual stamina
  •      Erectile function
  •      Orgasms and climaxes
  •      Mood and vision 

The potent herbal extracts include Ashwagandha, Aspallum purificata, Catuaba, Cuscutae, Muira puama, Cnidium, Coleus forskohlii, Damiana, Horny goat weed, Maca, Mucuna pruriens, Passion flower, Pfaffia paniculata, Rehmannia, Rhodiola, Tongkat Ali and Tribulus.

Reproductive health
Cuscuta seed may be helpful for sperm health and production.

Effects of flavonoids from Cuscuta seed on the reproductive system in male rats.
Asian J Androl. 2000.
To evaluate the effects of the flavonoids extracted from cuscuta on the reproductive and endocrine functions in male rats. Flavonoids were obtained from the semen of Cuscuta sinensis; Effect on the reproductive organs was assessed in immature rats. Rats were administered cuscuta through gastric gavage at a dose of 300 mg/kg per day for 7 days and the weights of testis, epididymis, seminal vesicle and pituitary gland were then observed; To observe the effect of cuscuta on the reproductive endocrine function: same dose level of cuscuta  was given to male rats of different age groups for 7 days; on day 8, the plasma testosterone (T), estradiol (E2) and LH were determined, the specific binding of LH was estimated and the testes were weighed. Effect on LH secretion was assessed in vitro on cultured adenohypophysis. Effect of cuscuta on T secretion was assessed in vitro on Leydig cell culture. Cuscuta increased the weights of testis, epididymis and pituitary gland, and stimulated T and LH secretion both in vitro and in immature rats. Cuscuta invigorates the reproductive system and reproductive endocrine function in male rats.

Effects of Semen cuscutae, rhizoma Curculiginis, radix Morindae officinalis on human sperm motility and membrane function in vitro
Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 1997.
To observe the effects of cuscuta and Radix Morindae Officinalis on human sperm motility in vitro and cytomembrane function. The sperm motility improved markedly and sperm membrane function became more stabilized after incubation, the cuscuta had best effect, Radix Morindae Officinalis was relatively poor. Cuscuta decoction is an effective promoting preparation for sperm motility and the membrane function stabilized. Therefore, cuscuta  may be beneficial in treating male sterility and may raise success rate in artificial insemination.

Cuscuta protects the liver from acetaminophen damage
Hepatoprotective and antioxidant effects of Cuscuta chinensis against acetaminophen-induced hepatotoxicity in rats.
J Ethnopharmacol. 2007. Graduate Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, Kaohsiung Medical University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
Tu-Si-Zi, the seeds of Cuscuta chinensis, is a traditional Chinese medicine that is commonly used to nourish and improve the liver and kidney conditions in China and other Asian countries. As oxidative stress promotes the development of acetaminophen induced hepatotoxicity, the aim of the present study was to evaluate and compare the hepatoprotective effect and antioxidant activities of the aqueous and ethanolic extracts of Cuscuta chinensis on acetaminophen-induced hepatotoxicity in rats. Our data suggest that the ethanolic extract of Cuscuta chinensis can prevent hepatic injuries from acetaminophen-induced liver toxicity in rats and this is likely mediated through its antioxidant activities.

Skin cancer
Effect of Cuscuta chinensis water extract on 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene-induced skin papillomas and carcinomas in mice.
J Ethnopharmacol. 1986.
Cuscuta chinensis, known as Aftimun, is reputed to have antitumour activity in the Unani system of medicine in India. The effect of a hot water extract of Cuscuta chinensis on 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA)-induced skin papillomas and carcinomas in Swiss albino mice was studied. Oral administration of the extract delayed the appearance and retarded the growth of papillomas and the incidence of carcinoma.

Flavone content and constituents
Quantitative analysis of Semen cuscutae
Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 1991. Second Military Medical University, Shanghai.
In this paper, the quantitative analysis of the total flavone in 7 species revealed the contents: Cuscuta Chinensis (3.0%), Cuscuta Australis (3.2%) as compared with Cuscuta Europaea (4.5%). Cuscuta Chinensis has the highest content of polysaccharide of about 5-6%. The experimental results provide a scientific basis the rational use of Cuscuta. 

Cuscuta chinensis study
Study of quality control on Cuscuta chinensis and C. australia
Zhong Yao Cai. 2007. Shandong Institute of TCM, Jinan, China.
To study the estimate method of Cuscuta chinensis and Cuscuta australia. HPLC was used to determine the contents of four kinds of flavones of Cuscuta chinensis and australia growing on different hosts. Cuscuta chinensis and australia growing on different hosts both had hyperoside, quercetin, kaempferol and isorhamnetin. The contents of hyperoside and quercetin are higher in chinensis than in australia. The contents of kaempferol and isorhamnetin are lower in chinensis than in australia.

Systematics and plastid genome evolution of the cryptically photosynthetic parasitic plant genus Cuscuta.
BMC Biol. 2007. McNeal JR, Arumugunathan K, Kuehl JV, Boore JL, Depamphilis CW.
The genus Cuscuta commonly known as dodders, are epiphytic vines that invade the stems of their host with haustorial feeding structures at the points of contact. Although they lack expanded leaves, some species are noticeably chlorophyllous, especially as seedlings and in maturing fruits. Some species are reported as crop pests of worldwide distribution, whereas others are extremely rare and have local distributions and apparent niche specificity.

Cuscuta reflexa study
Swarnalin and cis-swarnalin, two new tetrahydrofuran derivatives with free radical scavenging activity, from the aerial parts of Cuscuta reflexa.
Nat Prod Res. 2007. Pharmacy Discipline, Life Science School, Khulna University, Khulna, Bangladesh.
Cuscuta reflexa has tetrahydrofuran derivatives, named swarnalin and cis-swarnalin, and a known coumarin, 5,6,7-trimethoxycoumarin.

questions
Hi, I was doing a search for Passion Rx on yahoo and came across a website called Penis Review. This website was claiming that VigRx is a number one pick and had ranked Passion Rx lower. Can you tell me more about VigRx.
   There are several so called sexual product review sites on the internet that make it appear that they are independent but are actually a front for the company that sells the top listed product. One such notorious site is Penis Review. See VigRx for more information. Other website that have done similar improper comparisons include zenerx erectile dysfunction product, stamazide and vigorelle.

Q. 2008 - About cuscuta (Dodder seed) for muscle and joint problems. I have had trouble with what I call a trick hip, which is most likely a bursitis from what I can read up on it. Certain movements set it off. Later the whole leg would get to aching. I studied herbs and then it came to me, try 1 tsp (5 ml) of 5:1 cuscuta concentrate (Mayway’s Plum Flower Brand) and ¼ tsp of Epimedium Grandiflorum 5:1 concentrate taken daily. The concentrates are cold water extracts that are flash dried in a tower; thus they resemble the traditional hot water decoctions. I disperse it in ¼ cup of hot water previously heated in a microwave and then diluted with tomato juice to 1 cup and take it upon rising in the morning. The tomato juice is for covering the taste. I have been using the epimedium previously for acid reflux. The result was some relief in 2 days and then gradual recovery over about a month. I tried going down on the dosage; however when I did so the pain would return. I have now been on it for 3 months and there is no sign of the problem. I have noted in the literature that cuscuta retards cataracts in laboratory animals. I am hoping for a slowing or reversal of cataracts. They have been present for about 10 years but have not interfered with vision. In April of 2006 I was examined and a picture was taken of my eye to establish a record. It showed the cataract just beginning to interfere with vision. The visual effect is slight and usually not noticeable. When I get back to the United States in the summer of 2008 I will go to the same doctor for a check up. In the meantime I am going to stay on the cuscuta and epimedium treatment. Also I am on prescription drops for glaucoma. I hope for improvement in that area also. Will let you know what the eye man finds. As for side effects, I have not noticed any; however my wife has noted a slight darkening of my hair. This has happened all over my body. It is not enough to be worth writing home about; however if the active item responsible for the darkening can be isolated and concentrated, you might have something of interest. I am 76 years old. The hair on my head has been white, but some of the hairs are dark now. Another effect is in the male function department. The cuscuta helps with performance. A week ago I added ¼ tsp of jiaogulan 5:1 concentrate, Plum Flower Brand to the mix. I noticed an immediate improvement in male function. Time between orgasms dropped to 24 hours (from 1 1/2 to 2 days). I have used jiaogulan before, but not in the above mix. Jiaogulan by its self gives a greater feeling of well being without stimulation. My wife uses it daily because it gives her more stamina or endurance and energy. It has vasodilation and bronchiole dilation properties as well as a blood pressure lowering effects. She takes it in capsule form in the Solaray brand.
   Follow up April 2009: Dear Dr. Ray Sahelian: I have been to the United States, and while there I got my eyes checked. The cataracts are stable. They have not grown. I do not notice any problems with my eyes. Head lights are no problem on the road. I have been back in Micronesia since September 2008. I have worked up a quick way of evaluating LH effect (I say effect because this is an indirect measurement). I have discovered that scrotal volume adjusts quickly to LH or LH effect, with most of the increase in a matter of days with a lesser gradual increase trailing off over a period of weeks. I measure the volume by water displacement using a 100 mm wide can filled with warm water. I push it up over my scrotum several times till no more water comes out, using my finger to break the seal (the finger is part of the measurement and can be subtracted). This yields a number in milliliters or cubic centimeters. It is reproducible. I don’t know the meaning of the number in a single measurement, but I do know the meaning of the variations in the measurement. There is no comparative information out there. Right off the bat I got some interesting results. There is a daily variation in the measurement. It is highest in the morning and declines through the day. Getting too tired from excessive exercise will make it lower the next morning. A bad night’s sleep will lower it. Its ups and downs make it appear to be a barometer of one’s well being. The daily variation is 5 to 8 % of the morning reading. I have found that cuscuta raises the scrotal volume; however there is a maximum point on the curve as you go up on cuscuta. For me the max occurs at 1 metric teaspoon daily with food. Fenugreek is an other substance that raises scrotal volume in a hurry. Some body builders use it to get there nuts back after being on steroids. With fenugreek I also found a maxima at 1 tsp daily with food. Going beyond that is counter productive. Cnidium has no noticeable effect when taken with the usual dose of cuscuta. I do not know if it would be active when no other herbs are present. When doing these measurements I vary only one herb at a time. So far I have noticed no effect from epimedium; however I have not tried epimedium in the absence of other herbs. In the presence of the cuscuta it does not seem to have an effect. Fenugreek is additive to cuscuta. I have been using epimedium (1/2 tsp of 20 % Icariin concentrate daily in addition to the other herbs. When I stopped epimedium, there was only a small effect, it was an increase! I use 5:1 concentrate of cuscuta and fenugreek, Plum flower brand from 1stchineseherbs dot com. as described above.
   Follow up May 2009 - I have not noticed any side effect. I have used it steady since January 2007 (at 1/2 teaspoon of 5:1 twice daily) and off and on for about 4 years before then. It does not lose its effectiveness. With cuscuta I breath easily and have no trouble doing vigorous exercise. It does not interfere with sleep. The benefits appear to be similar to those of cordyceps and jiaogulan. I have used cordyceps off and on. Cordyceps seems to somewhat augment the cuscuta in the male performance department. By its self cuscuta helps considerable in that area. The effects of epimedium on male performance for me have not been anything worth writing home about. I kept using it over the years because it moderated acid reflux. Now I find that cuscuta has sufficient moderating effect so that I can dispense with epimedium. I noticed little change in the male department when I dropped epimedium other than the observation that the LH effect declined a little. I suspect that cuscuta swamps out the epimedium benefits. Fenugreek goes well with cuscuta and augments the male performance. I note in the literature that cuscuta and epimedium go well together. However, my conclusion is that when the cuscuta dose is high enough, epimedium is nothing more than a commotion, which you are better off without. I and my wife are well pleased with the results. No need for Viagra. My age is 78 years.