Botanical: Cnidium monnieri Family: Umbelliferae (carrot) - Apiaceae (parsley) Other common names: Monnier's Snowparsley, She Chuang Zi, Conidium Fruit
Cnidium Monnier is a Chinese herb that has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as a remedy for a variety of skin ailments and as a reproductive aid and aphrodisiac that increases sexual desire in both men and women. Today, we are told that it assists the body in producing nitric oxide, which relaxes smooth muscles and works to encourage healthy sexual function, and it has been used to treat male sexual dysfunction. It also shows promise in the areas of osteoporosis, allergies and carcinoma research.
Cnidium Monnier is a warm, bitter and acrid herb that is native to China, where it may be found growing on field edges, in ditches and waste places in most of the country. It also grows in Korea, Mongolia and Russia and has been introduced to the United States (Oregon) and Europe. Cnidium Monnier is a very small annual (or perennial) that may be found growing on field edges, in ditches and waste places in most areas of 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. The hardy plant is in flower from May to July, are hermaphrodite (with both male and female organs) and self-fertile. The seeds ripen from July to August, and the plant will survive in light, loamy or clay soils that can be either acid or alkaline. Judging by the plant's native habitat, it is likely to require a well-drained soil in a sunny position. Cnidium Monnier has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a remedy for many skin ailments, as well as a treatment for sexual dysfunction. It is primarily used for the purpose of overcoming sexual malaise and strengthening sexual potency, and Chinese literature often refers to the seeds as an aphrodisiac that was used almost routinely in imperial formulas designed specifically for the emperor. In this regard, it is interesting to note that many civilizations throughout the world have understood that locally-grown plants have been able to provide wonderful therapeutic results through natural means with far fewer side effects than prescription drugs.
Cnidium Monnier has been used for over a thousand years in Traditional Chinese Medicine for its positive effect on the libido. It is considered a reproductive aid and aphrodisiac. The seeds are said to be a natural libido booster; and in the treatment of male sexual dysfunction and impotence, it apparently, helps to relax the corpus cavernosa of the penis (the chambers in the penis that fill with blood during an erection), allowing blood to flow freely and helping to produce an erection. Moreover, it is said to increase the release of nitric oxide, a substance that is important for stronger, longer-lasting erections. Nitric oxide activates enzymes that make the substance, cyclic Guanosine Monophosphate (cGMP), which relaxes the muscles around the genital area and allows the penis to swell. The herb is also thought to inhibit PDE-5, an enzyme that can stop or reverse an erection, allowing erections to be sustained for longer periods of time. Cnidium Monnier is said to produce an action similar to sex hormones, prolonging and reviving the copulation period, increasing the weight of the uterus and ovary, prostate gland and testicle. Cnidium is also believed to assist in cases of premature ejaculation.
Further supporting Cnidium Monnier's role in urogenital health, it is said to act as a libido booster for women as well. The nitric oxide that helps to relax the muscles around the genital area in men also allows blood to flow to columns of erectile tissue forming the body of the clitoris in women, allowing the clitoris to swell. It is also thought to help in cases of frigity and female sterility.
Cnidium Monnier shows promise in the area of treatment for serious disease and is currently being researched for the cytotoxic activity of its coumarins (osthol, imperatorin, bergapten, isopimpinellin and xanthotoxin) on leukemia cell lines. In laboratory tests, an extract of C. monnieri exhibited strong effects on human leukemia (HL-60), cervical carcinoma and colorectal carcinoma. The coumarin, osthol, demonstrated the strongest cytotoxic (cell killing) activity on tumor cell lines; however, imperatorin showed the highest sensitivity to leukemia. Both osthol and imperatorin showed DNA fragmentation and PARP degradation in leukemia (HL-60) cells.
In the treatment of skin ailments, Cnidium Monnier has been used to treat itchy, "wet" skin conditions, eczema, scabies and acne. It is considered an antiseptic, antifungal, antiviral and astringent, which may account for its efficacy in treating these ailments. When used topically, it is said to be excellent for vulval and vaginal itching and infections (including trichomonas vaginitis, eczema of external genitalia and leukorrhoea), abscesses and ringworm and is commonly found in lotions, creams and ointments in China.
Cnidium Monnier shows promise in the management of allergies. In studies conducted in Kinki University of Osaka, Japan, an extract obtained from the dried fruits showed inhibitory effects on contact dermatitis in laboratory animals. The coumarin derivative, osthol, is said to be the active ingredient that was mainly responsible for anti-allergic effects, and it is believed that Cnidium Monnier may be useful as an agent that inhibits allergic diseases.
In the treatment of osteoporosis, three coumarins in Cnidium Monnier (osthol, bergapten and imperatorin) were isolated, and in laboratory tests, osthol, a major pharmacologically active constituent, significantly promoted osteoblastic cells' activity. These are the cells found in bone whose function it is to form the tissue and minerals that give bone its strength. These results have suggested that extracts from this herb may have potential benefit against osteoporosis.
Cnidium Monnier is considered a warming tonic herb in China that exerts a gentle strengthening effect on the entire body by restoring enfeebled function and promoting vigor and a sense of well-being. Tonic herbs restore and strengthen individual organs and the entire system. As a bitter, it is thought to stimulate the digestive process and relieve indigestion and flatulence.
Other beneficial uses credited to Cnidium Monnier include relieving the symptoms of asthma, relieving colds, reducing internal dampness, lumbago due to attack of damp and improving kidney energy.