English: Cuscuta seeds

Chinese: 菟丝子

Parts used: Dried ripe seeds

TCM category: Tonic herbs for Yang Deficiency

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Organ affinity: Kidney Liver Spleen

Scientific name: Cuscuta chinensis

Other names: Dodder seeds

Use of Tu Si Zi (cuscuta seeds) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Harvest the fruit when mature, dry it, extract the seeds and remove impurities.

Dosage: 9 - 15 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Tonifies Kidney Yang and Essence. Nourishes the Liver.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Tu Si Zi may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Impotence Enuresis Urinary incontinence Impaired vision Tinnitus Miscarriage Diarrhea Premature ejaculation

Contraindications*: Not for use during pregnancy.

Common TCM formulas in which Tu Si Zi is used*

Fu Tu Dan

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Stabilizes the Kidney Qi. Strengthens the Spleen. Stops leakage.

Tu Si Zi is a king ingredient in Fu Tu Dan. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

Read more about Fu Tu Dan

Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan

Source date: 1550 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Kidney Yang. Strengthens the Essence.

Tu Si Zi is a king ingredient in Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan, Tu Si Zi tonifies Kidney Yang and strengthen the Essence.

Read more about Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan

You Gui Wan

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms and tonifies Kidney Yang. Replenishes the Essence. Tonifies the Blood.

Conditions targeted*: Nephrotic syndromeOsteoporosis and others

Tu Si Zi is a deputy ingredient in You Gui Wan. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

Read more about You Gui Wan

Zuo Gui Wan

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes the Yin. Strengthens the Kidneys. Fills the Essence. Augments the marrow.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic bronchitisChronic nephritis and others

Tu Si Zi is an assistant ingredient in Zuo Gui Wan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Zuo Gui Wan, Tu Si Zi tonifies the Kidney Yin and Yang and secures the Essence, supporting the overall action of the formula in a balanced manner.

Read more about Zuo Gui Wan

Key TCM concepts behind Tu Si Zi's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Tu Si Zi belongs to the 'Tonic herbs for Yang Deficiency' category. Tonic herbs are used for patterns of Deficiency, when one lacks one of the 'Four Treasures' (Qi, Blood, Yin and Yang). Yang Tonics are generally used in combination with a small amount of Yin tonics. If Yin is deficient, neither Qi nor Yang herbs alone will be effective. The most common symptoms associated with Yang Deficiency are low libido and impotence. It is worth mentioning that another very effective remedy against Yang Deficiency is regular exercise.

Furthermore Tu Si Zi is Warm in nature. This means that Tu Si Zi tends to help people who have too much 'Cold' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Cold in their body are said to either have a Yin Excess (because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang Deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition Tu Si Zi can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Tu Si Zi also tastes Sweet. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Sweet ingredients like Tu Si Zi tends to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Tu Si Zi is thought to target the Kidney, the Liver and the Spleen. According to TCM, the Kidneys do not only regulate the urinary system but also play a key role in the reproductive system and the growth and aging process of the body. The Liver on the other hand is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and the Body Fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions. The Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body.

Research on Tu Si Zi

Whey associated with dodder seed extract can serve as a promising alternative for the treatment of moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis.1


1. Mehrbani M, Choopani R, Fekri A, Mehrabani M, Mosaddegh M, Mehrabani M. (2015). The efficacy of whey associated with dodder seed extract on moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis in adults: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Ethnopharmacol., 172:325-32. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2015.07.003.