English: Desert-living cistanches

Chinese: 肉苁蓉

Parts used: Dried stem

TCM category: Tonic herbs for Yang Deficiency

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): SaltySweet

Organ affinity: Kidney Large intestine

Scientific name: Cistanche deserticola or Cistanche tubulosa

Use of Rou Cong Rong (desert-living cistanches) 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: Remove impurities, wash, slice, and dry.

Dosage: 6 - 12 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Tonifies Kidney Yang, Restores Essence and Blood. Induces laxation.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Rou Cong Rong may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Impotence Infertility Lower back pain Lower back weakness Knee pain Knee weakness Constipation Nocturnal emission Frequent urination Tinnitus

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used when there is Yin Deficiency with Heat signs or when there is diarrhea from either Deficient Spleen or Stomach or pathogenic Heat.

Common TCM formulas in which Rou Cong Rong is used*

Ji Chuan Jian

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms the Kidneys . Nourishes the Blood . Strengthens the Essence . Moistens the Intestines. Unblocks bowels .

Conditions targeted*: ConstipationConstipation in the elderly and others

Rou Cong Rong is a king ingredient in Ji Chuan Jian. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Ji Chuan Jian, Rou Cong Rong warms and tonifies the Kidney Yang, warms the lower back, and moistens the Intestines to unblock the bowels.

Read more about Ji Chuan Jian

Tu Si Zi Wan

Source date: 1253 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms the Kidneys. Prevents abnormal leakage such as urinary incontinence or seminal emissions.

Conditions targeted*: Urinary incontinenceSeminal emission and others

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

In Tu Si Zi Wan, Rou Cong Rong , together with other key herbs of the formula, tonifies the Kidneys.

Read more about Tu Si Zi Wan

Zan Yu Dan

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 14 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms and tonifies the Kidneys.

Conditions targeted*: Erectile dysfunctionInfertility in male and others

Rou Cong Rong is a king ingredient in Zan Yu Dan. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Zan Yu Dan, Rou Cong Rong tonify the Kidneys and strengthen the Kidney Yang.

Read more about Zan Yu Dan

Key TCM concepts behind Rou Cong Rong's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Rou Cong Rong 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 Rou Cong Rong is Warm in nature. This means that Rou Cong Rong 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 Rou Cong Rong can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Rou Cong Rong also tastes Salty and 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. Salty ingredients like Rou Cong Rong tends to have a draining effect in the body because they clear accumulations, remove Phlegm and soften hard lumps. On the other hand Sweet ingredients tend 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 Rou Cong Rong is thought to target the Kidney and the Large intestine. 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 Large Intestine on the other hand receives the "impure" parts of the digested food from the Small Intestine, absorbs the remaining fluids and excrete the remainder as feces.