Cistanche is a traditional herb with adaptogenic properties that offer several health benefits. In Chinese, this plant is called “Rou Cong Rong”. It’s also known as desert cistanche. In this article, we will examine the several cistanche benefits and side effects. Read this article to know more.
What Is Cistanche? [A Detailed Analysis]
Cistanche is a genus of perennial herbs that has 22 known species growing in warm arid deserts across northwest China, Mongolia, Iran, and India. As a parasitic herb, it lacks chlorophyll, instead, it attaches to the roots of sand-fixing plants to obtain water and nutrients from them.
Cistanche only thrives well under extreme environmental conditions featuring an extremely arid climate, depauperate soils, higher sunshine, huge temperature differences, and annual precipitation <250mm.
These rare growing conditions and their common usage in Traditional Chinese Medicine (regarded as Rou Cong-Rong) have made Cistanche an endangered wild species.
Cistanche ranks among the most common tonics in Traditional Chinese Medicine as the “Ginseng of the Deserts” due to its various beneficial health effects, including becoming a coming herbal worldwide, especially in treating renal problems, enhancing testosterone levels, and treating neurodegenerative diseases such a Alzheimer’s disease.
The two major species of cistanche are Cistanche deserticola and Cistanche tubulosa. They are harvested and prepared into herbal supplements and extracts. They are different in the composition of their chemical constituents but their similarity makes it possible to be used interchangeably. Cistanche tubulosa is more easily found as a supplement than Cistanche deserticola.
Benefits Of Cistanche
Cistanche has several benefits, some of which include:
1. Enhance Brain Function
Studies show that Cistanches herba may enhance brain function and memory retention. This includes learning for long-term memory storage, remembering facts and knowledge, often called consolidation, and recalling information stored in long-term memory.
Test tube studies have verified that Cistanche tubulosa extract can greatly enhance these aspects of cognitive function by preventing the loss of neurons. Several other animal and cell culture studies have proven the brain-enhancing benefits of different species of cistanche.
A specialized cistanche extract (known as Memoregain®) was known to treat mild Alzheimer’s. The study noted that people with Alzheimer’s didn’t exhibit any aggravation of cognitive function, independent living ability, and overall conditions but were normal throughout the study. Unlike other long-term medications such as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, Memoregain® can treat mild to moderate Alzheimer’s.
2. Improve Immune Health
Studies show that cistanche improves immune health. Cistanches herba contains a phytochemical known as Echinacoside, commonly found in echinacea, which can improve the immune system.
A test-tube study confirmed that an extract of Cistanche salsa, one of the popular varieties of this plant, improved antibody production in human lymph node lymphocytes. Antibodies are an essential part of the adaptive immune system that combats pathogens.
In an animal study, the daily dosage of a cistanche extract boosted native T and natural killer cells in the blood and spleen, reduced proinflammatory IL-6, and enhanced overall longevity.
3. Aid Healthy Aging
New research confirms that cistanche can help with healthy aging by increasing HGH production. A recent study showed that several phytochemicals within C. tubulosa enhance human growth hormone (HGH), which is a result of ghrelin receptor activation.
This is an important discovery because HGH levels usually decrease over time. Enhancing HGH production slows aging and increases cell regeneration.
4. Boost Sexual Wellness
Research suggests that cistanche can boost sexual wellness. Several animal studies reveal that the active components found in cistanche enhance male sex hormone production (including testosterone).
Moreover, Echinacoside, a phytochemical found in Cistanches herba, contains vaso-relaxing activity, which enhances male sexual health through increased blood flow.
Note that many cultures use this herb traditionally to boost sexual function.
Cistanche Side Effects
Recent research revealed that cistanches herba extracts lack any known toxicity, however, consult your doctor before considering a new supplement.
Moreover, carefully follow the dosage instructions of any product you use because a high dosage could cause mild side effects such as dizziness, nausea and vomiting, and abdominal pain.
Since cistanche boosts testosterone levels, it may cause changes in mood and aggression. Also, people with a low blood pressure of (<80/60) should avoid cistanche because as a vaso-relaxant, it reduces blood pressure.
Conclusion – Is Cistanche Safe To Take?
Cistanche is a traditional herb with several benefits like enhancing brain function, improving immune health, aiding healthy aging, and boosting sexual wellness.
Although considered safe, consult your doctor before trying any new supplement, avoid high dosage, expect changes to mood and aggression, and it’s not applicable for people with very low blood pressure.
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