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Dodder Seed (Semen Cuscutae)

Dodder Seed (Semen Cuscutae) close up

What is Dodder Seed (Semen Cuscutae)?

Dodder Seed (tu si zi, 菟丝子), also known as Semen Cuscutae, refers to the seeds of Cuscuta chinensis Lam., Cuscuta australis R. Br, or Cuscuta japonica Choisy. These plants come from the family Convolvulaceae, and are parasitic plants that survive by absorbing essence from its host.

As ancient herbalists did not discover any roots on the Dodder plant, they believed that it possessed some form of magic power. The Chinese name of Dodder Seed is comprised of three Chinese characters: the first incorporates the word “兔” below the character that refers to grass, forming the word “菟”; the second word “丝” refers to filament, and the last word “子” refers to seeds. During the Ming Dynasty, Li Shi Zhen wrote in the Compendium of Materia Medica that “Below the herb tu si zi, there lies the root of a ‘hidden rabbit’. Without that root, its filament does not grow. If the ‘hidden rabbit’ is withdrawn, the filament herb will die. As the young root of the herb looks like a ‘rabbit’, it is given the name of ‘rabbit filament’ (Tusi).”

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Semen Cuscutae falls under the category of ‘Tonic herbs for Yang Deficiency’. Such herbs can be used to replenish one’s ‘Four Treasures’ (qi, blood, yin, yang). Warm in nature, Semen Cuscutae can help individuals with too much Cold in their body, such as those experiencing a Yin Excess or a Yang Deficiency, to restore a harmonious yin-yang balance.

Sweet in taste, Semen Cuscutae can slow down acute reactions, detoxify the body and has a tonic effect on the body by replenishing qi and blood. In particular, the herb targets the Kidneys, the Liver and the Spleen.

Functions and Benefits of Dodder Seed (Semen Cuscutae)

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shows that Semen Cuscutae has the following health benefits.

Semen Cuscutae can tonify the Kidneys to nourish essence and relieve syndromes caused by Yang Deficiency or insufficiency of essence in the Kidneys. For example, Semen Cuscutae can address impotence, premature ejaculation, seminal emission, sterility, enuresis, frequent urination, leukorrhagia, tinnitus, sore painful back and abnormal vaginal discharge. This makes Semen Cuscutae a good treatment for low sex drive. Semen Cuscutae is indicated for dim and poor vision as well, as it can tonify the Liver to improve vision. 

Semen Cuscutae is also indicated for loose stools and diarrhoea caused by Deficiency in the Spleen or Kidneys. In addition, Semen Cuscutae is indicated to treat threatened miscarriages caused by deficiency in the Liver and Kidneys, insecurity of thoroughfare and conception vessels, malnutrition of fetus, metrorrhagia or metrostaxis due to disharmony of the sea of blood. In addition, Semen Cuscutae can be used to treat diabetes caused by Deficiency of Kidneys as well.

Some animal studies have found that Semen Cuscutae may delay the formation of cataract, modulate heart rate and blood pressure levels, and even possess anti-cancer and anti-bacterial effects.

Dodder Seed (Semen Cuscutae) on wooden spoon
Dodder Seed (Semen Cuscutae) can help to relieve chronic diarrhoea due to weak digestive abilities.

How to Use Dodder Seed (Semen Cuscutae)

The recommended daily dosage of Semen Cuscutae is 10 – 15g, when used as a decoction. A decoction of Semen Cuscutae is typically made with 10 – 15g of Semen Cuscutae with three to four cups of water, boiled till the volume of water is reduced by half.

Semen Cuscutae can be found in many herbal stores and some Asian specialty stores.

Cautions and Side Effects of Dodder Seed (Semen Cuscutae)

Semen Cuscutae should not be used by individuals who are experiencing Yin Deficiency with Heat signs, constipation, scanty and dark urine, or constant erection. Pregnant individuals should refrain from using this herb for the time being as well.

We strongly encourage you to consult your health providers before deciding to add Semen Cuscutae to your healthcare routine!


Here is a summary for Dodder Seed (Semen Cuscutae):

  • Herb name (Chinese): 菟丝子
  • Herb name (Pin Yin): tú sī zǐ
  • Herb name (English): Dodder Seed
  • Herb name (Botanical): Semen Cuscutae
  • Origin of species: Cuscuta chinensis Lam.; Cuscuta australis R. Br.
  • Part(s) of herb used: Seed
  • Geo-specific habitat(s): Most parts of China
  • Taste(s) & Properties: Pungent, sweet; Neutral; Administrates the Liver, Kidney and Spleen Meridians
  • Actions: Nourishes liver and kidney functions; Eases eye discomforts; Commonly used in infertility treatments; Relieves chronic diarrhea due to weak digestive abilities; Tonic used during pregnancy; Relieves symptoms of vitiligo (when used externally)

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