Cnidium seeds are derived from the cnidium plant, which grows throughout China. Cnidium seeds are used in classical traditional Chinese medicine for skin problems and as a natural libido booster. It is known in China as she chuang zi, which translates into snake-bed seed. Where did this name come from?
It is said that a long time ago in a small Chinese village, a strange skin disease afflicted many people. The patients felt itchy all over and had boils here and there. It spread very rapidly. The herbalists knew of a herb growing on a small island about 10 miles away that could cure the disease.
However, they also knew there were many poisonous snakes on the island that slept on this herb, so no herbalists dared go to that island. One day, a brave young man didn’t want to see his family and neighbors continue to suffer from the disease, so he decided to go.
He rowed a boat to the island. Sadly, this young man never returned. A few months later, another brave young man did the same thing, and he failed to return too. The villagers were very sad about the two brave young men, and they almost gave up hope. Then a third brave young man said that he would go.
Instead of going straight to the island, this young man went to a seaside temple where he had heard there was a nun who was an expert at controlling snakes. The nun told the young man that poisonous snakes are afraid of wine. She then gave him a bottle of wine, and he headed for the island.
When he arrived at the island, he found the island was indeed full of snakes. He poured the wine over the ground as he walked along and the snakes all remained very still. When he came to the herb he was looking for, the young man had to push some snakes aside, as several were lying on the herb.
The young man finally returned to the village with the herb, which subsequently cured the people’s strange skin disease. He named the herb “snake-bed seed” because the seeds of the plant are what is used, and the snakes slept on the plant.
Cnidium seeds are most commonly used to treat itchy skin, rashes, eczema, and ringworm. These conditions are treated by grinding the seeds with water into a solution and applying to the skin. Cnidium seeds are also taken internally to treat vaginal discharges and increase sexual potency.
Cnidium is often combined with herbs, such as cuscuta and schisandra, to treat infertility and impotence; in many classical traditional Chinese medicine texts, cnidium is used as a form of aphrodisiac.