Herbal Exhibition
Herba Cistanches
Desertliving Cistanche


The scale-leaf-bearing fleshy stem of Cistanche deserticola Y. C. Ma (Fam. Orobanchaceae).

Mainly in Chinese provinces such as Shaanxi and Gansu, and in Ningxia Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang.

Harvest & Processing
Dig out and collect stems, usually in spring, before or when shoots just begin to come up above the ground; remove inflorescences; cut stems into sections; dry under the sun.

Stem flattened and cylindrical, slightly curved; usually 3-15 cm long, 2-8 cm in diameter. Outer surface reddish-brown or greyishbrown, densely covered with imbricate (overlapping like tiles on a roof) fleshy scales; apex of scales usually broken. Heavy; hard, fairly pliable, does not break easily; when broken, surface reddish-brown, with pale brown punctiform (dot-like) vascular bundles arranged in undulate (wavy) annulations. Odour: faint; taste: sweet and slightly bitter.

1. Impotence, seminal emission, infertility and generalised weakness with loin and knee ache
2. Constipation

Chemical Composition
Mainly contains iridoids such as cistanosides A, B, C, D, E.


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The information and images in this Online Herbal Exhibition is form the book, "An Illustrated Chinese Materia Medica in Hong Kong", edited by Professor Zhao Zhongzhen, School of Chinese Medicine, Hong Kong Baptist University. For the complete collection of Chinese Materia Medica compiled by Professor Zhao, please go to this website: http://www.bucmm.org.

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