Herbs & Botanicals
What is cassia seed? What is it used for?
Cassia seeds come from the cassia, an annual plant that grows in the world's tropical zones. It is an upright-growing plant that can reach a height of more than four feet, with large, green leaves and yellow flowers.
The entire plant is picked and reaped in autumn, then dried in the sun. The seeds threshed off the plant, and can be used either raw or after being fried.
Externally, cassia seeds range in color from greenish-brown to dark brown, with a smooth surface. Some cassia seeds may have small yellowish bands on the outer surface.
In traditional Chinese medicine, cassia seeds are sweet, bitter and salty in flavor, slightly cold in nature, and are associated with the Liver, Kidney and Large Intestine meridians. Its main functions are to remove heat, improve eyesight, and relax the bowels. Traditionally, it is used to treat blurred vision and eyes that are bloodshot. Some practitioners employ cassia seed as a laxative to treat constipation. There is also evidence that it helps to reduce blood pressure. Cassia seed is often used as part of a larger formula, and is mixed with herbs such as lyceum, rehmannia and dioscorea.
How much cassia seed should I take?
The typical dosage of cassia seed is between six and 12 grams, decocted in water for oral consumption. The seeds should not be decocted for any considerable length of time if they are being used to treat constipation. If the seeds are being used alone, larger doses (up to 30 grams) can be used.
What forms of cassia seed are available?
Whole, dried cassia seeds can be found at some Asian markets and specialty stores. Some shops also sell cassia seed powders and decoctions. Some practitioners also make a cassia seed paste, which can be applied to the skin and treat parasitic disorders such as ringworm.
What can happen if I take too much cassia seed? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?
Because cassia seed appears to lower a person's blood pressure, it should not be taken by people who are currently using blood pressure medications. Cassia seed should also be avoided by patients who have qi deficiency combined with loose stools. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking cassia seed or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.
- Chang CL, et al. Vegetables as Medicine. Kuranda, Australia: The Ram's Skull Press, 1989.
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- Hu S. An Enumeration of Chinese Materia Medica. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1980.
- Li XE, Guo BJ. Effect of protein and anthraquinone glucosides from cassia seed on serum lipid of hyperlipidemia rats. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi May 2002;27(5):374-6.
- Lu S, Cai H (eds.) English-Chinese Encyclopedia of Practical Traditional Chinese Medicine, Volume 17: Ophthalmology. Beijing: Higher Education Press, 1989.