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Croton Seed (ba dou)

What is croton seed? What is it used for?

Croton seeds come from the croton, a small tree-like shrub that grows throughout China and other parts of Asia. The seed of the plant is used medicinally. The seeds are gathered in the autumn, dried in the sun, and ground into powder.

Croton seed has pungent and toxic properties, and is associated with the Lung, Stomach and Large Intestine meridians, based on the principles of traditional Chinese medicine. Its main functions are to move cold downward, to transform water, and to resolve phlegm.

Croton seed is a powerful purgative. Among the conditions croton seed is used to treat are abdominal pain and constipation, convulsions, profuse sputum, edema and ascites. Externally, croton seed can treat boils, carbuncles and other skin lesions. It is often used with rhubarb, dried ginger and apricot seed.

How much croton seed should I take?

The typical dose of croton seed is extremely small (0.1-0.3 grams of powdered seed). Larger amounts can be used when croton seed is applied externally.

What forms of croton seed are available?

Croton seed is available most frequently as a powder. Some stores also sell croton seed oil, which is extremely potent.

What can happen if I take too much croton seed? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Croton seed is highly toxic, and is considered one of the most potent purgative herbs in traditional Chinese medicine. As a result, it should never be taken by children or women who are pregnant or lactating, and should be used with extreme caution by other individuals. It should not be taken in conjunction with pharbitis (qian niu hua or qian niu zi); in addition, hot foods and liquids should not be consumed when croton seeds are administered.


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  • Hetter GP. An examination of the phenol-croton oil peel: part IV. Face peel results with different concentrations of phenol and croton oil. Plast Reconstr Surg March 2000;105(3):1061-83.
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