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Prinsepia Seed (rui ren/zi)

What is prinsepia seed? What is it used for?

Prinsepia seed comes from the prinsepia, a small, hardy shrub native to east Asia and northwest China. It is named after, John Prinsep, a former secretary of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, who conducted extensive studies on the shrub in the 19th century.

Prinsepia ranges between four and six feet in height, with alternating, oblong-shaped leaves, whitish-yellow flowers, and dark, purplish fruits that ripen in the summer.

The seeds of the prinsepia are used medicinally. Each fruit contains one large seed. The seeds are harvested from the fruit after ripening, then dried in the sun and used either raw or after being cooked.

Prinsepia seed is considered to have sweet and cool properties, and is associated with the Liver meridian, according to the auspices of traditional Chinese medicine. It is used primarily to treat eye disorders, such as conjunctivitis and acute keratitis, and is used in conjunction with other herbs such as verbena.

How much prinsepia seed should I take?

The typical dosage of prinsepia seed is between 4.5-9 grams, crushed into powder and drunk with boiling water as a decoction.

What forms of prinsepia seed are available?

Whole, dried prinsepia seeds can be found at many specialty stores, herbal shops and Asian markets. Prinsepia seed is also available in powder form, as well as in capsules and pills.

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

The safety of prinsepia seed is undetermined as of this writing; the American Herbal Products Association has given it a class 4 rating, meaning that there is insufficient data available to classify the herb as being safe or unsafe. However, prinsepia seed should not be taken by patients with eye disorders caused by liver or kidney problems.

As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions associated with prinsepia seed. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking prinsepia seed or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.


  • Chen JK, Chen TT. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. City of Industry, CA: Art of Medicine Press, 2004, p. 129.
  • Facciola S. Cornucopia: A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications, 1990. ISBN #0-9628087-0-9.
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  • McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, et al. (eds.) American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, p. 91.
  • Thomas GS. Ornamental Shrubs, Climbers and Bamboos. Murray Press, 1992. ISBN #0-7195-5043-2.
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