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Vaccaria Seed (wang bu lui xing)

What is vaccaria seed? What is it used for?

The vaccaria is an annual plant that grows in China and parts of central and southern Europe. It is also known as the cowherb or cow soapwort.

The plant grows to a height of about two-and-a-half feet, with pink and white hermaphroditic flowers. The whole plant is harvested in the summer, then dried in the sun. After being dried, the seeds are removed from their shells, then dried again. The seeds can be used raw, or after being parched.

In traditional Chinese medicine, vaccaria seeds have bitter and neutral properties, and are associated with the Liver and Stomach meridians. Their main functions are to invigorate the blood and promote lactation. Typically, vaccaria seeds are used to treat conditions such as dysmenorrhea or amenorrhea (painful menstruation), along with insufficient lactation following childbirth, and mastitis. In recent years, some practitioners have used vaccaria seeds in combination with safflower and other herbs to treat inflammation of the prostate gland. Many acupuncturists also use vaccaria seeds when performing acupressure or acupuncture to the ear. Externally, vaccaria seeds can be ground into a powder to help treat some skin conditions.

How much vaccaria seed should I take?

The typical dosage of vaccaria seed is between 6 and 10 grams, decocted in water for oral use.

What forms of vaccaria seed are available?

Whole, dried vaccaria seeds can be found at most herbal shops, Asian markets and specialty stores. Some stores also sell powdered vaccaria seed.

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

Vaccaria seeds contain chemical compounds called saponins, which usually pass through the body without causing harm, but can be toxic if consumed in large quantities. Therefore, vaccaria seeds should be used with extreme by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions with vaccaria seeds. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking vaccaria seed or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.


  • Bensky D, Baralet R. Chinese Herbal Medicine: Formulas & Strategies. Seattle: Eastland Press Inc., 1990.
  • Cao GF, Lin HQ, Yu Y. Urinary calculi treated by electric stimulation at ear & body acupoints combined with Chinese herbal drugs: report of 127 cases. Liaoning JTCM 1989;13(6):37-38.
  • Diao AY. Treating simple obesity with otopoint plastering and pressing. Shandong Journal of TCM 1999;18(11):522.
  • Feng SH. Ear-plaster treatment for 120 cases of dysmenorrhoea. Shanghai J AP Moxibust 1999;12(3):117.
  • Yuan ZR. Forty-five cases of obesity treated with otopoint plastering and pressing treatments. Journal of Acupuncture Clinical Application 1999;15(2):37-38.
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