Cnidium monnieri is a plant used in Traditional Chinese medicine for the treatment of a broad range of conditions — from various skin ailments such as rashes and breakouts to erectile dysfunction.
It is found in some male enhancements.
Cnidium monnieri is rich in coumarin compounds — a class of organic compounds known to have significant physiological, anti-bacterial and anti-tumor activity (1). The presence of coumarin as well as other polyphenolic compounds in this plant is what researchers believe give it such a range of therapeutic functions.
Studies show Cnidium monnieri improves sexual dysfunction in animal studies. This herb has long been prescribed by Chinese medical practitioners for the treatment of impotence. Animal studies show that this herb appears to be active on both penis tissues and the brain in similar ways to Viagra and other common erectile dysfunction drugs.
According to the April 2017 issue of Translational Andrology and Urology, the bioactive compound osthole from the fruit of Cnidium monnieri, has been shown to have a vasodilating effect. Studies reveal that osthole has a relaxant effect on rabbit corpus cavernosum — two chambers of sponge-like tissue in the penis. The resulting relaxation effect facilitates penile erection by allowing the penis to be filled with blood.
It is believed the mechanism involved is the release of nitric oxide (an essential mediator of erectile function; impaired nitric oxide bioactivity is associated with erectile dysfunction) and inhibition of phosphodiesterase.
Inhibiting phosphodiesterase is important because it is an enzyme which destroys the production of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) — an intracellular “messenger” that effects the amount of blood that the blood vessels deliver and remove from the penis (2).
Other extracts of the fruit such as imperatorin and xanthotoxin also exhibited a relaxing effect (3).
Cnidium monnieri has some antitumor effects. In a 2007 study, researchers isolated the major bioactive compound, osthole from the plant to evaluate its in vivo and in vitro effect on antitumor activity. The results of the in vivo study showed that osthole inhibited the growth of cancer cell lines in a time- and concentration-dependent manner, and induced apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cell lines in vitro.
Furthermore, results of the in vivo model showed that the survival days of the tumor-bearing mice were prolonged after 30 mg/kg osthole was given once a day for nine days.
Researchers concluded that osthole has the potential to be a good lead compound for developing future antitumor drugs (4).
Cnidium monnieri provides anti-itch relief. Antihistamines, steroids and anti-allergic drugs are frequently used for the treatment of itching caused by such skin disorders as atopic dermatitis. Persistent scratching is not only a nuisance, it can lead to raised, thickened areas of skin that may bleed or become infected (5). In an effort to find itch relief from natural sources, researchers investigated the efficacy of 70 percent ethanol extract of dried Cnidium monnieri fruit.
Oral administration of 50-500mg/kg bodyweight of ethanolic extract in mice suffering from irritated skin resulted in reduced scratching behavior. Researchers found that of the three compounds isolated from the ethanolic extract: osthole, imperatorin and isopimpinellin, isopimpinellin was found to be an active constituent, whereas osthole was less active and imperatorin was ineffective (6).
In another study, the effects of the methanol extract, chloroform-soluble and chloroform-insoluble fractions of Cnidium monnieri were examined at a dose of 200 mg/kg given to mice.
The methanol extract and its chloroform-soluble fraction markedly suppressed the scratching response and the effect of the chloroform-soluble fraction was stronger than that of the methanol extract. On the other hand, the chloroform-insoluble fraction tended to suppress the scratching response but not significantly (7).
Cnidium monnieri has antidiabetic activity in mice. Researchers of a 2009 study set out to investigate the hypoglycemic effects of the compound osthole in diabetic-induced mice. The results published in Chemico-Biological Interactions, revealed that osthole significantly activated both PPARalpha and PPARgamma (therapeutic targets commonly used to ameliorate hyperlipidemia and hyperglycemia in type 2 diabetes) in a dose-dependent manner.
In addition, obese diabetic mice treated with osthole by different administered routes, were found to have markedly reduced blood glucose levels (8).
Researchers are optimistic that osthole can alleviate hyperglycemia and could be potentially developed into a drug for treatment of diabetes mellitus.
Cnidium monnieri has anti-inflammatory potential. In the May 2017 issue of International Journal of Molecular Sciences, researchers reported on their discovery of three new coumarins isolated from the fruit of Cnidium monnieri, together with 14 known compounds. Their investigation reveals that some of these bioactive isolates could be further developed as potential candidates for the treatment or prevention of various inflammatory diseases (9).
Animal studies show Cnidium monnieri has an antiosteoporotic effect. Osteoporosis (loss of bone mass) affects an estimated 10 million Americans, and according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, about one in 10 women over the age of 50 will break a bone due to this condition (10).
Researchers in Shanghai, China performed a study to evaluate the effects of total coumarins from the fruits of Cnidium monnieri (TCFC) on ovariectomized rats (a research model for menopause).
The results showed that TCFC not only depressed the breakdown of bone but also partly stimulated bone function (11).
Clinical studies have been limited to animals, and, therefore, there is not enough information about Cnidium monnieri to know what its short and long-term effects may be in humans. (12)
There is also currently no clinical information on its interactions with other drugs.
At present, there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for Cnidium.
Cnidium monnieri has long been used by medical practitioners in Traditional Chinese Medicine for the treatment of a range of disorders — from various skin ailments such as rashes and itching to erectile dysfunction. Researchers attribute the presence of coumarin compounds — a class of organic compounds known to have a significant physiological, anti-bacterial and anti-tumor activity — to the therapeutic functions of this plant.
Some studies also show the plant’s antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory and antiosteoporotic potential.
While there have been several clinical studies performed demonstrating the plant’s efficacy in potentially treating and preventing several medical conditions, they have been limited to animal studies.
Larger and more thorough studies are needed to fully confirm the medicinal effects, dosages and side effects of this plant in humans.