Cistanche Side Effects & Drug Interactions

Cistanche is a famous traditional Chinese herb known for its wide range of health benefits. It’s often used to support hormonal health, reduce anxiety, and promote overall health and wellness. …

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Written by: Daniel Powers, MS
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Cistanche is a famous traditional Chinese herb known for its wide range of health benefits.

It’s often used to support hormonal health, reduce anxiety, and promote overall health and wellness.

As it grows in popularity, many users are concerned about the possible side effects of cistanche, as well as its drug interactions and safety warnings.

This article will review the evidence regarding potential health risks.

Cistanche side effects and drug interactions

Cistanche Overview:

Cistanche is a perennial herb that grows in hot arid deserts throughout northwest Asia. It is a popular herb in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) where it is known as Rou Cong-Rong.

From a botany perspective, cistanche doesn’t have the ability to produce chlorophyll. Thus, it’s a parasitic herb that attaches to the roots of other plants to draw water and nutrients.

Cistanche grows in extremely harsh conditions. It requires an arid climate, poor soil quality, intense sunlight, large changes in temperature throughout the year, and rainfall below 10 inches per year. This has led to cistanche being labeled as an endangered species.

The endangered status of cistanche is due to its limited growing conditions and its high demand in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Cistanche Benefits & Uses:

What is cistanche good for? Cistanche has many different health benefits and uses in modern natural medicine. Here are a few of the primary reasons why people use cistanche supplements.

  • May Boost Testosterone: Various animal studies have shown that cistanche works to increase testosterone production.
  • May Promote Healthy Aging: Cistanche has also been shown to support healthy aging by increasing human growth hormone (HGH) production.
  • May Support Brain Health: Various lab-based studies have confirmed that Cistanche tubulosa improves brain function by preventing neuron loss.
  • May Support Immune Health: Cistanche contains high levels of echinacoside, which is thought to improve both the innate and adaptive immune system function.

As you can see, cistanche supplementation may help to boost health in a variety of areas.

Is Cistanche Safe to Consume?

Yes, cistanche is safe for most individuals to consume.

The Botanical Safety Handbook, a leading resource on herb safety, notes that cistanche is safe for most individuals when appropriately consumed. It also states that no clinically relevant herb-drug interactions are expected to occur.

In traditional Chinese medicine, cistanche has been consumed for over a thousand years. This is an important consideration as many traditional medical systems had a good feel for herb safety.

All things considered, cistanche is usually well-tolerated and doesn’t seem to pose any risks when consumed in moderation.

What Medications Should Not Be Taken With Cistanche?

Yes, cistanche has the potential to interfere with different prescription medications, so it’s important to pay close attention. The primary potential cistanche drug interactions is as follows:

  • Barbiturates: It should be noted that one animal study discovered that cistanche may be able to increase the effectiveness of barbiturates (i.e. sleep drugs). Use caution when combining cistanche alongside sleep drugs, especially if you plan on consuming both of them together around bedtime. Common barbiturates include amobarbital, butalbital, methohexital, and pentobarbital.

While this is the primary drug category to consider, you should still consult with your doctor if you’re taking prescription medication of any kind.

Cistanche safety and side effects

Cistanche Side Effects:

Common side effects of taking cistanche can include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. It’s also been reported by some users that cistanche can cause a laxative effect. However, safety research indicates that cistanche is generally well tolerated and side effects tend to be minimal.

Additionally, cistanche has been regularly consumed and recommended for thousands of years by practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

How Much Cistanche Should I Take?

The typical dosage for cistanche is 100-400mg of powdered extract daily.

If taking raw cistanche powder, the typical dosage is 3-5g daily.

100-400mg extracted powder, 3-5g raw powder.

Keep in mind that there hasn’t been a scientifically validated daily cistanche dosage. Clinical trials are needed to verify the exact amount of cistanche that should be consumed daily.

When Should I Take Cistanche?

Cistanche can be taken at any time throughout the day. Many users like to add cistanche to their morning coffee, as it has a similar flavor profile and blends well when added to hot liquids.

While cistanche has the ability to promote higher energy levels through its ability to promote ATP, it should be noted that cistanche is not a stimulant.

Some individuals prefer to take cistanche at night prior to sleep. A preliminary animal study found that cistanche may have a sedative effect that can help your body to fall asleep.

Additionally, you can take your cistanche in a single dose, or spread it throughout the day.

Should I Cycle Cistanche?

Cistanche can be cycled on and off, however, it can also be taken on a daily basis over the long term.

If cycling, a typical cistanche cycle includes going 5:2, that is 5 days on and 2 days off.

You can also take daily for 3 weeks, then take 1 week off.

If you plan on taking cistanche without cycling, then pick a lower dose and take it daily.

safety, side effects, & drug interactions of Cistanche

How Long Does It Take For Cistanche to Work?

Cistanche should be taken consistently for a minimum of 2-3 weeks before you start to feel its full effects. The effects of cistanche gradually increase over time, becoming especially noticeable after 10 days for those who are sensitive to the herb.

Users have noted that the testosterone-boosting effects of cistanche begin to manifest after 4 weeks of usage and it continues to increase steadily from there.

From a physical performance standpoint, it takes 3-4 weeks of cistanche supplementation to begin to notice higher energy levels and output.

If using cistanche acutely, taking a large dose (2+ grams of extract) over the course of a few days is needed before you will start to feel its effects. However, it’s best to start slow as too much too fast can cause stomach discomfort.

Supplementing with cistanche consistently for 1-2 months is ideal. After that time period, assess how your body reacted to the herb, and go from there.

Final Thoughts on the Side Effects of Cistanche:

The side effects of cistanche are moderate and extremely rare. For the vast majority of users, daily supplementation will be free of side effects. While there are some drug interactions and safety precautions to be aware of, most users will find that cistanche’s benefits far outweigh any slight health risks that it may have.

Before taking a cistanche supplement, or any nutraceutical, please consult with a certified medical professional to see if it can safely improve your situation.

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About Daniel Powers, MS

Daniel has a master's degree in herbal science from the Maryland University of Integrative Health. He has a passion for herbal medicine and how it can be used to support everyday health & wellness.