Along with other members of the genus, Cistanche deserticola is the primary source of the Chinese herbal medicine cistanche (Chinese: 肉苁蓉, pinyin ròucōngróng). The main sources of cistanche are Cistanche salsa and C. deserticola, although it may also be obtained from Cistanche tubulosa, Cistanche sinensis, and Cistanche ambigua. The drug, known in Chinese as suosuo dayun, is collected in spring before sprouting, by slicing the stems of the plant. C. deserticola has been placed on CITES Appendix 2, a list of endangered species not banned from trade but requiring monitoring. With increased consumption of cistanche, the population of the species has decreased and its area of distribution has shrunk. Aside from over-collection or indiscriminate collection, an important factor in the diminished supply of cistanche is a loss of the saxaul host, Haloxylon ammodendron, which is widely used for firewood.
Cistanche has been used as a medicine for about 1800 years and is recorded in the Shennong Bencao Jing and Bencao Gangmu as a tonic. In modern-day Chinese herbalism, cistanche is used for the treatment of male impotence, seminal emission, general lassitude of the loins and knees, constipation and infertility. Most of these claims have never been evaluated through clinical testing, and some (such as menopausal relief) have not been supported in controlled medical studies (e.g.)
Publication No. WO/2009/146594 Published on Dec. 10, Chinese Inventors Develop Extract Cistanche Tubulosa Usage Method
Dec 10, 2009; GENEVA, Dec. 10 -- Zongren Fang, Xiaoping Zhang and Hailong Wang, all from China, have developed a the use of an extract of...