INTRODUCTION OF HERBAL CISTANCHE
Herba cistanche is a parasite plant that thrives on the roots of Tamarix, its host. The herb has no chloroplasts or roots and therefore it is not photosynthetic. It survives by absorbing nutrients from the roots of the plants it parasitizes which enables it to beat the desert environment. It is mainly found in parts of northwest China and has been considered as a necessary tonic in the traditional Chinese medicines where the succulent stems were dried and used for medicinal purposes. It was utilized in the treatment of various health conditions such as female infertility, kidney deficiency, morbid leukorrhea, senile constipation, neurataxia amongst others. There are two species of interest; cistanche tubulosa and cistanche deserticola that have been collected in the Chinese pharmacopeia. However, there are some two unofficial species that has been used in other parts of China considering the scarcity of the two original species of the herba cistanche. They include the cistanche salsa and cistanche sinensis.
ACTIVE COMPOUNDS FOUND IS CISTANCHE
The active ingredients in the herb are the phenylethanoid glycosides as earlier highlighted. Although all the four species have been found to contain echinacoside one of the glycosides, cistanche contains a higher amounts than any of the four. Acteoside one of the glycosides is considered to be a very strong antioxidant. Its antioxidative properties are 15 times greater than that of polyphenols found in grapes and more than five times higher than that of vitamin C found in oranges and pepper. This explains why the people from Hotan can beat the scorching sun of the dessert with minimal aging.
Other new compounds such as the kankanoside have also been isolated from cistanche tubulosa and have been reported to have the same effect as other active ingredients. In all the studies conducted on the herb, cistanche tubulosa has been found to have higher amounts of the active ingredients.
USES AND BENEFITS OF CISTANCHE
Cistanche herb has been used for a long time, but the main methods were inclined towards medical where it was used to treat various health conditions. However from the modern research, it has been shown that the herb has a lot more physiological functions that are equally beneficial to humans. These are explained in the points that follow.
Improved learning activity
A step-down test was used to evaluate the learning ability of mice in-vivo. From the study, it was reported that mice were able to acquire memory that in the case is referred to as learning ability. They were also able to keep the memory for a longer time that is referred to as consolidation. And also they were able to recall the memorized information. The same module can be emulated for humans to achieve the same results. These active ingredients can achieve this through anti-apoptosis activity, preventing aging of the brain cells and increasing the number of brain neurotransmitters. They are also capable of preventing cerebral infarction and myocardial infarction.
The phenylethanoid glycosides are reported to have immense antioxidative properties compared to that of any other plant. The radical hydroxyl present in the herb cistanche has been found to have scavenging effects that help to protect the DNA molecules. Other radicals that are cancer causing and those that accelerate aging are scavenged out of the system.
Hyaluronidase is a type of fluid found in joints, ligaments, under the skin and vitreous bodies. Its main work is to distribute nutrients and keep cells in these regions hydrated and maintained their elasticity. The amount of this fluid diminishes as one age leading to flaky and poorly moisturized skin and poorly lubricated joints. Lack of enough of these lubricant results to painful joints that are described as arthritis. The dry and poorly moisturized skin accelerates aging. The active glycosides in herb cistanche herb increase to significant amounts levels of hyaluronidase are thereby reversing the effects of arthritis and premature aging.
Anti- fatigue effects
The primary reason muscles get fatigued as a result of lactic acid accumulation. This is mainly caused by anaerobic respiration where the muscles don’t receive enough oxygen to break down glucose into energy+co2+water. The glycosides in the cistanche tubulosa act by eliminating the excess lactic acid from the muscles thereby reducing their fatigue.
Improved sexual activity
Phenylethanoid glycosides that are the essential ingredients of cistanche tubulosa have been reported to induce increased sexual activity also known as the aphrodisiac effect. The results from a study conducted o mice indicate that the active compounds were able to increase the sexual activity of a stress-induced libido loss. Cistanche tubulosa having a higher amount of the active ingredient is considered to more efficient. It is responsible for improved fertility among women and also increases male hormone production through enzymatic actions. It is also known to influence hormone level in women therefore treating cases of irregular menstruation that is as a result of hormonal imbalances.
Boosting of the immune system
The mice were radiated with cobalt (60) to lower the immune function. They were then given the test samples for 15 days and observed. A blood sample taken from mice that were given the phenylethanoid glycosides showed increased diameter of the lymphocytes that are the immune cells. These active ingredients were also shown to increase the rate through which the cancer cells were killed.
Metabolism is the process through which nutrients are absorbed and utilized by the body. Cistanche tubulosa has been shown to increase the rate of lipid metabolism that has a significant effect of reducing the blood cholesterol in humans. The herb is also known for its role in reducing cases of constipation among the older people.
PARTS OF THE CISTANCHE HERB THAT ARE USED FOR MEDICINAL PURPOSE
The succulent stem of the cistanche herb is collected during the spring, sliced and then dried for medicinal use. The whole stem complete with the bark are considered to be an important part of the medicinal herb hence are consumed together.
Despite the herb being an important cure for various life threatening illnesses, there is still a possibility of being extinct and disappearing out of the earth’s surface. To save the herb, proper policies need to be put in place to regulate its collection and usage. It has proven through centuries to possess the real healing power.