Chinese Name : 葶藶子
Latin Name : Semen Lepidii seu Descurainiae
This herb is the dried ripe seed of Lepidium apetalum Willd., or Descurainia sophia (L.) of the family Cruciferae. The former is called northern lepidium seed and is mostly produced in the Hebei and Liaoning provinces of China. The latter, called southern lepidium seed, is produced mainly in the Jiangsu and Shandong provinces. A third variety, Lepidium virginicum is found in North America. The dried seeds can be used without further processing or slightly stir baked before use. Traditionally, the seeds were used as a demulcent, laxative, and aperients drug. In modern times, the seeds are used for coughs, asthma with excessive phlegm, as a diuretic for chest and abdominal fluid accumulation and as a cardiotonic.
Use of Lepidium Seed in TCM
Pungent and bitter in taste, and very cold, it acts on the lungs and urinary bladder meridians.
Effects, Medicinal Uses, and Combinations
- Relieves asthma and eliminates sputum: for fullness in the lungs, chest discomfort, cough with dyspnea and profuse sputum, asthma, the inability to lie flat, and generalized edema, lepidium seed, pinellia, cynanchum, and apricot kernel.
- Promotes diuresis and reduces edema. This herb is usually used with stephania root and rhubarb rhizome for treating the disorders of pleural effusion, ascites, edema, scanty urination, water retention in the abdomen, fullness in the abdomen, and dry mouth and tongue. It is also blended with bitter apricot kernel, mirabilite, and rhubarb rhizome for pleural effusion and oliguria.
- Treats pulmonary heart disease, cardiac failure, edema, and dyspnea. Lepidium seed is combined with ginseng, ephedra, bitter apricot, mulberry bark, and other herbs in a decoction, or 30 to 50 g lepidium seed, 10 to 15 g salvia, and 10 to 15 g immature orange in a decoction for good results.
In a decoction of 3 to 10 g.
People with cough and asthma due to asthenia of the lung or abdominal fullness caused by asthenia of the spleen should avoid this herb. Do not take this herb for a long period.
Side Effects and Toxicity
The therapeutic dose is safe. Side effects or toxicity were not noted in classical Chinese material medica. Reports show that some patients have experienced an allergic shock reaction after oral administration of this herb.
Lepidium seed contains volatile oils (benzyl isothiocyanate, allyl isothiocyanate, and allyl disulfide), glucosides, linolic acid, linoleic acid, stearic acid, oleic acid, erucic acid, palmitic acid, sugars, protein substances, and helveticoside.
A small dose of lepidium seed has been demonstrated to be cardiotonic, contract heart muscles, and reduce the heart rate in various animals. A large dose causes tachycardia and ventricular vibration. It is a positive cardiotonic glycoside effect that increases cardiac output and reduces venous pressure in subjects with weak hearts. This herb has also been shown to be diuretic and antiasthmatic.