A typical cnidium is round, dark yellow in color, and has a pleasant aroma. According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, cnidium seeds are characterized as acrid, bitter and warm. Cnidium seeds are most commonly used to treat itchy skin, rashes, eczema and ringworm, typically in the genital area. These conditions are treated by grinding cnidium seeds with water into a solution and applying to the skin. Cnidium seeds are also taken internally to treat vaginal discharges and/or increase sexual potency. Cnidium is often combined with herbs such as cuscuta and schisandra to treat infertility and impotence; in many classical traditional Chinese medicine texts, cnidium is used as a form of aphrodisiac.
Cnidium seed has been very commonly used in formulations designed to warm the Kidneys and strengthen Yang energy. It is primarily used for the purpose of overcoming sexual malaise and strengthening sexual potency. The classics repeatedly mention it as an aphrodisiac. It was used almost routinely in imperial formulas designed specifically for the emperor. Cnidium seed was often used in combination with Cuscuta in aphrodisiac formulations, since the two herbs are believed to work synergistically together and to enhance one another. It is also used to increase fertility in both men and women. Cnidium has some astringent quality, which means that it will help prevent premature ejaculation in men. Furthermore, Cnidium seed has disinfectant qualities and may be used externally as a wash on sores, particularly in the genital region.