How about grow a highly sought after Chinese herb that happens to love the desert. That’s exactly what one desert nomad started doing in China’s unforgiving deserts of Inner Mongolia in 2003. The herb he now grows brings in more income than the family ever made before.
The herb is cistanche, a native desert plant that’s always been prized in the Chinese herb world. Cistanche (aka – Rou Cong Rong) is used in Chinese medicine to replenish the blood and kidney jing also translated as essence or heredity. Cistanche was first mentioned in the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing a Chinese book on agriculture and medicinal plants written circa 100 AD. It is commonly used today for impotence and erectile dysfunction and you can find it in Pacific Herbs, Libido Booster for Him.
It’s not Viagra, but the actions from the volatile oils and non-volatile phenylethanoid glycosides (PhGs), oligosaccharides and polysaccharides have proven benefits for premature ejaculation, frequent urination, weakness of tendons, constipation in old age, impotence and even high blood pressure. Libido Booster for Him has a combination of Chinese herbs used for improving sexual performance and desire which includes cistanche.
What I find fascinating about this plant is that cistanche cannot grow alone. It is a parasitic type of shrub which only grows on the roots of others. Saxaul is one such partner and is special in its own right for impeding erosion. You may have heard about the dust storms near Beijing before and during the Olympic games. This is a continual problem for the residents and certainly for any athletes competing outdoors. China has spent millions on planting trees on the outskirts of Beijing to prevent the desert form encroaching into the metropolitan areas and to reduce the effects of the dust storms. (Approximately 18% of China's land is desert). A plant like saxaul has huge value in simply holding the sand in place.
Now that thousands of acres of saxaul and cistanche are growing, it’s not only holding back the encroaching desert it also had the ability to earn families a substantial living. The international market for kidney tonics has been growing and cistanche is known as the “ginseng of the desert”. Along with the above mentioned actions this Chinese herb is a popular immunity booster, memory enhancer and known for delaying aging and treating infertility. Overall it’s a kidney tonic, similar to ginseng in that regard.
You probably never thought to look for the fountain of youth in a desert, but this plant is truly just that. Growing in one of the harshest environments on earth, cistanche overcomes the odds with enduring persistence and provides us with compounds which Chinese medicine has used for centuries to restore and replenish kidney essence. This incredible plant provides us energy, it helps the ecology and the local economy.
Who would of thought you would find something so “green“ in the middle of a desert.
Analysis of chemical constituents in Cistanche species School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Peking University Health Science Center, Beijing China