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Yuan Zhi

English Name: polygala, thin-leaf milkwort root, Siberian milkwort root

Literal Translation: “profound will”

Pharmaceutical Name: Radix Polygalae

Medica Category: Shen Calming Herbs

Properties: Yuan Zhi enters the Lung and Heart channels; it is acrid and bitter in nature and slightly warm in temperature.

What is Yuan Zhi?:

The Chinese Herb Yuan Zhi is the dried root of the thin-leaf milkwort (Polygala Tenuifolia Willd.) or Siberian milkwort (Polygala sibirica L.), both of which grow native on hillsides and semi-shaded woodlands in North and East China (Manchuria) and Mongolia. It is a small herb that only reaches 2-3 feet high and blooms in the summer with many small, purple flowers. After the flowers have withered, the roots are dug up and partially dried. The roots are then rubbed so that the xylem will be drawn out of the root bark. This xylem is then fully dried for use as medicine. It can be used unprocessed or it can be dry-fried (or boiled with Gan Cao) to reduce its potentially irritating effect on the throat. Honey-frying Yuan Zhi increases its effectiveness to calm the shen (see below).

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Therapeutic Actions of Yuan Zhi:

Yuan Zhi strengthens Heart qi and disperses stagnation in the Heart. It is most commonly used in formula to calm the shen when there is restlessness, palpitations, forgetfulness, and insomnia. Additionally, Heart deficiency and Kidney deficiency are sometimes linked, and so the use Yuan Zhi is indicated when the Heart deficiency signs mentioned above appear with Kidney deficiency signs as well (e.g. nocturnal emissions and spermatorrhea).

Yuan Zhi dispels phlegm stagnation that is obstructing of the Heart when it manifests clinically as mental and/or emotional disturbances, seizures, or hearing loss.

Yuan Zhi dispels phlegm from the Lung to address cough with white sputum that is difficult to expectorate.

Yuan Zhi is used both internally and topically to reduce abscesses, dissipate swellings, and relieve pain.

–safety/clinical notes:

Yuan Zhi is drying in nature and should be used with caution in person with heat symptoms/hot phlegm.

Use with caution in persons with gastritis or peptic/duodenal ulcers. Gan Cao can be added to formula to mitigate its irritating effect on the Stomach.

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