Introduction of Yuan Zhi:Thin-leaf Milkwort Root or Radix Polygalae.

TCM Herbalism:Medicinals and Classifications. ✵The article gives records of the herb Thin-leaf Milkwort Root, its English name, Latin name, property and flavor, its herbal classic book defined botanical source two plant species, ①.Polygala tenuifolia Willd., ②.Polygala sibirica L., and one usable plant species in North America and Europe, ③.Polygala senega L., with a detailed introduction to the botanical features of these three plant species, the growth characteristics, and ecological environment of these three plant species, the features of the herb Thin-leaf Milkwort Root, its pharmacological actions, medicinal efficacy, and administration guide.

Radix Polygalae(Thin-leaf Milkwort Root).

Radix Polygalae:herb photo Pin Yin Name: Yuǎn Zhì.
 English Name: Thin-leaf Milkwort Root.
 Latin Name: Radix Polygalae.
 Property and flavor: warm, pungent, bitter.

 Brief introduction: The herb Radix Polygalae is the dried root of Polygala tenuifolia Willd., or Polygala sibirica L., used (1).as a tranquilizer in cases of palpitation and insomnia due to disharmony of the heart and kidney, (2).as an expectorant in cases of acute or chronic cough with profuse sputum, (3).to expel phlegm for treating epilepsy and mania due to obstruction of the heart orifice by phlegm, and (4).to reduce swelling in cases of boils and sores. The herb is commonly known as Thinleaf Milkwort Root-bark, Root of Thinleaf Milkwort, Root of Siberian Milkwort, Yuǎn Zhì.

 Botanical source: Herbal classic book and other famous herbal classics of China defined the herb Radix Polygalae (Yuan Zhi) as the dry root of the plant species (1). Polygala tenuifolia Willd., or (2). Polygala sibirica L. Common herbal classics of North America and Europe defined the herb Senega Root as the dry root of the plant species (3). Polygala senega L. They are plants of the Polygala L. genus, the Polygalaceae family (Polygalaceae Hoffmanns. & Link family) of the Rutales order. These 3 commonly used species are introduced:

(1).Polygala tenuifolia Willd.

 Polygala tenuifolia Willd.:flowering plant Botanical description: The plant, Polygala tenuifolia Willd is a plant of the Polygalaceae family and Polygala genus, it is commonly known as Polygala tenuifolia, Thinleaf Milkwort, or Xì Yè Yuǎn Zhì (means thin-leaf polygala), a perennial herb, it grows up to 25~40 cm high. The root is cylindrical, long, and slightly curved. Stems are upright or slanting sideways, many, tufty and grow out from the base, thin cylindrical, the texture is firm and hard, greenish, and the upper part is many-branched. Simple leaves are alternate, petioles are short or subsessile; leaf blades are linear (filate), 1~3 cm long, 1.5~3 mm wide, the apex is pointed, the base is attenuate, entire, midvein is sunken at the upper surface, and protuberant on the under surface, glabrous or slightly pubescent.

 In the spring, racemes grow out from the tip of stems, 5~12 cm long, the flowers are small and sparse; 5 sepals, of which 2 are petaloid (petal-shaped), greenish-white; 3 flower petals, mauve (lilac), among which 1 petal is bigger, are tropis-like, apex has penicillate (fringelike) appendages; 8 stamens, filaments connate at base; 1 pistil, the ovary is obovate, flattened, 2-loculed, style is curved, stigma is 2-lobed.

 The capsularfruits are flat, circular obcordate, 4~5 mm long and wide, green, and smooth, the edge is narrow-pterygoid (narrowly winglike), has no cilia, and there are persistent bracts at the base, which cracks at edges at maturity. Seeds are oval (egg-shaped), slightly flat, brownish-black, densely covered with white fluff. Its flowering period is from May to July, the fruiting period is from June to August.

 Polygala tenuifolia Willd.:purple flowers Ecological Environment: Polygala tenuifolia Willd grows on sunny hillsides or mountain slopes or roadsides, grasslands, hillside grasslands, shrubs, and in mixed forests, in areas at altitudes of 200~2,300 meters above sea level. This plant species is mainly distributed in the northern, northwest, and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, in China.

 Growth characteristics: The plant, polygala tenuifolia willd prefers a cold and cool climate, avoids high temperatures, and is resistant to drought. It is appropriate to choose a sunny field, sandy soil with good drainage, secondly, clay loam and calcareous soil. Clay soil and low wetlands are not suitable for planting.

 Characters of herbs: The root of the herb is cylindrical and slightly curved, 3~15 cm long, or 2~30 cm long, and 2~8 mm or 0.2~1 cm in diameter. The surface is sallow (grayish yellow) to light brown, coarse, and uneven, with rootlet marks and deeply sunken horizontal grooves, longitudinal wrinkles, and cracks. The horizontal wrinkles of old roots are dense and deep, slightly nodular. The texture of the herb is hard and crisp, easy to break, the cortex of the fracture surface is brown-yellow, the xylem (wood part) is yellowish white, the cortex is easy to peel off from the xylem (wood part), and the herb which the wood core is removed is hollow. The herb has a slight odor, it tastes bitter, slightly pungent, tingling throat sensation when it is chewed.

(2).Polygala sibirica L.

 Botanical description: The plant, Polygala sibirica L is a plant of the Polygalaceae family and Polygala genus, it is commonly known as Polygala sibirica, Eggleaf Milkwort, Kuān Yè Yuǎn Zhì (means "broad-leaf polygala") or Luǎn Yè Yuǎn Zhì (means "egg-leaf polygala"), a perennial herb, the plant grows up to 10~30 cm tall; roots are cylindraceous, slanting sideways, ligneous (woody). Stems are many-branched, usually upright, pubescent. Simple leaves are alternate, shortly stipitate, leaves are chartaceous (papery) to more or less coriaceous, leaves on the lower part are small, oval (egg-shaped), about 6 mm long, about 4 mm wide, apex is obtuse, have short pointed tip; leaves on the upper part are big, lanceolate or elliptic-lanceolate, 1~2 cm long, 3~6 mm wide, green, pubescent, front tip is blunt, has a bony short pointed tip, the base is cuneate, entire, reflexed, the midrib is sunken on the upper surface, and protuberant on the under surface, lateral veins are inconspicuous.

 Polygala sibirica L.:drawing of plant and flower Racemes are extraaxillary or pseudoterminal, usually higher than stem tips, pubescent, has few flowers; flowers are about 6-10 mm long, have 3 bracteoles (bractlets), subulate-lanceolate, about 2 mm long, pubescent; 5 sepals, persistent, outside 3 sepals are small, lanceolate, about 3 mm long, inside 2 petals are big, petaloid (petal shaped), about 7~7.5 mm long, about 3 mm wide; 3 flower petals, royal purple (bluish violet), lateral flower petals are obovate, 5~6 mm long, base connate with tropis (keel pelals), tropis is longer than lateral flower petals, back surface is pubescent, the back surface of front tip has fimbriate comb-shape appendages; 8 stamens, filaments are 5~6 mm long, the parts below 2/3 height connate and form sheath, and sheath has marginal seta (tricholoma), anthers are oval (egg-shaped), dehiscent at apical pores; ovary is obovate, about 2 mm in diameter, apex has marginal seta (tricholoma), styles are hypertrophic and thick, apex is curved, about 5 mm long, 2 stigmas, grow at distances on the front tip of styles.

 Polygala sibirica L.:flowering plant The capsularfruits are nearly obcordiform (obcordate), about 5 mm in diameter, and the tip is emarginate, with narrow wings, and sparsely covered with pubescence. Seeds are oblong, flat, about 1.5 mm long, black, and densely covered with white pilose except strophiole, which has white pods. Its flowering period is from April to July, the fruiting period is from May to August.

 The root of this species contains the same chemical composition as Polygala tenuifolia Willd. It can be used as an alternative to Polygala tenuifolia Willd.

 Ecological Environment: Polygala sibirica L grows on hillside meadows, in areas at altitudes of 1,100~2,800 meters above sea level, it also grows in sandy soils, gravels, and limestone mountain shrubs, forest margins, or meadows, in areas at altitudes of 1,100~3,300 (~4,300) meters above sea level. This species is mainly distributed in China provinces and grows in most parts of China. This species is also distributed in Eastern Europe, Siberia, Nepal, and Kashmir.

 Growth characteristics: The plant, Polygala sibirica prefers cold and cool climates, avoids high temperatures, and is resistant to drought. It is appropriate to choose a sunny field, sandy soil with good drainage, secondly, clay loam and calcareous soil. Clay soil and low wetlands are not suitable for planting.

 Thin-leaf Milkwort Root:herb photo Characters of herbs: The root is 4~18 cm long, 2~8 mm in diameter, and there are 2~5 stem bases in the root head. The surface is coarse, taupe brown to grayish black, a few are sallow (grayish yellow), the vertical grooves are many, the transverse grooves are few, and rootlets are many, 2~5 cm long. The texture of the herb is hardish, and not easy to break, the cortex of the fracture surface is thin, the wood core (duramen) is comparatively large, and the herb has a slightly bitter taste. The herb of a better grade has stout roots and thick bark. The root of Polygala sibirica is thin, and the quality is not as good as the root of Polygala tenuifolia.

 Pharmacological actions: ①.expectorant action; ②.effect on the uterus; ③.hemolytic action.

 Medicinal efficacy: Calm the nerves (relieve uneasiness of mind and body tranquilization) and benefit to intelligence, tranquilization and calm the nerves, restoring normal coordination between heart and kidney, eliminating phlegm, inducing resuscitation, dispel melancholy, detoxification, detumescence (reduce swelling). It is indicated for insomnia and dreaminess due to disharmony between heart and kidney, have the fidgets (not feel easy in one's mind), palpitate with fear, insomnia, amnesia (forgettery, poor memory), frightened epilepsy, wet dreams (nocturnal emission), wandering in one's mind, expectoration (cough up phlegm and feel uneasy), cough with much phlegm, sore and ulcer, pyogenic infections, carbuncle-abscess on back, breast swelling pain, etc.

 Administration of Radix Polygalae (Yuǎn Zhì): 
Reference: Administration Guide of Radix Polygalae (Yuǎn Zhì)
TCM Books: ①.Internally: 3~10 grams; ②.Internally:water decoction, 1~3 qian (about 3~9 grams), infusing in wine, or prepare to pill, powder; ③.Internally:water decoction, 3~10 grams, infusing in wine, or prepared to pill, powder.
 Contraindications, Precautions and Adverse Reactions:the herb Radix Polygalae better combine with Poria Cocos, Fructus Malvae, Os Draconis, should not be combined with Pearl, Black False Hellebore, Blattaria, Grubs.

(3).Polygala senega L.

 Polygala senega L.:flowering plant Botanical description: Polygala senega L is a plant of the Polygalaceae family and Polygala genus, it is commonly known as Polygala senega, Seneca snakeroot, senega snakeroot, senega root, rattlesnake root, mountain flax., or Mei Yuan Zhi, a perennial herb with multiple stems, it grows up to 50 centimeters tall. The stems are usually unbranched, but some old plants can have branching stems. A mature plant can have up to 70 stems growing from a hard, woody rootstock that spreads horizontally. The lance-shaped leaves are alternately arranged. The lower leaves are reduced and scale-like. The inflorescence is a spike of rounded white or greenish flowers. The fruit is a capsularfruit containing two piliferous black seeds. The root is twisted and conical, with a scent somewhat like wintergreen and a very pungent taste. There are two root Polymorphisms; a northern morph growing in Canada and toward Minnesota has larger roots up to 15 centimeters long and 1.2 wide which are dark brown and sometimes purplish toward the top, and a southern morph found in the southeastern USA (the United States of America) that has smaller, yellow-brown roots.

 Polygala senega L.:flowers Ecological Environment: Polygala senega L grows on prairies and in woods and wet shorelines and riverbank habitats. It grows in thin, rocky, usually calcareous soils. It also occurs in disturbed habitats, such as roadsides. Geographical distribution: This species is native to North America, it is distributed in the central and eastern areas of the USA (the United States of America), southern Canada, etc.



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  • 1.Introduction of Yuan Zhi:Thin-leaf Milkwort Root or Radix Polygalae.

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