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Abalone Shell (shi jue ming)
Abutilon Seed (dong kui zi)
Acanthopanax Bark (wu jia pi)
Achyranthes (niu xi)
Aconite (fu zi)
Acorus (shi chang pu)
Adenophora Root (nan sha shen)
Agkistrodon (bai hua she)
Agrimony (xian he cao)
Ailanthus Bark (chun pi)
Akebia Fruit (ba yue zha)
Albizzia Bark (he huan pi)
Albizzia Flower (he huan hua)
Alfalfa (medicago sativa)
Alisma (ze xie)
Aloe (lu hui)
Alum (bai fan)
Amber (hu po)
Ampelopsis (bai lian)
Andrographis (chuan xin lian)
Anemarrhena (zhi mu)
Antelope's Horn (ling yang jiao)
Apricot Seed (xing ren)
Areca Peel (da fu pi)
Areca Seed (bing lang)
Arisaema (tian nan xing)
Ark Shell (wa leng zi)
Arnebia (zi cao or ying zi cao)
Arnica (arnica montana)
Artichoke Leaves (Cynara scolymus)
Ash bark (qin pi)
Ashwagandha (withania somniferum)
Aster (zi wan)
Astragalus (huang qi)
Aurantium (zhi ke [qiao])
Bamboo Juice (zhu li)
Bamboo Shavings (zhu ru)
Belamcanda Rhizome (she gan)
Benincasa Peel (dong gua pi)
Benincasa Seed (dong gua xi/ren)
Benzoin (an xi xiang)
Bilberry (yue ju)
Biota Leaf (ce bai ye)
Biota Seed (bai zi ren)
Bitter Melon (ku gua)
Bitter Orange Peel (ju hong)
Black Cohosh (sheng ma)
Black Plum (wu mei)
Black Sesame Seed (hei zhi ma)
Bletilla (bai ji)
Boneset (ze lan)
Borax (peng sha)
Borneol (bing pian)
Bottle Brush (mu zei)
Buddleia (mi meng hua)
Buffalo Horn (shui niu jiao)
Bulrush (pu huang)
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Burdock (niu bang zi)
Camphor (zhang nao)
Capillaris (yin chen hao)
Cardamon Seed (sha ren)
Carpesium (he shi)
Cassia Seed (jue ming zi)
Catechu (er cha)
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Cephalanoplos (xiao ji)
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Centipede (wu gong)
Chaenomeles Fruit(mu gua)
Chalcanthite (dan fan)
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Chinese Gall (wu bei zi)
Chinese Raspberry (fu pen zi)
Chrysanthemum (ju hua)
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Cinnabar (zhu sha)
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Clam Shell (hai ge ke/qiao)
Clematis (wei ling xian)
Cloves (ding xiang)
Cnidium Seed (she chuang zi)
Codonopsis (dang shen)
Coix Seed (yi yi ren)
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Coriander (hu sui)
Corn Silk (yu mi xu)
Cornus (shan zhu yu)
Corydalis (yan hu suo)
Costus (mu xiang)
Cranberry (vaccinium macrocarpon)
Cremastra (shan ci gu)
Croton Seed (ba dou)
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Cuttlefish Bone (hai piao xiao)
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Dandelion (pu gong ying)
Deer Antler (lu rong)
Dendrobium (shi hu)
Devil's Claw (harpagophytum procumbens)
Dianthus (qu mai)
Dichroa Root (chang shan)
Dittany Bark (bai xian pi)
Dong Quai (tang kuei)
Dragon Bone (long gu)
Dragon's Blood (xue jie)
Drynaria (gu sui bu)
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Elder (sambucus nigra or sambucus canadensis)
Elsholtzia (xiang ru)
Ephedra (ma huang)
Epimedium (yin yang huo)
Erythrina Bark (hai tong pi)
Eucalyptus (eucalyptus globulus)
Eucommia Bark (du zhong)
Eupatorium (pei lan)
Euphorbia Root (gan sui or kan sui)
Euryale Seed (qian shi)
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Java Brucea (ya dan zi)
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Millettia (ji xue teng)
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Musk (she xiang)
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Nutmeg (rou dou kou)
Oldenlandia (bai hua she she cao)
Omphalia (lei wan)
Onion (yang cong)
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Ophiopogon (mai dong)
Oroxylum Seed (mu hu die)
Oryza (gu ya)
Oyster Shell (mu li)
Passion Flower (passiflora incarnata)
Patrinia (bai jiang cao)
Pau D'Arco (tabebuia avellanedae)
Peach Seed (tao ren)
Pearl (zhen zhu [mu])
Perilla Leaf (su ye)
Perilla Seed (su zi)
Perilla Stem (su geng)
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Pinellia (ban xia)
Pine Knots (song jie)
Pipe Fish (hai long)
Plantain Seed (che qian zi)
Platycodon (jie geng)
Polygala (yuan zhi)
Polygonatum (huang jing)
Polyporus (zhu ling)
Poppy Capsule (ying su qiao)
Poria (fu ling)
Prickly Ash Peel (hua jiao)
Prinsepia Seed (rui ren/zi)
Prunella (xia ku cao)
Prunus Seed (yu li ren)
Pseudostellaria (tai zi shen)
Psoralea (bu gu zhi)
Pueraria (ge gen)
Pulsatilla (bai tou weng)
Pumice (fu hai shi)
Pumpkin Seed (nan gua zi)
Purslane (ma chi xian)
Pyrite (zi ran tong)
Pyrrosia Leaf (shi wei)
Quisqualis (shi jun zi)
Radish (lai fu zi)
Realgar (xiong huang)
Red Atractylodes (cang zhu)
Red Clover (trifolium pratense)
Red Ochre (dai zhe shi)
Red Peony (chi shao)
Red Sage Root (dan shen)
Rehmannia (shu di huang)
Reishi (ling zhi)
Rhubarb (da huang)
Rice Paper Pith (tong cao)
Rose (mei gui hua)
Rosemary (mi die xiang)
Safflower (hong hua)
Saffron (fan hong hua)
Sandalwood (tan xiang)
Sanguisorba Root (di yu)
Sappan Wood (su mu)
Sargent Gloryvine (hong teng)
Saw Palmetto (ju zong lu)
Schefflera (qi ye lian)
Schisandra (wu wei zi)
Schizonepeta (jing jie)
Scirpus (san leng)
Scopolia (S. carniolica Jacq.)
Scorpion (quan xie)
Scrophularia (xuan shen)
Scutellaria (huang qin)
Sea Cucumber (hai shen)
Sea Horse (hai ma)
Seaweed (hai zao)
Selaginella (shi shang bai)
Senna (fan xie ye)
Shiitake (hua gu)
Siegesbeckia (xi xian cao)
Siler Root (fang feng)
Slippery Elm (ulmus fulva)
Smilax (tu fu ling)
Smithsonite (lu gan shi)
Sophora Flower (huai hua mi)
Sophora Root (ku shen)
Spirodela (fu ping)
Stellaria (yin chai hu)
Stemona (bai bu)
Stephania (fang ji [han])
Sweet Annie (qing hao)
Teasel Root (xu duan)
Tiger Bone (hu gu)
Torreya Seed (fei zi)
Tortoise Plastron (gui ban)
Tremella (bai mu er)
Trichosanthes Fruit (gua lou)
Trichosanthes Root (tian hua fen)
Trichosanthes Seed (gua lou ren)
Tsaoko Fruit (cao guo)
Turmeric (jiang huang)
Turtle Shell (bie jia)
Tussilago (kuan dong hua)
Urtica (xun ma)
Uva ursi (arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
Vaccaria Seed (wang bu lui xing)
Valerian (jie cao)
Veratrum (li lu)
Viola (zi hua di ding)
Vitex (man jing zi)
Walnut (hu tao ren)
Watermelon (xi gua)
White Atractylodes (bai zhu)
White Mustard Seed (bai jie ze)
White Peony (bai shao)
Wild Asparagus (tian men dong)
Windmill Palm (zong lu pi/tan)
Xanthium (cang er zi)
Zedoary (e zhu)

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Polygala (yuan zhi)

What is polygala? What is it used for?

Polygala is a branching type of herb native to the central and western United States. There are several varieties of polygala, but the most common are P. senega, P. sibirica and P. tenuifolia. It earned its nickname of "Seneca snakewood" in the 1700s, when Seneca Indians used it to treat snakebites in American settlers.

The plant is a perennial herb, and can reach a height of 18 inches, with oval-shaped green leaves and pale red, yellow or lavender flowers, depending on the species. The plant’s root varies in color from yellowish-gray to brownish-gray, and is usually twisted or spiraled, with a thick, gnarled crown. The root is used medicinally.

As mentioned, polygala was traditionally used by native Americans to treat snakebites and as an expectorant to treat cough and bronchitis. In traditional Chinese medicine, other varieties of polygala are used for a variety of purposes, including the promotion of sleep and calming the spirit. Polygala is considered a powerful tonic herb that can help develop the mind and aid in creative thinking.

How much polygala should I take?

The standard dosage of polygala is 1.5-3 grams of dried root, 1.5-3 grams of a fluid extract or 2.5-7.5 grams of a tincture. A polygala tea can also be made, with a maximum of three cups per day.

What forms of polygala are available?

Fresh or dried polygala can be found at most herbal shops and Asian markets. Some stores also sell polygala extracts and tinctures.

What can happen if I take too much polygala? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Prolonged use of polygala may cause upset stomach and diarrhea; as such, it is contraindicated in patients who have ulcers or gastritis, and should not be used long-term. It also should not be used by women who are pregnant or lactating. As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions with polygala. As always, make sure to consult with a qualified health care provider before taking polygala or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.


References

  • Blumenthal M, Busse W, Goldberg A, et al. (eds.) The Complete German Commission E Monographs. Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, p. 203-4.
  • Kako M, et al. Hypoglycemic effect of the rhizomes of polygala senega in normal and diabetic mice and its main component, the triterpenoid glycoside senegin-II. PM 1996;62(5):440-443.
  • McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R (eds.) American Herbal Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, p. 89.
  • PDR for Herbal Medicines, second edition. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Press, 2000, pp. 683-84.
  • Teeguarden R. Radiant Health: The Ancient Wisdom of the Chinese Tonic Herbs. New York: Warner Books, 1998, p. 194-95.
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