What is polygonatum? What is it used for?
Also known as Solomon's seal, polygonatum is a perennial herb that belongs to the lily family. It is native to east Asia and can be found throughout China, particularly in the Henan, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Fujian provinces.
The part of the plant used in herbal preparations is the rhizome, which is harvested in the spring and autumn, then dried and sliced. It can be used unprepared or steamed, and is often steamed with other items, such as wine and black beans.
According to traditional Chinese medical principles, polygonatum has sweet and neutral properties, and is associated with the Lung, Heart, Kidney and Spleen meridians. Its main uses are to tonify spleen and stomach qi (to improve appetite and reduce fatigue), to moisten the lungs (by reducing coughs and expelling phlegm), and to tonify the kidneys (which help reduce pain and weakness in the lower back). It is also an excellent tonic herb. Historically, it has been used for respiratory and lung disorders, and to reduce inflammation. Polygonatum can also applied topically to treat bruises, skin ulcers and boils, hemorrhoids, and edema.
How much polygonatum should I take?
The typical dosage of polygonatum is between six and 18 grams, boiled in water and drunk as a decoction, depending on the condition being treated. If fresh polygonatum is being used, some practitioners recommend a larger dose (30 to 60 grams). An appropriate dose should be used when applying to the skin.
What forms of polygonatum are available?
Both fresh and dried polygonatum can be found at most Asian markets and herbal shops. Some suppliers also sell polygonatum extracts, teas and decoctions.
What can happen if I take too much polygonatum? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?
Polygonatum is considered safe; the American Herbal Products Association has given it a class 1 rating, meaning that it can be consumed safely when used appropriately. However, some laboratory studies have suggested that polygonatum may reduce an animal's blood pressure while under anesthesia. As a result, it should be used with caution by people taking blood pressure medications. It is contraindicated in patients diagnosed with spleen deficiency with dampness or coughs with profuse amounts of phlegm. As of this writing, there are no known side-effects or toxicities associated with polygonatum. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking polygonatum or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.
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- Teeguarden R. Radiant Health: The Ancient Wisdom of the Chinese Tonic Herbs. New York: Warner Books, 1998, p. 216.
- Van Damme EJ, Barre A, Rouge P, et al. Molecular cloning of the lectin and a lectin-related protein from common Solomon's seal (polygonatum multiflorum). Plant Molecular Biology 1996;31(3):657-672.
- Van Damme EJ, Hao Q, Charels D, et al. Characterization and molecular cloning of two different type 2 ribosome-inactivating proteins from the monocotyledonous plant polygonatum multiflorum. European Journal of Biochemistry 2000;267(9):2746-2759.