Rhizoma polygonati, or known as Polygonatum and Huang Jing in mandarin, has long been considered as an amazing Chinese herb that is good at prolonging life. No wonder Taoists claim that long-term consumption of this herb can make a person become immortal. Myths aside, it is still one of miracle herbs that can be edible on daily basis. As a matter of fact, today it is still frequently used as a qi tonic by soaked in wine or stewed with chicken. As you know, generally tonics may more or less spoil your appetite but Polygonatum is one of the exceptions thanks to its relatively mild nature. That’s to say, its tonic power won’t release all at one but steadily and slowly and it won’t dull your appetite like other tonics. That’s the reason why it has an extensive medicinal uses and so many popular dish recipes. Most importantly, unlike the aloft Cordyceps Sinensis (Dong Chong Xia Cao) and Ren Shen (Ginseng), it is so inexpensive that all can afford it. However, there is a plant called Gou Wen (Gelsmium elegans), from the family Loganiaceae, that looks similar to Polygonatum but is highly toxic. So, it is very necessary for distinguishing between these two herbs.
What is rhizoma polygonati or Polygonatum?
Its root is formerly used medicinally and it refers to the dried rhizomes of Polygonatum kingianum Coll. et Hemsl., Polygonatum sibiricum Red., or Polygonatum cyrtonema Hua. Hence, it is also commonly known as Siberian Solomon Seal Rhizome, Polygonati Rhizoma, Siberian Solomonseal Rhizome, Siberian Solomon’s Seal, etc. In China Polygonatum sibiricum is mainly produced in Hebei, Inner Mongolia, and Shaanxi; Polygonatum kingianum is in Yunnan, Guizhou, and Guangxi; and Polygonatum cyrtonema is in Guizhou, Hunan, Yunnan and other places. The best harvest time is in spring and autumn. After the digging, remove the fibrous roots, wash with water, put in boiling water to scald slightly or steam thoroughly, dry, and then cut into thick slices.
Polygonatum sibiricum is a perennial herb. Crosswise roots are fleshy, yellow-white, slightly flat round, and with several stem scars. Stems are erect, cylindrical, single, 50 to 80cm high, and glabrous. Leaves are sessile, and usually 4-5 arranged in whorls. Blade is linear-lanceolate to linear, 7 to 11cm, and 5 to 12mm wide. Flowers are axillary, pendulous, and with 1.5 to 2cm pedicels. Berry is spherical, 7 to 10mm in diameter, and black when ripe. It flowers from May to June and fruits from June to July.
Main chemical constituents are steroidal saponins, Polygonatum sibiricum polysaccharides A, B, C, oligosaccharides A, B, C, phlegm, starch, amino acids, etc.
Rhizoma polygonati benefits
At the mention of tonics for the elderly, ginseng, deer antler (lu rong) and other rare expensive herbs will come to mind for many people. In fact, rhizoma polygonati is the ideal tonic for the elderly who need to nurse and strengthen the body. This is simply because both insufficiency of yang-qi and consumption of yin-fluid are two typical patterns occurred in the old people. And this herb owns many health benefits that are especially beneficial to them. Shen Xian Zhi Cao Jing (Immortal Elixir Fairy Grass) ever gave it a very good review and believed that it could relieve the middle burner, tune five zang organs, build up muscle, strengthen bone marrow, double physical strength, stay young, make skin glow, reverse graying hair, and regrow lost teeth. Have you ever heard about the inedia, an important and popular practice method of Taoist priests who want to increase life expectancy? One of the vital characteristics of the inedia is refraining from eating any grains in order to clear out the feces, waste, toxics, excess fat, and cholesterol accumulated inside the body and thus make the body feels lighter and more agile. But don’t mistake it as eating nothing. Actually the fact is that no food or drink cooked with fire is allowed during the practice. That being said, the inedia practitioners can drink mountain spring water and natural foods, among which Polygonatum and mulberry are the most common two ones.
Modern pharmacology of Polygonatum
1. It can improve immune function, promote the synthesis of DNA, RNA and protein, and promote the transformation of lymphocyte;
2. It has a significant effect on fighting mycobacterium tuberculosis;
3. It has inhibition on a variety of pathogenic fungi, typhoid bacillus, and Staphylococcus aureus;
4. It can increase the coronary blood flow, lower blood pressure, reduce blood fat, and mitigate the degree of coronary artery artheromatosis;
5. It significantly inhibits the epinephrine induced hyperglycemia;
6. It inhibits adrenal cortex and defies aging.
7. Experiments showed that polygonati rhizoma extract has hemostasis and could reduce the amount of bleeding in mice.
Popular herbal remedies of polygonati rhizoma
Chinese Materia Medica tends to think that it is sweet in flavor and neutral in properties and covers three meridians of spleen, lung, and kidney. Key rhizoma polygonati effects and functions are nourishing yin to moisten dryness, invigorating spleen and replenishing qi, and nourishing kidney to replenish essence. Essential rhizoma polygonati uses and indications include consumptive cough due to deficiency of yin, lung dryness cough, lacking in strength caused by spleen deficiency, reduced appetite and mouth dryness, diabetes, soreness and weakness of waist and knees due to kidney deficiency, impotence and nocturnal emission, tinnitus and dim eyesight, premature graying, thinness and weakness, and leprosy and ringworm. Recommended dosage is from 10 to 15 grams (dried herb) and from 30 to 60 grams (fresh herb) in decoction, teapills or cream.
1. Gou Qi Wan. From Qi Xiao Liang Fang (Magic Effective Prescriptions), this formula combines this herb with Gou Qi Zi (Goji Berry) to supply vital essence.
2. Man Jing Zi San. From Tai Ping Sheng Hui Fang (Taiping Holy Prescriptions for Universal Relief), this prescription uses it with Man Jing Zi (turnip seed) to cure eye disorder, nourish the liver-Qi, and improve eyesight.
3. Huang Jing Gao Fang. From Qian Jin Fang (Thousand Pieces of Gold Formulae), this recipe takes it alone to enrich kidney essence and thus delay senescence and improve dizziness, soreness and weakness of waist and knees, premature graying and other premature aging symptoms.
Rhizoma polygonati side effects and contraindications
Rhizoma polygonati was rated with a class 1 by the AHPA. That is to say, it is quite safe if it is used properly. From the perspective of TCM (Traditional Chinese medicine), it shouldn’t be used in the cases of diarrhea due to pathogenic cold of middle warmer, qi depression, and distention and fullness caused by phlegm-damp stagnation.