Tienchi ginseng, also called Panax notoginseng in English and San Qi in Mandarin, has long been used as a Chinese herb that is with magical medicinal value. What’s your first reaction when you hear that name? Anyway, it is quite natural that if you associate it with Korean ginseng and the like. Tell you the truth, as a species in genus Panax it does have something to do with Panax ginseng root (Ren Shen). Hence, it is also known as pseudo ginseng (Panax pseudoginseng). We cannot praise this herb too much since all notoginseng root, flower, and leaf can be used as medicine for a number of ailments like severe hepatitis, coronary heart disease, and more. The reason for the name San Qi, literally “three seven”, is twofold: its roots will be dug out 3 to 7 years after the sowing, plus each plant has 3 leaf petioles and each petiole has 7 blades. And because many of them are now cultivated in the field, it is also called Tian Qi, meaning “field sever.” What’s more, thanks to the fact that it contains more effective active substances than ginseng does, it is also labeled as “King of ginsengs” by modern TCM pharmacologists.
What is Tienchi ginseng?
When particularly used as a medicine, it refers to the dried root of Panax notoginseng (Burk) F. H. Chen (PNG). Along with ginseng, this is a species belonging to the genus Panax of the family Araliaceae. Because of its amazing medicinal uses on checking bleeding, people have given it quite a few different names, such as Tianqi, pseudoginseng root, Sanqi, Nepal ginseng, Sanchi, three-seven root, Himalayan ginseng, mountain paint, Radix Notoginseng, and more. In China it is mainly produced in Yunnan and Guangxi provinces. It is usually dug out in late summer early autumn before the bloom time or in winter after the seeds mature. Based on the different collecting seasons, it can also be divided into “Chun Qi” (Spring Seven) and “Dong Qi” (winter seven). Before used to treat medical problems, it still needs to remove dirt, clean, and dry in the sun. And it is normally used raw or ground.
Panax notoginseng is a perennial herb. Bamboo-root-like rhizome is short, crosswise, and with 2 or more than 2 fleshy roots that is cylindrical, about 2 to 4cm long, and about 1cm in diameter, and with longitudinal wrinkles when dried. Solitary stem is about 40cm in height, glabrous, with vertical stripes and base with persistent scales. 4 palmately compound leaves forming one whorl at the top of stem. Single umbel is acrogenous, about 3.5cm in diameter, and with 20 to 50 flowers; peduncle is about 12cm in length, hairless, and with vertical stripes; pedicels is slender, hairless, and about 1cm long; bracts are unconspicuous; flowers are yellow-green; cuppy calyx, male calyx being top-shaped, is with edge that has 5 triangular teeth; petals are 5; stamens are 5; ovary is with 2 rooms; styles are 2 (but the pistillode in male flowers is 1), free, and anaclastic. No fruits are found. Habitats are confined to a narrow zone that is near latitude 23.5° and 1,500 to 1800 meters above sea level in southwest China. The wild species are rare and now most of them are cultivated.
Panax notoginseng root contains Arasaponin A (C30H52O10) and Arasaponin B (C23H38O10), which can generate sapogenin A and sapogenin B respectively after the hydrolysis. Separately, recent research reportedly says that it contains 5 kinds of triterpenoid saponins, whose sapogenin are Panaxadiol, Panaxatriol, and so on. In addition to saponins, it still contains alkaloids and glycosides. Its leaves contain saponins. After the hydrolysis, more Panaxadiol sapogenins are found and oleanolic acid can be obviously detected, but Panaxatriol content is rare.
Tienchi ginseng benefits
As a native produce to Yunnan and Guangxi provinces, it is one of the earliest medicinal and edible plants. Since ancient times it has been recognized as one of the best herbs to promote blood circulation to remove blood stasis, reduce inflammation, and relieve pain. Thanks for that amazing healing properties, it enjoys a high reputation and people used to call it “more precious than gold” and “miraculous grass from Southland.”
It is more than just a hemostatic herb. As a matter of fact, it also generates and invigorates blood. In the past it was once considered such a priceless drug that no one was willing to exchange it even for gold. Today it becomes one of favorite tonic. Ben Cao Gang Mu Shi Yi (Supplements to Compendium of Materia Medica), a famous medical work written in Qing Dynasty, had ever given a good review on this herb, “Panax ginseng is the No.1 pick on tonifying Qi while Panax notoginseng is the second-to-none choice on enriching the blood. Because of the same flavor and healing properties, it is thus called Tienchi ginseng, which is the most precious one in all Chinese herbs.”
And here is the fact you probably don’t know – Yunnan Baiyao and Pien Tze Huang, the most popular medicines used in surgery and traumatology departments, are based on the ingredient notoginseng. Therefore, it is widely used for a range of different diseases, such as upper gastrointestinal bleeding, hyphema, cerebral thrombosis, hyperlipidemia, sequelae of concussion, prostatic hypertrophy, bed sores, severe hepatitis, coronary heart disease, lung disease, keloids, postoperative adhesions, hemorrhoids, and more.
Modern pharmacological actions of Tien Chi ginseng
1) It can shorten the bleeding and clotting time. In addition, it can inhibit platelet aggregation and thrombolysis;
2) It can promote the proliferation of multifunctional hematopoietic stem cells and thus increase the production of red blood cells;
3) It can lower blood pressure, reduce heart rate, and relieve a variety of drug-induced arrhythmias;
4) It is capable of reducing myocardial oxygen consumption and oxygen utilization, expanding cerebral blood vessels, and increasing cerebral vascular flow;
5) It is able to improve the humoral immune responses, relieve pain, reduce inflammation, delay aging process, and more;
6) It can treat gastric atrophy in rats, reverse the atypical hyperplasia and intestinal metaplasia of glandular epithelium, and prevent the formation of tumor.
Sample San Qi formulas on herbal remedies
The Chinese Pharmacopoeia says that it is sweet and slightly bitter in taste and warm in nature. It covers meridians of liver and stomach. Common functions are dissipating stasis to check bleeding and diminishing swelling to stop pain. Usual Tienchi ginseng uses and indications include hemoptysis, bloody diarrhea, nosebleed, blood in stool, uterine bleeding, traumatic bleeding, sharp pain in chest and abdomen, swelling and pain caused by a fall or a sudden twist. Recommended Tienchi ginseng dosage is from 3 to 9 grams in decoction or 1 to 3 grams in powder form. Besides, you can also buy other Panax notoginseng products too, such as Tienchi ginseng tea, extract, oriental botanicals, capsule, liquid, powder, tablets, etc.
1) Hua Xue Dan from Yi Xue Zhong Zhong Can Xi Lu (Records of Heart-Felt Experiences in Medicine with Reference to the West). It is combined with Hua Rui Shi (Ophicalcitum) and Xue Yu Tan (Crinis Carbonisatus) to treat hemoptysis, epistaxis, and blood in stool and urine.
2) Qi Bao San from Ben Cao Gang Mu Shi Yi. It is formulated with Long Gu (Dragon Bones), Xue Jie (Dragon’s Blood), Xiang Pi (elephant hide), etc. to cure various traumatic bleeding.
3) Fu Jin Sheng Ji San from Yi Zong Jin Jian (Golden Mirror of Orthodox Medicine). It is matched with Ru Xiang (Frankincense Resin), Mo Yao (Myrrh Gum), Er Cha (Catechu) etc. to heal ruptured carbuncles or boils.
4) Jun Men Zhi Xue Fang from Hui Sheng Ji (Collection for Bringing Back to Life). It is joined with Bai La (Ash Tree Bark), Frankincense, Jiang Xiang (Dalbergia Sissoo), Dragon’s Blood, Wu Bei Zi (Gallnut of Chinese Sumac), and Mu Li (Oyster Shells) for hemostasis.
5) Tian Qi Du Zhong Wan (Tienchi ginseng and eucommia combination) from Guang Ci Tang®. It is equipped with Du Zhong (Eucommia Bark), Niu Xi (Achyranthes), Sang Ji Sheng (Mulberry Mistletoe Stem), Qiang Huo (Notopterygium), Dang Gui (Dong Quai), etc. for nourishing the blood to expel wind and activating meridians to stop pain.
6) Tian Qi Dan Shen Cha (Tienchi ginseng root and salvia root beverage) from Yu Qiu Yao Jie (Yu Qiu’s Explanation of Herbs). It is coupled with Dan Shen (Salvia Miltiorrhiza) to cure coronary heart disease and angina.
Tienchi ginseng side effects and contraindications
As a common tonic, Tienchi ginseng is considered a relatively safe herb and given by the AHPA with a class 2B rating. However, it is inadvisable in the follows scenarios:
1) People with deficiency-cold syndrome should use it with caution because its cold nature will aggravate the condition.
2) Women with heavy periods (menorrhagia) should stay away from it since it can stimulate menstrual flow. But the exception is irregular menstruation due to blood stasis.
3) Do not use it during a cold since it can make it worse.
4) Do not use it along with other scented tea just in case its efficacy will be affected. Using it alone is the best way to maximize its health benefits. But a little bit rock candy is allowed for flavoring if you don’t really like the taste.
5) Do not use it over 9 grams each time and more than 15 grams per person per day. But more is allowed in order to stop external bleeding.
6) Do not use it during pregnancy so as not to affect the fetus. However it is an ideal blood tonic for postpartum mothers and hemorrhagic anemia.
7) Raw and cooked notoginseng are slightly different on healing properties. The raw one is better at dispersing blood stasis while the cooked one is more adept at tonifying blood. Let’s use bone healing as an example. The former is ideal for early stage but apparently the latter is preferred in last stage.