Home / Chinese Herb / POLYGALA ROOT [元志, YUAN ZHI]


Name : Polygala Root2013050717202581201_opt

Chinese Name : 元志

Latin Name : Radix Polygalae


This herb is the dried roots of Polygala tenuifolia Willd. or P. sibirica L. of the family Polygalaceae. It grows mostly in the Henan, Jilin, Shaanxi, and Shanxi provinces of China, and is collected in the spring or autumn, cleaned, dried in the sun, and used unprocessed or stir baked.

Polygala was traditionally used as a sedative for treating coughs, jaundice, mammary abscess , infantile convulsion, hysteria in females, insomnia, and gonorrhea. Today, polygala root is mostly used as an herbal sedative to calm the Spirit. It has a special effect on the will and mental powers, improves comprehension, strengthens memory, and promotes expectoration. Polygala root is a powerful antiaging medicinal herb.

Use of Polygala Root in TCM

Pungent and bitter in taste, and slightly warm, it acts on the lung and heart meridians.

Effects, Medicinal Uses, and Combinations

  1. Relieves mental distress, tranquilizes the mind, and promotes intelligence: to treat neurasthenia, irritability, anxiety, palpitations, restlessness, insomnia, dreaminess, and forgetfulness, polygala root is often prescribed with ginseng, acorus rhizome (shi chang pu), poria (hoelen), and other ingredients, as in Bu Wang San, which restores memory power. Polygala root is used with American gingseng, Chinese yam, Chinese angelica, and eucommia bark, along with other herbs, as in Jian Nao Bu Shen Wan (R-35), for invigorating the brain. The root alone may be given as a powder at 3 g, twice daily, or combined with schisandra in a decoction.
  2. Removes phlegm to induce resuscitation and restores consciousness: to treat mental confusion, a vague mind, epilepsy induced by terror, and other similar symptoms caused by a retention of pathogenic phlegm in the heart, polygala root is blended with acorus, alum, and curcuma root.
  3. Dissolves phlegm and relieves cough: to treat a cough with profuse, thick sputum and difficult expectoration, polygala root is mixed with bitter apricot kernel, platycodon root (jie geng), and licorice root.


In a decoction of 3 to 10 g.


People who suffer from a gastric ulcer or gastritis, or from yin deficiency and hyperactivity of  yang, should not use this herb or use with caution.

Side Effects and Toxicity

An overdose may cause nausea and vomiting. The LD50 of the decoction of the herb in mice was 16.95 g/kg by oral administration.

Chemical Constituents

Polygala root contains triterpene saponins, xanthones, oligosaccharides tenuifolin, and resin. Saponins include onjisaponins A to G, polygalitol, tenuigenia A, tenuigenin B, oncisin, tenuidine, and xanthones.

Pharmacological Findings

  1. Polygala has shown sedative, hypnotic, and anticonvulsant activity. The root is hypnotic and sedative in mice, with a synergetic action with barbiturate. It also counteracts convulsions caused by pentylene-tetrazole.
  2. Antitussive and expectorant in mice. This effect is a reflex caused by the irritation of the saponins on gastrointestinal mucous membranes.
  3. Antidementia: experiments show that polygala, combined with Panax gingseng, acorus, and hoelen, reduce impairment of learning and the learning memory process in impaired mice. A sedative effect was also exhibited.
  4. In both isolated and in situ uteri of guinea pigs, rabbits, cats, and dogs, the fluid extract of the herb increased contraction and muscular tone of the uterus muscles.
  5. Polygala root has been shown to be hypotensive in rabbits and bacterially static.

Clinical Findings

  1. It is an expectorant
  2. Polygala has been successfully used to treat chronic bronchitis and the common cold presenting with copious sputum. A tincture of the herb at the dose of 2 to 5 ml, three times daily, is recommended.