Herb: Yuan Zhi

Latin name: Polygala tenuifolia

Family: Polygalaceae (Milkwort Family)

Medicinal use of Yuan Zhi:

Yuan Zhi contains triterpenoid saponins, these promote the clearing of phlegm from the bronchial tubes. The plant is used mainly as an expectorant and stimulant to treat bronchial asthma, chronic bronchitis and whooping cough. The root is antibacterial, cardiotonic, cerebrotonic, expectorant, haemolytic, hypotensive, sedative and tonic. It acts mainly as a tonic for the heart and kidney energies. It is taken internally in the treatment of coughs with profuse phlegm, bronchitis, insomnia, palpitations, poor memory, anxiety, depression and nervous tension. Externally it is used to treat boils and carbuncles. The root is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use. The leaves are used as a tonic for the kidneys.

Description of the plant:


20 cm
(7 3/4 inch)

Habitat of the herb:

Hillsides, roadsides and meadows. Dry meadows and stony slopes.

Edible parts of Yuan Zhi:

Young leaves - cooked. Root - cooked. The core is removed and the root is boiled in several changes of water.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - sow spring or autumn in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division. Cuttings of young shoots in a frame in late spring.

Cultivation of Yuan Zhi:

Hillsides, roadsides and meadows. Dry meadows and stony slopes.

Known hazards of Polygala tenuifolia:

Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, at least one member of this genus is said to be poisonous in large quantities.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.