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Chinese senega roots

Chinese: 远志

Pinyin: Yuǎn Zhì

Parts used: The dried root

TCM category: Herbs that nourish the Heart and calm the Spirit

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): BitterSweet

Organ affinity: Heart Kidney Lung

Scientific name: Polygala tenuifolia

Other names: Seneca root

Use of chinese senega roots (Yuan Zhi) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Cut the root and wash it. Dry under the sun.

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Calms the spirit. Expels Phlegm from the Heart orifices. Expels Phlegm from the Lungs. Diminishes abscesses.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which chinese senega roots may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Palpitations Insomnia Restlessness Emotional outbursts Seizures Sputum Abcesses Boils Ulcers Swollen painful breasts

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those with Yin Deficient Heat signs.

Common TCM formulas in which chinese senega roots (Yuan Zhi) are used*

Gui Pi Tang

Source date: 1529 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies and nourish Qi and Blood. Tonifies Heart and Spleen.

Conditions targeted*: Nervous exhaustionMyasthenia gravis and others

Yuan Zhi is a deputy ingredient in Gui Pi Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Gui Pi Tang, Yuan Zhi calms the Mind (Shen) by facilitating the flow of Qi in the Heart.

It is especially effective when it is balanced by the sour properties of Jujube seeds (Suan Zao Ren).

Read more about Gui Pi Tang

Sang Piao Xiao San

Source date: 1116 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Regulates and tonifies the Heart and Kidneys. Stabilizes the Essence. Stops leakage.

Conditions targeted*: Pediatric enuresisDiabetes and others

Yuan Zhi is an assistant ingredient in Sang Piao Xiao San. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

Read more about Sang Piao Xiao San

Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan

Source date: 16th century

Number of ingredients: 14 herbs

Formula key actions: Nutritive tonic: Nourishes Yin, Blood and Vital Essence of the Heart and Kidney. Clears away pathogenic Heat, clears Deficient Heat. Sedative.

Conditions targeted*: Perimenopausal syndromeChronic urticaria and others

Yuan Zhi is an assistant ingredient in Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

Read more about Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan

Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang

Source date: 1174 AD

Number of ingredients: 14 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Qi and Blood. Nourishes the Heart. Calms the spirit.

Conditions targeted*: AnemiaNonhealing ulcers and others

Yuan Zhi is an assistant ingredient in Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang, Yuan Zhi is bitter, acrid, and warm.  It regulates the Heart Qi and establishes harmonious communication between the Heart and Kidneys to settle the spirit and calm palpitations.

Read more about Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang

Key TCM concepts behind chinese senega roots (Yuan Zhi)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), chinese senega roots are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that nourish the Heart and calm the Spirit' category. These herbs are substances that tranquilize the Mind and treat symptoms such as restlessness, palpitations, anxiety or insomnia. They tend to have sedative properties by tonifying Heart Yin and Blood as in TCM it is believed that the Heart is the store of the Mind.

Furthermore chinese senega roots are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that chinese senega roots tend to help people who have too much 'Cold' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Cold in their body are said to either have a Yin Excess(because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang Deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition chinese senega roots can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Chinese senega roots also taste Bitter and Sweet. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like chinese senega roots tend to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. On the other hand Sweet ingredients tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such chinese senega roots are thought to target the Heart, the Kidney and the Lung. In addition to regulating Blood flow, in TCM the Heart is believed to be the store of the 'Mind' which basically refers to someone's vitality. The Kidneys do not only regulate the urinary system but also play a key role in the reproductive system and the growth and aging process of the body. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought in TCM to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the Body Fluids that nourish the body.

Use of chinese senega roots (Yuan Zhi) as food

Chinese senega roots are also eaten as food.