Platycodon roots

Chinese: 桔梗

Pinyin: Jié Gěng

Parts used: Dried root

TCM category: Warm herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): BitterPungent

Organ affinity: Lung

Scientific name: Platycodon grandiflorus

Other names: Balloon flower, Chinese bellflower, Bellflower, Doraji

Use of platycodon roots (Jie Geng) 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: Dig out the root in the spring or autumn seasons, wash it, remove the fibrous elements, peel the skin and dry it. Remove impurities, wash again, soak in water, cut in thick pieces and dry.

Dosage: 3-10g.

Main actions according to TCM*: Opens the Lungs and smoothes the flow of Lung Qi. Expels Phlegm and pus from the Lungs and throat, can be used for either Wind-Cold or Wind-Heat according to the other herbs in the formula. Directs the actions of other herbs to the Upper Warmer.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which platycodon roots may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Coughing Common cold Tonsillitis Chest congestion Sore throat Lung abscess

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used if there is blood in the expectoration and so is often not appropriate for tuberculosis.

Common TCM formulas in which platycodon roots (Jie Geng) are used*

Xing Su San

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Dry-Cold. Disseminates the Lung Qi and relieves cough. Transforms thin mucus.

Conditions targeted*: Common coldBronchitis and others

Jie Geng is a deputy ingredient in Xing Su San. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Xing Su San, Jie Geng causes the Lung Qi to descend and stops coughing.

Read more about Xing Su San

Bai He Gu Jin Tang

Source date: 1573 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes Lung and Kidney Yin. Lubricates the Lung and clears phlegm.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic bronchitisChronic pharyngitis and others

Jie Geng is an assistant ingredient in Bai He Gu Jin Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Bai He Gu Jin Tang, Jie Geng facilitates the movement of Lung Qi and stops coughing, especially when combined with Fritillary bulbs (Chuan Bei Mu), as is the case here.

Read more about Bai He Gu Jin Tang

Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang

Source date: 1830 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Invigorates the Blood. Dispels blood Stagnation. Spreads the Liver Qi. Unblocks the channels.

Conditions targeted*: Coronary artery diseaseRheumatic valvular heart disease and others

Jie Geng is an assistant ingredient in Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang, Jie Geng expands the chest and supports Qi movement together with other assistant herbs. They eliminate Qi Stagnation in the chest and supports the Qi movement so as to facilitate Blood circulation. 

Read more about Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang

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

Jie Geng is an envoy ingredient in Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan, Jie Geng conducts the actions of the other herbs upward toward the Upper Burner, the abode of the Mind (Shen)

Read more about Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan

Tong Ru Dan

Source date: 1826 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies the Qi and Blood. Removes Stagnation from the breast connecting Meridians.

Jie Geng is an envoy ingredient in Tong Ru Dan. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Tong Ru Dan, Jie Geng plays the role as a carrier to direct the herbs to the Upper Burner.

Read more about Tong Ru Dan

Xia Ru Yong Quan San

Source date: 1840 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes Blood. Increases breast milk supply.

Jie Geng is an envoy ingredient in Xia Ru Yong Quan San. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Xia Ru Yong Quan San, Jie Geng plays the carrier role to direct the ingredients to the Upper Burner.

Read more about Xia Ru Yong Quan San

Tuo Li Xiao Du San

Source date: 1548 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Draws out toxicity. Expels pus from the interior. Tonifies Qi and Blood.

In Tuo Li Xiao Du San, Jie Geng resolves Toxin and expels pus

Read more about Tuo Li Xiao Du San

Key TCM concepts behind platycodon roots (Jie Geng)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), platycodon roots are plants that belong to the 'Warm herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough' category. In TCM Phlegm is a condition of Stagnation of Fluids which tends to start in the Spleen and then goes to the Lungs. If this overly accumulates it thickens and becomes pathological Phlegm. Phlegm, being a form of Stagnation, often starts as being Cool and transforms to Hot as the condition progresses. The herbs in this category are Warm in nature so they treat the early stages of the Stagnation: Cold-Phlegm and Wet-Phlegm with symptoms of wheezing, vomiting and nausea.

As suggested by its category platycodon roots are plants that are Neutral in nature. This means that platycodon roots typically don't affect the balance in your body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Eating too many "Hot" (Yang) ingredients can lead to an imbalance whereby one has a Yang Excess. The inverse is true as well: too many "Cold" (Yin) ingredients can lead to a Yin Excess. The Neutral nature of platycodon roots means that you don't have to worry about that!

Platycodon roots also taste Bitter and Pungent. 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 platycodon 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 Pungent ingredients tend to promote the circulations of Qi and Body Fluids. That's why for instance someone tends to sweat a lot when they eat spicy/pungent food.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such platycodon roots are thought to target the Lung. 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.

Research on platycodon roots (Jie Geng)

The extracts and purified platycoside compounds (saponins) from the roots of Platycodon grandiflorum may exhibit neuroprotective, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-allergy, improved insulin resistance, and cholesterol-lowering properties.1.

Herbal medicine consisting of Platycodon Root effectively reduces the incidence of acute tonsillitis.2.

Sources:

1. Nyakudya E.; Jeong JH.; Lee NK.; Jeong YS. (2014) “Platycosides from the Roots of Platycodon grandiflorum and Their Health Benefits.” Preventative Nutrition and Food Science 19 (2): 59-68. PMID 25054103

2. Goto F, Asama Y, Ogawa K. (2010). Sho-saiko-to-ka-kikyo-sekko as an alternative treatment for chronic tonsillitis to avoid surgery. Complement Ther Clin Pract. , 16(4):216-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2010.02.006. Epub 2010 Mar 19.

Use of platycodon roots (Jie Geng) as food

Platycodon roots are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Doraji-muchim or Sauteed bellflower root.