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

Meridian affinity: Lung

Scientific name: Platycodon grandiflorus

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

Use of platycodon roots (Jié Gěng) 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 practitionner, 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 are used*:

Key TCM concepts behind platycodon roots' 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 elements" 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

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 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.