Yuan Zhi (Polygala Tenuifolia) benefits, dosage, side effects

Yuan Zhi Benefits

What are Yuan Zhi’s (Polygala Tenuifolia) benefits?

The root of this plant is used as a herbal extract in traditional chinese medicine to “nourish heart and spirit”. It has cognitive and neuroprotective effects on the brain: focus, memory, creativity, intelligence, motivation, mood and relaxation. It also reduces swelling (anti-inflammatory).

Yuan Zhi has therapeutic effects in:

  • Dementia
  • Memory impairment
  • Insomnia
  • Neurasthenia (fatigue, headache, and irritability)
  • Stress-exacerbated diseases (such as atopic dermatitis)
  • Amnesia
  • Neurosis
  • Inflammation (swelling)

So what makes Polygala tenuifolia root so special? Find out in the video below.

What is a Yuan Zhi herb?

Yuan Zhi is one of the fifty fundamental herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It’s also known as Chinese Senega or Polygala tenuifolia. In China, it has been used in humans for centuries for its sedative effects.


What are Polygala Tenuifolia’s side effects?

Extended use (more than 8 weeks) could cause:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • body weight fluctuations
  • indigestion
  • nausea
  • stomach irritation
  • dizziness
  • asthma and rhinitis due to long-term inhalation

Study Information

Title: Occupational asthma and rhinitis induced by a herbal medicine, Wonji (Polygala tenuifolia)

This study was conducted to evaluate clinical characteristics and immunologic mechanism of Wonji-induced asthma in an exposed-worker.

Method used

A patient who complained of asthma and rhinitis symptoms, and who had worked in a herbal manufacturing factory for 8 yr, underwent a skin prick test with crude extract of Wonji under the impression of occupational asthma induced by the agent.

Results

The patient had a strong positive response to the extract on the skin prick test. Allergen bronchial challenge to the extract demonstrated a typical dual response. Serum specific IgE level to the extract was higher in the patient than in healthy controls, and ELISA inhibition test revealed complete inhibition of IgE binding with the extract. Six IgE binding components to the extract were detected.

Conclusion

These findings suggest that Polygala tenuifolia, a herbal material, can induce IgE-mediated bronchoconstriction in exposed workers.


What is a recommended Polygala Tenuifolia dosage?

As powder or capsules: 100 to 300 mg per day (100 mg 3 times a day).

Study Information

Polygala tenuifolia Willdenow root extract (BT-11) has beneficial effects on central nervous system disorders in humans. The safety of BT-11 should be tested in younger persons further.

  • Title: Study on the safety of Polygala tenuifolia Willdenow root extract powder (BT-11) in young persons aged from 9 to 19 years old.
  • Duration: 12 weeks.

Subject Information

  • Number of subjects: 121.
  • Age: 9-19 years old.

Method used

To evaluate the safety of BT-11 in humans aged from 9 to 19 years old. The safety was evaluated in randomly assigned subjects who received the test products (61 subjects in BT-11 300 mg daily or 60 subjects in matching placebo) for 12 weeks. Adverse reactions were analyzed by the incidence rate, type, and severity. 

Results

Eleven adverse reactions were observed in ten subjects receiving BT-11 while seven adverse reactions in six subjects receiving placebo.

Serious adverse reactions such as acute appendicitis and acute viral gastroenteritis were observed in the BT-11 group4 and the placebo group, respectively. However, it was confirmed that they were not associated with the test product.

All other adverse reactions observed during the test period were resolved completely without special treatment.

Conclusions

This study demonstrates the safety of BT-11 in the adolescent by showing no apparent adverse reactions related to it.


Should I take Polygala Tenuifolia before bed?

This herb is also used as sedative, hypnotic, or tranquillizer and its effects are long lasting. This means you can take Polygala tenuifolia before bed because it helps sleep via the following factors:

  • Adenosine and GABA signaling (relaxing the body)
  • Shortening of time to fall asleep
  • EEG wave increase (related to stages 1, 2 and 3 of NREM sleep)

Study Information

  • Title: Effects of Polygala tenuifolia root extract on proliferation of neural stem cells in the hippocampal CA1 region.

Method used

This study investigated the effect of Polygala tenuifolia root extract on the proliferation of a neural stem cells in rats.

Results

  • The root extract of P. tenuifolia (2 mg/kg/day) promoted the proliferation of neural stem cells in the hippocampal region of the brain.
  • In addition, this extract promoted the growth of rat neuronal precursor cells.

Conclusion

P. tenuifolia root extract may contribute to the treatment of patients with insomnia, neurosis and dementia.


Anti Inflammatory

Study 1

  • Title: The inhibition of JNK MAPK and NF-κB signaling by tenuifoliside A isolated from Polygala tenuifolia in lipopolysaccharide-induced macrophages is associated with its anti-inflammatory effect.

Method used

This study investigated Polygala tenuifolia’s anti-inflammatory effects.

Results

The results showed that tenuifolia suppressed the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (proteins secreted by the immune system).

Conclusion

This is the first study about the anti-inflammatory effects of tenuifolia, which is a potential compound to be used as a treatment for inflammatory diseases.


Study 2

  • Title: Anti-inflammatory effects of Polygala tenuifolia root through inhibition of NF-κB activation in lipopolysaccharide-induced BV2 microglial cells.

Method used

This study was designed to test the anti-inflammatory effects of Polygala tenuifolia root water extract (WEPT).

Results

WEPT significantly reduced the generation of proinflammatory cytokines (proteins secreted by the immune system).

Conclusions

Polygala tenuifolia root water extract may be useful in the treatment of nerve cell diseases by inhibition of inflammatory factors.


Memory Enhancement

Study 1

  • Title: BT-11 is effective for enhancing cognitive functions in elderly humans.

Method used

BT-11, an extract of the dried roots of Polygala tenuifolia, was used in this study. It was reported that Yuan Zhi benefits include the following:

  • Improved memory impairments in rats
  • Enhanced memory in humans

This study was done to investigate whether BT-11 could enhance memory in elderly humans.

Results

The were significant improvements in the group that received BT-11 treatment:

  • Total scores were significantly increased
  • The mean scores on tests of naming, word list recognition and constructional recall and praxis increased

Conclusion

Yuan Zhi benefits (BT-11) could include the following:

  • Enhancement of cognitive functions such as memory in elderly humans
  • Health benefits, including disease prevention and treatment.

Study 2

  • Title: Effects of BT-11 on memory in healthy humans.
  • Duration: 4 weeks.

Method used

This study used an extract of the dried roots of Polygala tenuifolia (BT-11). It was reported that Yuan Zhi benefits on rats include the following:

  • Improved stress-induced amnesia
  • Neuroprotective effects
  • Enhanced glucose utilization in the rat’s brain

This study examined whether BT-11 could enhance memory in healthy human adults. The participants were given BT-11 or placebo 3 times per day for 4 weeks.

Results

The subjects that consumed BT-11 showed the following benefits:

  • Increases in immediate recall
  • Increases in scores on a recognition test.
  • Reduction in the number of errors on the tests

Conclusion

This study was the first to show that Yuan Zhi benefits (BT-11) include memory-enhancing effects in healthy adults.


Neuroprotective

Study Information

  • Title: Extract of Polygala tenuifolia Alleviates Stress-Exacerbated Atopy-Like Skin Dermatitis through the Modulation of Protein Kinase A and p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Signaling Pathway.

Method used

Atopic dermatitis (AD) and stress create a vicious cycle: stress exacerbates atopic symptoms, and atopic disease elicits stress and anxiety. Targeting multiple factors including stress and allergic inflammation is, therefore, important for treating AD.

In this study, we investigated the remedial value of Polygala tenuifolia Willd. (PTW) for treating immobilization (IMO) stress-exacerbated atopy-like skin dermatitis and its underlying mechanism.

Results

Treatment with 250 mg/kg PTW significantly restored IMO stress-exacerbated scratching behavior and other indicators such as skin inflammation and water content and lymph node weights.

Furthermore, it also reversed expression of inflammatory factors in ear tissues.

Conclusion

PTW alleviated IMO stress-exacerbated atopic dermatitis symptoms.


Want to know more?

Click the links below to access the individual topic pages:


Sources

This article makes use of information from the U.S. National Library of Medicine under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

  1. Shin KY, Lee JY, Won BY, Jung HY, Chang KA, Koppula S, Suh YH. BT-11 is effective for enhancing cognitive functions in the elderly humans. Neurosci Lett. 2009 Nov 13;465(2):157-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2009.08.033. Epub 2009 Aug 20. PMID: 19699261.
  2. Lee JY, Kim KY, Shin KY, Won BY, Jung HY, Suh YH. Effects of BT-11 on memory in healthy humans. Neurosci Lett. 2009 Apr 24;454(2):111-4. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2009.03.024. Epub 2009 Mar 11. PMID: 19429065.
  3. Kim KS, Lee DS, Bae GS, Park SJ, Kang DG, Lee HS, Oh H, Kim YC. The inhibition of JNK MAPK and NF-κB signaling by tenuifoliside A isolated from Polygala tenuifolia in lipopolysaccharide-induced macrophages is associated with its anti-inflammatory effect. Eur J Pharmacol. 2013 Dec 5;721(1-3):267-76. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2013.09.026. Epub 2013 Sep 27. PMID: 24076326.
  4. Cheong MH, Lee SR, Yoo HS, Jeong JW, Kim GY, Kim WJ, Jung IC, Choi YH. Anti-inflammatory effects of Polygala tenuifolia root through inhibition of NF-κB activation in lipopolysaccharide-induced BV2 microglial cells. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Oct 11;137(3):1402-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2011.08.008. Epub 2011 Aug 10. PMID: 21856398.
  5. Park HJ, Lee K, Heo H, Lee M, Kim JW, Whang WW, Kwon YK, Kwon H. Effects of Polygala tenuifolia root extract on proliferation of neural stem cells in the hippocampal CA1 region. Phytother Res. 2008 Oct;22(10):1324-9. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2488. PMID: 18693285.
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5297822/
  7. Comparison of Two Old Phytochemicals versus Two Newly Researched Plant-Derived Compounds: Potential for Brain and Other Relevant Ailments
  8. Park CH, Yang PS, Yoon YS, Ra JC. Study on the safety of Polygala tenuifolia Willdenow root extract powder (BT-11) in young person aged from 9 to 19 years old. J Ethnopharmacol. 2019 Mar 25;232:119-129. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2018.12.031. Epub 2018 Dec 18. PMID: 30576772.
  9. Preclinical Safety of the Root Extract of Polygala tenuifolia Willdenow in Sprague-Dawley Rats and Beagle Dogs
  10. Park HK, Jeon SG, Kim TB, Kang HR, Chang YS, Kim YK, Cho SH, Min KU, Kim YY. Occupational asthma and rhinitis induced by a herbal medicine, Wonji (Polygala tenuifolia). J Korean Med Sci. 2005 Feb;20(1):46-9. doi: 10.3346/jkms.2005.20.1.46. PMID: 15716601; PMCID: PMC2808574.
Yuan Zhi (Polygala Tenuifolia) benefits, dosage, side effects
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