Polygala root

Chinese Name: Yuan zhi
Medical Name: Radix Polygalae
Latin Name: Polygala tenuifolia
Origin: Root
Taste: Bitter and pungent

Quotes from Chinese historical sources:

THE HERBAL CLASSIC OF SHEN-NONG: "Treats coughs with dyspnea and impairment of the spleen and stomach by making good insufficiencies, eliminates pathogenic factors, clears all the passages to the orifices, benefits intelligence, improves the hearing and vision, enhances the memory, reinforces mental stability and doubles strength."

OTHER CLASSIFIED RECORDS OF FAMOUS DOCTORS: "Treats qi stagnation in the epigastrium, heat accumulation in the skin and sallow complexion."
"Tranquilizes the heart-qi, arrests palpitations due to fright and replenishes vital essence."

DEFINITIONS OF HERBS: "Being pungent in taste and heavy, very strong in property and able to enter the heart, the thinleaf milkwort root resuscitates, promoting ventilation and dispersal. It is used for the treatment of such ailments as excess heat syndrome due to stagnation of the heart-qi, mental confusion caused by obstruction of phlegm, blurred vision, sluggishness and impaired speech, restless sleep, nightmares and night-terrors, amnesia, and infantile convulsive seizure due to fright. In its treatment of all these ailments, phlegm is eliminated and resuscitation is induced to such an extent as to activate the flow of the heart-qi. Thus both the mind and the soul are naturally relieved."

Western Research:

J Nat Prod. 2006 Sep;69(9):1305-9.
Antidepressant principles of the roots of Polygala tenuifolia.
Cheng MC, Li CY, Ko HC, Ko FN, Lin YL, Wu TS.
Medical and Pharmaceutical Industry Technology and Development Center, Taipei County, Taiwan, Republic of China.
[(125)I]RTI-55-membrane binding assay-guided fractionation and separation of a water-soluble extract of the roots of Polygala tenuifolia gave five new oligosaccharide derivatives, polygalatenosides A-E (1-5). The structures of these new oligosaccharides were established on the basis of spectroscopic evidence. Polygalatenosides A and B (1 and 2) showed significant inhibitory activity, with IC(50) values of 30.0 and 6.04 microM, respectively, in this membrane binding assay and acted as norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors through blocking norepinephrine transport.

Chem Biodivers. 2004 Mar;1(3):415-25.
Polyphenols from Polygala spp. and their antioxidant activity.
Cervellati R, Innocenti G, Dall'Acqua S, Costa S, Sartini E.
Dipartimento di Chimica G. Ciamician, Universita di Bologna, via Selmi 2, I-40126 Bologna. rinaldo.cervellati@unibo.it
Members of Polygalaceae are known to contain a variety of different polyphenolic compounds such as xanthones, flavonoids, and biphenyl derivatives. Here, we report the isolation and structural characterization of two new phenol derivatives, named alpestrin (= 3,3',5'-trimethoxy[1,1'-biphenyl]-4-ol; 10) and alpestriose A (= 6-O-benzoyl-1-O-{6-O-acetyl- 3-O-[(4-hydroxy-3,5-dimethoxyphenyl) prop-2-enoyl]-beta-D-fructofuranosyl}- alpha-D-glucopyranoside; 11), and of four known compounds (12-15) from the MeOH extract of Polygala alpestris. The relative in vitro antioxidant activities of these compounds, in comparison with other phenolic substances from Polygala vulgaris, were evaluated by means of the Briggs-Rauscher (BR) oscillating reaction, a method based on the inhibitory effects of antioxidant free-radical scavengers. The experimental antioxidant-activity values (relative to resorcinol as a standard) were compared with those calculated on the basis of the bond-dissociation enthalpies. The structure/activity relationships for the compounds examined are also discussed.

Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol 2000 Aug;22(3):531-44
Inhibitory effect of interleukin-1alpha-induced apoptosis by Polygala tenuifolia in Hep G2 cells.
Koo HN, Jeong HJ, Kim KR, Kim JC, Kim KS, Kang BK, Kim HM, Kim JJ.
Department of Oriental Pharmacy, College of Pharmacy, Wonkwang University, Chonbuk, South Korea.
In this study, we investigated the effect of an aqueous extract of Polygala tenuifolia WILLDENOW (Polygalaceae) roots (PTAE) on ethanol (EtOH)-induced cytotoxicity in Hep G2 cells. PTAE (0.01-1 microg/ml) dose-dependently inhibited the EtOH-induced interleukin-1alpha (IL-1alpha) secretion. PTAE (0.01-1 microg/ml) also inhibited the EtOH- and IL-1alpha-induced cytotoxicity. Furthermore, we found that PTAE inhibited the IL-1alpha-induced apoptosis of Hep G2 cells. These results suggest that PTAE may prevent the EtOH-induced cytotoxicity through inhibition of the apoptosis of Hep G2 cells.