Polygala tenuifolia

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Polygala tenuifolia
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Polygalaceae
Genus: Polygala
Species: P. tenuifolia
Binomial name
Polygala tenuifolia

Polygala tenuifolia (Yuan Zhi) is an herb in the family Polygalaceae which is hardy to USDA Zone 6.

Medicinal uses[edit]

Yuan Zhi is used primarily as an expectorant.[1] It is one of the 50 fundamental herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine, where it is called yuan zhi (Chinese: 遠志).

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the extract of dried roots of Polygala tenuifolia in healthy adults produced memory-enhancing effects.[2] A similar trial with elderly humans also found significant cognitive improvement.[3] Another study has shown that P. tenuifolia increases NGF secretion in astrocytes.[4]

The root is used in Chinese medicine used for its sedative, antipsychotic, cognition improving, neuroprotective and antidepressant effect.

Preclinically, Radix Polygalae extract has been shown to demonstrate a rapid-onset antidepressant-like effect.[5] One triterpenoid saponin from the roots, Yuanzhi-1, shows significant affinity towards 5-HT, NE and DA transporters and potent antidepressant-like effects.[6]

3,6'-disinapoyl sucrose from Polygala tenuifolia significantly inhibited MAO-A and MAO-B activity, blocked stress-induced elevations of plasma cortisol,[7] improved hippocampal-dependent learning and memory [8] and rescued stress-induced deficits in hippocampal neuronal plasticity and neurogenesis [9]

Radix Polygalae extract also displays anti-inflammatory activity towards microglia [10]


  1. ^ "Polygala tenuifolia - Willd. database report". Plants for A Future. 1996–2012. Retrieved April 6, 2013. 
  2. ^ Lee J.-Y., Kim K.Y., Shin K.Y., Won B.Y., Jung H.Y., Suh Y.H. (2009). "Effects of BT-11 on memory in healthy humans". Neuroscience Letters 454 (2): 111–114. doi:10.1016/j.neulet.2009.03.024. PMID 19429065. 
  3. ^ Shin K.Y., Lee J.-Y., Won B.Y., Jung H.Y., Chang K.-A., Koppula S., Suh Y.-H. (2009). "BT-11 is effective for enhancing cognitive functions in the elderly humans". Neuroscience Letters 465 (2): 157–159. doi:10.1016/j.neulet.2009.08.033. 
  4. ^ Yabe T., Tuchida H., Kiyohara H., Takeda T., Yamada H. (2003). "Induction of NGF synthesis in astrocytes by onjisaponins of Polygala tenuifolia, constituents of kampo (Japanese herbal) medicine, Ninjin-yoei-to.". Phytomedicine 10 (2-3): 106–14. doi:10.1078/094471103321659799. PMID 12725562. 
  5. ^ Shin Im-Joon J., Son Sung Un U., Park Hyunwoo et al. (2014). "Preclinical evidence of rapid-onset antidepressant-like effect in radix polygalae extract.". PLOS one. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0088617. 
  6. ^ Jin Zeng-liang L., Gao Nana, Zhang Jian-rui R. et al. (2014). "The discovery of Yuanzhi-1, a triterpenoid saponin derived from the traditional Chinese medicine, has antidepressant-like activity". Progress in neuro-psychopharmacology & biological psychiatry. 53: 9–14. doi:10.1016/j.pnpbp.2014.02.013. 
  7. ^ Hu Yuan, Liu Ming, Liu Ping, Guo Dai-Hong H., Wei Ri-Bao B., Rahman Khalid. (2011). "Possible mechanism of the antidepressant effect of 3,6'-disinapoyl sucrose from Polygala tenuifolia Willd". The Journal of pharmacy and pharmacology 63: 869–874. doi:10.1111/j.2042-7158.2011.01281.x. 
  8. ^ Xue Wei, Hu Jin-feng, Yuan Yu-he et al. (2009). "Polygalasaponin XXXII from Polygala tenuifolia root improves hippocampal-dependent learning and memory". Acta Pharmacologica 30: 1211–1219. doi:10.1038/aps.2009.112. 
  9. ^ Hu Yuan, Liao Hong-Bo, Liu Ping, Dai-Hong Guo, Wang Yu-Yu, Rahman Khalid. (2009). "Antidepressant-like effects of 3,6′-disinapoyl sucrose on hippocampal neuronal plasticity and neurotrophic signal pathway in chronically mild stressed rats". Neurochemistry International. doi:10.1016/j.neuint.2009.12.004. 
  10. ^ Cheong Myung-Hee H., Lee Sang-Ryong R., Yoo Hwa-Seung S. et al. (2011). "Anti-inflammatory effects of Polygala tenuifolia root through inhibition of NF-κB activation in lipopolysaccharide-induced BV2 microglial cells.". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2011.08.008.