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Polygonum (bistort) and Polygonatum (Solomon's seal).

Date: Sun, 20 Aug 1995 21:52:06 +0000
From: christopher hedley <christopher.GN.APC.ORG>
Subject: re FO TI EXPERT

Polygonum bistorta root, also called bistort, is similar in actions to its relative P. multiflorum root, also called ho shou wu. It is used in Europe to drive out fevers, stop internal bleeding, to clean bites and wounds, for diarrhoea, for weak kidnies, for loose or painful teeth and for infertility in women. Bistort leaves are one of the best tasting of all wild vegetables.

Fo ti is a made up name.

PolygonATUM multiflorum, also called Solomon's seal, is NOT related. In Europe this plant is used mostly externally. It is a traditional remedy for broken bones and, especially, for bruises. It should NOT be used internally, unless you are familiar with it. It contains cardio-active glycosides.There are a number of other spp of polygonatum used in chinese medicine, but they vary in strength and can not be simply exchanged for each other.

Be careful of plant names and be sure you are talking about the same thing.

Christopher Hedley

From: Paul Iannone <p_iannone.POP.COM>

: PolygonATUM multiflorum, also called Solomon's seal, is NOT related.

A Lily, as opposed to Polygonum, a Buckwheat. Indeed, He shou wu is a Buckwheat, not a Lily. Also, note that He shou wu is only the ROOT of the viny plant. The STEM (caulis) is considered a separate herbal! [Ye jiao teng, used to Nourish the Heart and Calm the Spirit).

: There are a number of other spp of polygonatum used in chinese medicine, but they vary in strength and can not be simply exchanged for each other.

Polygonatum ---sibiricum--- is the primary source of Huang jing. Some texts give P. multiflorum as an alternative source. Essentially, P. sibiricum is, as the name implies, found in the north of China, and P. multiflorum is found in the south. My major Chinese language source ignores P. multiflorum entirely as a source for this pharmaceutic material, and this may be more correct, but this points to the need for considerable sophistication on the part of Chinese pharmacists (luckily, problems are few as far as I know). Huang jing IS a Qi Boosting herb, and is considered an excellent herb for conditions of exhaustion. The presence of cardiac glycosides MAY account for some of this traditional utility. The actual presence of these chemicals varies (at least from authority to authority in my library).

Four other species are given by some authorities as being sources of Huang jing, but NOT P. falcatum, P. odoratum and others, which are separate pharmaceutic sources, and which contain cardiac glycosides in greater quantity. These species are placed in the Yin Boosting category--a somewhat more 'medicinal' grouping (associated with the deeper Heart/Kidney plane of the individual rather than the more superficial Spleen/Stomach plane as with Qi Boosters).

Still, any particular pharmaceutic specimen may indeed contain digitalis glycosides. P. sibiricum was found in one study to be equipotent with aminophylline in humans, when taken in an alcohol extract--given the species confusion, it is impossible to know whether this was due to a mistaken species identification or not.

On to the Lilies:

Indeed, the Lily family continues to be a daunting challenge to botanists--it has been split and lumped several times, and the family itself is split variously between 12 and 28 tribes (depending on the authority you check). Keng, Hong, Chen, -- Orders and Families of Seed Plants of China -- divides the Lilies into two major groups, depending on whether the fruit is capsular or baccate (like a berry). The tribes, however, are far from simple.

Medicinally, Lilies offer much. Consider a few of its important medicinal genuses:

Aloe (put in Agavaceae by 'splitters'), Allium (put in Amaryllidacease OR its own Alliaceae by 'splitters'), Anemarrhena, Asparagus, Colchicum, Convallaria, Fritillaria, Lilium, Paris, Ophiopogon ('lumped' here from the old Haemordoraceae), Polygonatum, Smilax (given a separate family by 'splitters'), Veratrum, Yucca, and probably some others I missed. Many more of these genuses are split and lumped depending on authority than I have noted.

Lilies are one of the "vicarious" families--very similar species can be found that are native to either China and the United States. This vicarism is an interesting botanical phenomena:

"For more than 200 years, plant geographers have recognized a phenomena known as the 'disjunct eastern Asiatic--eastern North American range.' There are about one hundred genera of plants that only occur in eastern Asia and eastern North America, including well-known plant groups as sassafras, witch hazel, hickory, blue cohosh (Caulophyllum), and the most famous example, ginseng (Panax spp.). These patterns of plant disjunctions, where plant populations are separated by dozens, or even thousands of miles, are believed to be remnants of an ancient forest that covered much of the northern hemisphere about 70 million years ago. Surviving plants in these groups have survived in much of eastern Asia as well as eastern North America, especially in the Appalacians and the Ozarks." (Foster, Yue: Herbal Emissaries, p. 103).

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