What is Yuan Zhi?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
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  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2019
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Yuan zhi is the root of Polygala tenufolia, the flowering milkwort. The root is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to treat a variety of complaints. Like other herbs used in the practice of TCM, yuan zhi is available from Chinese herbalists in a number of different forms. However, it is an excellent idea to consult an herbalist before taking an herb, to ensure that it is the proper herb for your condition and to check for underlying problems which you may not be aware of.

The guiding principle of TCM is that illness is caused by imbalances in the flow of energy, or qi, in the body. The practice of TCM incorporates a number of techniques into the treatment of this imbalance. Herbalism is one aspect, but therapies like acupuncture and massage may also be used. Since qi flows along a series of meridians in the body, a practitioner can diagnose and treat conditions by looking for problems along these meridians.

Yuan zhi affects the heart and lung meridians of the body, so it is used to treat conditions which are related to these meridians, such as asthma, bronchitis, and palpitations. Many practitioners also prescribe it as an expectorant during colds, and it is said to be effective in treating inflammation and insomnia as well. Abscesses and boils may be treated with yuan zhi, harnessing the herb's anti-inflammatory properties.


A dose of yuan zhi is supposed to calm the shen, or spirit. It also acts on yin, the feminine aspect of qi. Use of yuan zhi has to be carefully monitored, as milkwort can be toxic in large concentrations. Use of the herb may also be contraindicated in certain conditions which can only be effectively diagnosed by a practitioner of TCM. It is always a good idea to disclose any drugs and treatments currently in progress to health care providers, so that they can offer the best care possible to you.

Many Chinese herbalists sell yuan zhi in the form of tablets or capsules for oral ingestion. The root can also be purchased whole, or distilled in the form of tonics. Yuan zhi may also be mixed with other herbs to create a specific desired formula, which may be personally blended in some cases to suit the needs of the client. Yuan zhi is also used in topical applications, and it may be included in gargles to soothe sore throats.


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Post 5

I have just started using Yuan Zhi in raw powder form in small amounts and it promotes peace, joyful spirit, and happy dreams for me. I've also had bad allergies this year and it clears my sinuses and allows me to breathe better. It's the right herb for me. I love it.

Post 4

@turkay1--I think I have seen the mist you are talking about but I never tried it. Right now I'm taking ease strain which has yuan zhi among other things in it. It was prescribed to me by a Chinese doctor for depression and insomnia.

It's basically yuan zhi and twenty or so other herbs that are boiled together to make a herbal tonic. It doesn't taste too great but I'm seeing a lot of benefit from it.

I'm glad that the mist is working for you but if it's ever not enough, I recommend the ease strain. But make sure to see a doctor who practices traditional Chinese medicine first. Even though these are just herbs, they can cause problems if you take too much of it. The doctor knows how much, how often to take it and where to buy it as well.

Post 3

Yuan zhi is so great for relaxation and falling asleep. I have insomnia and this is one of the few things that help me sleep.

I don't use it in natural form though, I actually use a mist and candle that a brand has made with yuan zhi. I use the candle for baths and the mist at bed time and I'm asleep in about ten to fifteen minutes after!

I bet the actual stuff would work even better, but I don't know where to get that or how to use it so I'm sticking to these products for now.

Post 2

@wander - My mother has struggled with similar lung issues to what you are describing. She has also battled terrible asthma and very bad episodes of bronchitis over the years. She was so desperate for relief that she went to a traditional Chinese doctor in hopes of finding something that would help her condition naturally.

The Chinese doctor gave my mother some yuan zhi to help break up the congestion she was suffering from and you know what, it actually worked! She didn't have any side effects either. I think that while you may not be able to abandon your western medicine just yet, seeing a Chinese doctor about yuan zhi could really help. She still uses it now when things get really bad.

Post 1

Has anyone ever used yuan zhi to treat asthma or other lung issues? Did you find that it worked pretty well, and did you come across any side effects?

I have been suffering from asthma and bouts of bronchitis for many years and have tried numerous mainstream medical treatments. I have puffers and even an asthma home nebulizer that can deliver strong doses of medication to me.

While these drugs seem to help when my asthma is at its worst, I would really like to find something that wasn't so unpleasant. I find my puffers make my throat sore and the mask from the nebulizer that I have to wear is very uncomfortable when worn for long periods of time.

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