Known as the Will Strengthener, Yuan Zhi is used to ease anxiety, heighten creativity, and improve memory.
You’ve been introduced to the Queen (Holy Basil, Ocimum sanctum), the King (Haritaki, Terminalia chebula), the Mastermind (Brahmi, Bacopa monnieri), Methuselah’s Breakfast (Cistanche tubulosa), the Longevity Herb (Semen cuscutae), the Beautiful Healer (White Peony, Paeonia lactiflora), and the Brain Berry (Vaccinium uliginosum, bog blueberry). Now it’s time to introduce you to the Will Strengthener, Yuan Zhi, also know as Polygala tenuifolia, Seneca, and Chinese Senega.
What Is Yuan Zhi?
Known as the “will strengthener,” Yuan Zhi is thought to relax the soul and calm the heart — to ease restlessness and anxiety. Also known as Polygala tenuifolia, Seneca, and Chinese Senega, Yuan Zhi has many fans. Adherents believe that therapeutic uses include improving creative thinking and enhancing dreaming and manifested ideas. The Chinese name “Yuan Zhi” translates to “high aspirations.” It is widely used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and is valued for its reputed ability to provide protection to the brain.
In TCM terms, Polygala balances the qi of the heart and kidneys, thereby enhancing emotional stability. The extracts appear to have antioxidant and immune system supporting properties. Preclinical evidence suggests that phytoconstituents of the root induce brain-derived neurotrophic factor expression.
Polygala tenuifolia is a perennial with upright or inclined many-branched stems growing to 8-18 inches tall. The flowers are purple with obliquely oblong lateral petals and have both male and female organs (hermaphrodite). Polygala tenuifolia prefers well-drained soil. The Yuan Zhi root is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use. The leaves are used as a tonic for the kidneys.
Yuan Zhi is found in prairies, grasslands, shrub forests, and thickets on mountain slopes at elevations between 500-2300 m. It is native in Gansu, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Henan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Liaoning, Nei Mongol, Ningxia, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Shanxi, and Sichuan China. It is also found in Korea, Mongolia, and Russia.
Yuan Zhi Traditional Uses
Polygala tenuifolia is one of the 50 fundamental herbs used in Chinese traditional medicine. It is thought that Polygala root can empower the sleep process by discharging repressed emotions and relaxing the body. It is often recommended for geriatric concerns because of its ability to improve memory and protect against cognitive ailments. Buddhist monks use it to support meditation and focus.
Yuan Zhi Therapeutic Uses
The medicinal properties of Yuan Zhi have been researched and analyzed in more than 100 scientific papers published on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website and other research sites. Yuan Zhi therapeutic uses may include support for improved memory, improved focus, and protection against cognitive ailments. It has potential as an anti-psychotic and antidepressant, and it and can prevent cocaine-induced behavioral effects. It appears to have adaptogenic action on cortisol (the stress hormone).
Research shows that the extract of Polygala tenuifolia can go beyond simply being neuroprotective and can promote neural stem cell proliferation and differentiation, pushing the plant into a special category of nootropics that supports new brain cell growth.
Beyond brain and mood support, polygala extract has been used for the treatment of inflammation of the throat, nose, and chest and for lung conditions including asthma, chronic bronchitis, whooping cough, and emphysema. The root is considered antibacterial, cardiotonic, cerebrotonic, expectorant, haemolytic, hypotensive, sedative, and tonic.
Smoothies to Improve Brain Health
The Linden Botanicals team developed a simple and brain focus smoothie recipe to support nootropic brain health — particularly clarity and creative thinking. Brain focus smoothies are blended drinks of fresh fruits, dark leafy greens, supplements, and Polygala extract that can help you improve brain health while also energizing you and transforming your body from the inside out. Best of all — they taste great!
Yuan Zhi – The Will Strengthener
Are you ready to try the will strengthener? We hope so. But to be clear, we sell Yuan Zhi, not because it may relieve any specific condition, but because we like that it supports the function of various body systems. In particular, its anti-inflammatory, adaptogenic, and nootropic properties can help you optimize your health. (You can learn more about Polygala health benefits here.)