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Table of Contents
REVIEW ARTICLE
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 251-259

Botany, Traditional Uses, and Pharmacology of Polygonati Rhizoma


1 Laboratory of Chinese Herbal Pharmacology, Oncology Center, Renmin Hospital, Hubei Key Laboratory of Wudang Local Chinese Medicine Research, School of Pharmacy, Hubei University of Medicine, Shiyan 442000, Hubei, China
2 Biomedical Research Institute, School of Basic Medicine, Hubei University of Medicine, Shiyan 442000, Hubei, China
3 Laboratory of Chinese Herbal Pharmacology, Oncology Center, Renmin Hospital, Hubei Key Laboratory of Wudang Local Chinese Medicine Research, School of Pharmacy, Hubei University of Medicine, Shiyan 442000; Biomedical Research Institute, School of Basic Medicine, Hubei University of Medicine, Shiyan 442000, Hubei, China

Date of Submission28-Jul-2021
Date of Acceptance03-Nov-2021
Date of Web Publication28-Dec-2021

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Hong- Liang Li
Laboratory of Chinese Herbal Pharmacology, Oncology Center, Renmin Hospital, Hubei Key Laboratory of Wudang Local Chinese Medicine Research, School of Pharmacy, Hubei University of Medicine, 39 Middle Chaoyang Road, Shiyan 442000, Hubei
China
Prof. Xuan- Bin Wang
Laboratory of Chinese Herbal Pharmacology, Oncology Center, Renmin Hospital, Hubei Key Laboratory of Wudang Local Chinese Medicine Research, School of Pharmacy, Hubei University of Medicine, 39 Middle Chaoyang Road, Shiyan 442000, Hubei, China; Biomedical Research Institute, School of Basic Medicine, Hubei University of Medicine, Shiyan 442000, Hubei Province
China
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/CMAC.CMAC_39_21

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  Abstract 


Huang Jing (黄精 Polygonati Rhizoma, PR) was first documented as a herbal medicine in Ming Yi Bie Lu (《名医别录》 Miscellaneous Records of Famous Physicians) in China. However, there was no comprehensive review on the botany, traditional uses, and pharmacological effects of PR till now. In this study, the botany, traditional uses including Taoist medicine, and pharmacological effects of PR were reviewed and summarized to provide insights on drug development of PR. In Taoist medicine, PR maintains agerasia and helps prolong human life-span, and is used for fasting (Bigu). In the Zhong Guo Yao Dian (《中国药典》Chinese Pharmacopeia) version 2020, PR exerts replenishing qi and nourishing yin, invigorating the spleen, moistening the lung, and strengthening the kidney. Pharmacological studies show that PR has effects of anti-oxidation, anti-diabetes, anti-osteoporosis, anti-cancer, anti-hyperlipidemia, cardiomyocyte protection, immunomodulatory, and thus can be used for treatment of infertility, anti-microorganisms, and improving sleep and memory. In conclusion, PR may play a potential role for chronic disease management and health preservation and this very role deserves a more in-depth research.

Keywords: Botany, pharmacology, Polygonati Rhizoma, materia medica


How to cite this article:
Chen XJ, Duan JF, Liu KQ, Guo YY, Wang DP, Liu M, Zhao D, Li B, Li HL, Wang XB. Botany, Traditional Uses, and Pharmacology of Polygonati Rhizoma. Chin Med Cult 2021;4:251-9

How to cite this URL:
Chen XJ, Duan JF, Liu KQ, Guo YY, Wang DP, Liu M, Zhao D, Li B, Li HL, Wang XB. Botany, Traditional Uses, and Pharmacology of Polygonati Rhizoma. Chin Med Cult [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 May 24];4:251-9. Available from: https://www.cmaconweb.org/text.asp?2021/4/4/251/334088




  Introduction Top


Huang Jing (黄精 Polygonati Rhizoma, PR) is the dried rhizomes from Polygonatum kingianum Coll. et Hemsl. (滇黄精), Polygonatum sibiricum (PS) Red. (黄精), and P. cyrtonema Hua (多花黄精). It is one of the most popular traditional Chinese medicine items and Taoist medicine items. PR has been used as complementary food for Taoist fasting.[1],[2] The Chinese name of PR, Huang Jing, refers to “essence of immortals,” which origins from Taoist theory.[3] It was firstly documented in Ming Yi Bie Lu (《名医别录》 Miscellaneous Records of Famous Physicians) in China during the Northern and Southern Dynasties, in which its properties was described as “sweet, neutral and no toxic”, and functions as “tonifying the spleen and stomach (middle jiao) and replenishing qi, expelling wind and damp, and calming Five-zang.”[4] However, there was no comprehensive review on PR especially its Taoist medicine folk use till now. In this study, the botany, traditional uses, and pharmacological effects of PR are to be reviewed and summarized to provide insights in drug development of PR.


  Botany Top


In the Chinese Pharmacopeia (Version 2020), the resource of drug PR is dried rhizomes from three species of Genus Polygonatum, Family Liliaceae, including Polygonatum kingianum Coll. et Hemsl. (滇黄精), PS Red. (黄精), and Polygonatum cyrtonema Hua (多花黄精). P. kingianum is characterized by pink or white flowers with leaves in whorls, linear to lanceolate, and apex strongly cirrose or curved; while PS as white and slight yellow flowers, and leaves in whorls, abaxially glaucous, linear-lanceolate; and P. cyrtonema as yellowish green flowers, and leaves in alternate, petiole short; leaf blade elliptic to oblong-lanceolate, occasionally falcate, apex usually acuminate [Table 1] and [Figure 1].
Table 1: Botanical character of the three resources of Polygonati Rhizoma

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Figure 1: Three sources of Polygonati Rhizoma (a) Polygonatum kingianum Coll. et Hemsl. and its rhizomes (b) Polygonatum sibiricum Red. and its rhizomes (c) Polygonatum cyrtonema Hua and its rhizomes

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  Traditional Uses Top


The properties of PR are sweet and neutral. In fact, there are a variety of descriptions in meridian tropism and traditional uses in the classical works and the Chinese Pharmacopeia. In Miscellaneous Records of Famous Physicians, PR exerts tonify the middle jiao and replenish qi, expel wind and damp, and calm the Five-zang.

Taoist medicine emphasizes that PR-contained formulae maintain agerasia (助颜), e.g., Wang Mu Niang Niang Zhu Yan Pill (王母娘娘驻颜仙丹), Guan Yin Li Fu Pill (观音丽肤丹),[8] and promote longevity (益寿), e.g., Wang Mu Si Tong Powder (王母四童散).[9] The Taoists have been preparing the PR-contained formulae, Er Jing Pill (二精丸), Huang Jing Pill (黄精丸), Huang Jing Wine (黄精酒), Huang Jing Di Huang Pill (黄精地黄丸), Bai Zhu Pill (白术丸),[2] and Bi Gu Formula (辟谷药饵)[10] for Taoist health preservation or fasting (辟谷 Bigu) for centuries.[8] These herbal formulae were made into pills or powder.[2],[9] Furthermore, PR was documented in some classics of Chinese medicine by Taoist medical practitioners, e.g., Dian Nan Ben Cao (《滇南本草》 Materia Medica in South Yunnan), and Zheng Tong Dao Cang (《正统道藏》 Collected Taoist Scriptures) [Table 2].[3],[11]
Table 2: Traditional usages of Polygonati Rhizoma

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Now the authorized traditional usage is documented in the Chinese Pharmacopeia (Version 2020). PR is said to invade spleen, lung and kidney meridians, and exerts the effects of replenishing qi, nourishing yin, invigorating the spleen, moistening the lung, and strengthening the kidney [Table 3].[4]
Table 3: Formulae containing Polygonati Rhizoma in the Chinese Pharmacopeia (edition 2020)

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  Pharmacological Actions Top


Anti-oxidation

The anti-oxidative components of PR include PR water extracts, polysaccharides, galactoses and polyphenols. Polysaccharides in PS (PSP) inhibit the production of free radicals[19] and lipid peroxidation via increasing the activation of superoxide dismutase (SOD) and decreasing the level of malondialdehyde (MDA).[20] Thus PR water extracts and PSP protect liver from the oxidative stress.[21] The anti-oxidative capacity of PSP is more than that of the polyphenols.[22]

Anti-diabetes

The anti-diabetic components of PR include glucosides (saponins) and polysaccharides.[23] The saponins in PS regulate the gut microbiota, improve the state of insulin resistance), and increase glucose consumption, intracellular glycogen level and the activity of hexokinase and pyruvate kinase. It can also alleviate the symptoms of polyphagia and polydipsia in diabetic mice.[24] PSP decrease the levels of fasting blood glucose and glycated hemoglobin in blood and elevate the levels of insulin and C-peptide in plasma of diabetic rats.[25] Syringaresinol-di-O-β-d-glucoside, a phenolic glucoside in PS exerts an anti-diabetic effect on streptozocin-induced diabetic mice and the underlying mechanism may be associated with its anti-oxidative activity.[26]

Anti-osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a common condition among aged people with osteopenia and decrease of bone strength. The main anti-osteoporosis components are polysaccharides in PR. On the one hand, PSP induce the differentiation from bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells to osteoblasts.[27] On the other hand, PSP inhibit bone turnover and reverse bone loss in ovariectomized rats.[28]

Anti-cancer

A vast amount of studies has been reported that polysaccharides and steroidal glycosides can inhibit cancer through arresting cell cycle, inducing apoptosis, blocking invasion and migration, and improving immunofunction as well as inhibiting inflammation-cancer interactions. PSP arrest G0/G1 phase of H22 in mice,[29] and induce cancer cell apoptosis,[30] whereas methyl protodioscin in PS arrests G2/M phase and induces apoptosis in human cervical carcinoma HeLa cells.[31] In the case of cancer metastasis, PSP can block invasion and migration in human esophageal carcinoma cell line Eca109.[32] Regarding inflammation-cancer interaction, PSP enhance the activity of Natural Killer cells, inhibit the secretion of inflammatory cytokines to inhibit the proliferation of gastric cancer.[33]

Anti-hyperlipidemia

The active components for anti-hyperlipidemia are PSP and kaempferol. PSP regulate lipid metabolism-associated factors,[34] inhibit lipid oxidation,[35] and regulate gut microbiota.[36] Kaempferol reduces adipogenesis and balances lipid homeostasis.[37] Jiu Zhuan Huang Jing Pill (九转黄精丸), with PR as its main ingredient, relieves mitochondrial dysfunction and attenuates high-fat diet-induced metabolic dysfunction-associated fatty liver disease.[38]

Cardiomyocyte protection

The active components for anti-cardiomyocyte injury are polysaccharides. PSP decrease the level of interleukin-6, tumor necrosis factor-alpha and MDA, activate glutathione peroxidase, and reduce apoptosis of cardiomyocytes.[39]

Immunomodulation

The active component for immunomodulatory is PSP. PSP, which regulate immune function by promoting the development of immune organs, lymphocyte proliferation, and macrophage phagocytosis, increasing the spleen index and thymus index, as well as regulating serum cytokine levels.[40],[41]

Treatment of infertility

PR decoction and water extracts treat infertility by regulating sperm abnormalities, and restoring damaged testicular tissue.[42]

Anti-microorganisms

The active anti-bacterial and anti-fungi components of PR are extracts of PR and polysaccharides. The effects of crude PR extracts are better than that of processed PR. The anti-bacterial effect of PR extracts, from high to low order is: N-butanol > ethyl acetate > water > petroleum ether. The order of anti-mold effect of PR extracts is: N-butanol > petroleum ether > ethyl acetate.[43] PSP inhibits Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica, Staphylococcus albus and Staphylococcus aureus. PR is also used for anti-dermatophytes.[44]

Improving sleep

PS regulates nonrapid eye movement and increases the length of sleep. The active components extracted from PS contain oleamide, glyceryl monolinoleate, and γ-aminobutyric acid.[45],[46],[47]

Improving memory

The active components of PR that can improve memory competence include PS polysaccharides, total glucosides, and PS decoction and ethanol extracts. PS ethanol extracts and PSP relieve cerebral ischemia and oxidative stress.[48],[49] PS decoction reduces the injury of neurons after global cerebral ischemia-reperfusion.[50] PSP also improve the learning and memory abilities of D-galactose-induced aging rats.[51] Moreover, PS-containing oral liquid (whose formulation includes PS, Ginseng Radix et Rhizoma, Lycii Fructus, and Polygoni Multiflori Radix) promotes synaptic remodeling and improves learning and memory in rats with vascular dementia.[52]

The progress made in both phytochemistry and pharmacology would facilitate the study of the potential roles in oxidation, diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer, hyperlipidemia, cardiovascular system, immunomodulatory, infertility, microorganisms, and mental and nervous system.


  Future Perspectives and Conclusions Top


Chronic diseases including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, cognitive disorder and memory loss, as well as aging are dominant factors that affect human life span.[53] Drugs and functional food for preventing and/or treating such diseases may prolong human life span. PR is an edible herbal medicine exerting replenishing qi, nourishing yin, invigorating the spleen, moistening the lung, and strengthening the kidney.[4] The Taoists have made formulae with PR into pills or powder for health preservation or fasting.[3],[8],[9] Fasting is a good strategy for preventing various chronic diseases, e.g., diabetes and hyperlipidemia.[54],[55] Furthermore, PR is an edible herb which has little toxicity or side-effect indication. Thus, it is suggested that PR should be thoroughly studied about its effects on fasting, anti-oxidation, anti-diabetes, anti-cancer, anti-hyperlipidemia, as well as improving mental and nervous system. This may be a good way to reach the full potential of PR for either diseases treatment or health preservation.

In conclusion, PR may play a potential role for chronic disease management and health preservation. Thus, PR deserves more in-depth research.

Acknowledgments

The authors thank Prof. Hai-Feng Cao and Prof. Xiao-Yan Zhang for their technical assistance.

Funding

The study was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 81874356), the Open Project of Hubei Key Laboratory of Wudang Local Chinese Medicine Research from Hubei University of Medicine (Nos. WDCM2018002, WDCM201917, and WDCM201918), the Chinese Medicine Project of Health Commission of Hubei Province (No. ZY2021010), and the Foundation for Innovative Research Team of Hubei University of Medicine (No. 2018YHKT01).

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects.

Author contributions

Xuan-Bin Wang, Hong-Liang Li, and Bei Li designed the study; Xiao-Jing Chen, Ju-Feng Duan, Kai-Qi Liu, Ying-Ying Guo, Ming Liu, Dong-Peng Wang, and Dan Zhao collected the data; Xiao-Jing Chen, Ju-Feng Duan and Kai-Qi Liu wrote the manuscript; Xuan-Bin Wang, Hong-Liang Li and Bei Li revised the manuscript. This manuscript has been read and approved by all the authors.

Conflicts of interest

None.



 
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