This plant is native to China and Inner Mongolia
and is the source of yuan-zhi (= yuan-chih, radix
polygalae), which traditional Chinese medicine
prescribes to "calm the mind" and "heal emotional
disorders." It is used to treat nervousness, sleeplessness,
forgetfulness, mood swings, and depression
(Paulus and Ding 1987, 258*). Also known as
chodat and hsiao-ts'ao, the plant was prescribed in
Taoist medicine to increase brain activity and
enhance memory. This may be the reason why it is
occasionally regarded as psychoactive (Schuldes
1995, 63*). It is used in the manufacture of herbal
ecstasy. The "active component" is said to be
"senegine;' which makes up 70/0 of the dry weight
(Gottlieb 1973, 11*). The chemistry is well understood.
The root contains primarily polygalitol,
tetramethoxyanthones, and triterpenes (Paulus and
Ding 1997, 259*) but not a trace of psychoactive
compounds. The very similar Polygala sibirica 1. is
sometimes sold in place of this Chinese root drug.

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