Hi folks, this is the first in a series of posts about herbs from the Chinese pharmacopeia, focussing on San qi, a herb with incredible healing properties, particularly for heart health.
While there is a lot of crossover between western and Chinese herbs, there are many herbs from the Chinese pharmacy that aren’t well known in Canada but should be. Panax notoginseng, called San qi in Chinese, is one such herb.
As always, please don’t start taking a herb without talking to your primary care doctor. This is especially true if you are taking any medications. Most herbs are very safe when used correctly, but interactions between herbs and medications do happen.
Here are the primary qualities of San qi:
1. The main thing to remember about San qi is that it’s a heart and blood herb.
2. It’s flavour is warm and sweet. The sweet flavour nourishes, so we know that this herb nourishes and builds, while warming the body.
3. It also moves blood, which means that it improves circulation. There is an axiom in Chinese medicine that chronic disease causes blood stagnation, and I see it in all of my elderly patients and in about 80% of my middle-aged patients. Common signs of it are varicose and spider veins, fixed, stabbing pain, pain at night, excessive bleeding (nose bleeds, excessive menstrual bleeding or spotting, etc).
4. It relieves pain and reduces swelling. It is known as a trauma herb and is often used amongst martial artists for these reasons. It relieves joint pain taken either internally or applied topically.
5. It also stops bleeding and is useful to stop excessive menstrual bleeding or spotting. It also treats blood in urine or stool, vomiting or coughing up blood and nosebleeds.
One of my herbal medicine teachers, Dr Yu Guojun, recommends it both for the treatment and prevention of heart disease, which is the number one cause of death in our culture. He said “take San qi every day from middle age and you won’t have heart disease”. A big claim, but this is a herbalist of vast experience, so it’s worthwhile to take his words seriously. His dosage for heart disease prevention is 1-2 grams per day of the powdered herb. For those who already have heart disease, then the daily dosage is 3-4 grams. You can take mix the powdered herb in water and take like that. Tincture, which I make in small batches, is an easy, effective way to take it.
Du Yu also mentioned that if someone flushes or feels warm after taking San qi to reduce the dosage. If you still flush, then “you don’t have karma with San qi” and should stop taking it. This usually doesn’t happen, but this is due to it’s warm nature – if you are already too warm and have symptoms such as feeling warm easily, are thirsty, irritable or angry or really don’t like summer, then San qi will add to the heat and cause flushing. You need to find another herb or formula to take that is cooling in nature instead.
Here are its properties according to western pharmacology:
1. Its hemostatic (stops bleedint)
2. It’s both a nervous system stimulant and suppressant, meaning that it’s bidirectional and will regulate the nervous system according to what is needed.
3. It’s a cardiovascular; it decreases blood pressure, decreases heart rate, increases blood perfusion to the coronary artery and reduces oxygen consumption by the cardiac muscle, meaning that it makes it more effcient.
4. Its an immunostimulant.
This 2014 study by Yang et al really gives a good overview about how and why San qi is so effective to treat and prevent heart disease. Here’s the link to the study –
The study found that San qi has the following properties:
1. It has anticoagulant and antiplatelet effects. These qualities have been shown to have clinical effects in coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, heart failure, atrial fibrillation and heart attacks.
2. Protects the heart muscle from cell death, which is commonly observed after heart attacks.
3. Promotes angiogenesis, the development of new blood vessels. This may be especially useful for patients who need bypass surgery but are not candidates for it.
4. Improves blood flow and oxygen supply to the heart. Poor blood and oxygen supply are risk factors for coronary artery disease and are challenging to treat with conventional medical techniques and medications.
5. Lowers blood lipids. The study shows “significant decline” of total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.
6. Inhibits inflammation, which plays an important role in loss of cardic muscle, narrowing of arteries and heart attacks.
7. Inhibits abnormal growth of vascular smooth muscle cells, which plays a big role in narrowing of arteries.
8. Anti-atherosclerosis effect. San qi has been shown to reduce narrowing of the arteries, an important risk factor in cardiovascular disease.
9. Anti-arrhythmia effect. Arrhythmias increase risk of stroke and death.
Basically, San qi is a powerhouse for preventing and treating heart disease, as it has such a wide range of effects that directly and positively effect heart function. Here in Canada, where heart disease is the number one cause of death, we really need to get to know how to use this powerful and safe herb. There are many people who may be able to live longer, healthier lives by using it properly.
As always, please reach out if you have any questions or comments. I am happy to discuss with you if San qi or other therapies such as acupuncture and cupping may be helpful. I am available for treatment at my Collingwood, Meaford and Toronto clinics. I look forward to hearing from you.