The Spine Date Seed or Chinese Sleeping Elixir,What is Semen Ziziphi Spinosa?
- Brief Info and Botanical Description.
- Name Identification.
- Phytochemicals and Constituents.
- Research of Zizyphus spinosa seed.
- Traditional Theory of Insomia due to fatigue.
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- Research Update:Zizyphus spinosa.
Traditional Theory of Insomia due to fatigue.:
While there are many causes of insomnia, serious fatigue is seen as both a cause and result of insomnia:
According to ancient teaching, the liver is the root of extreme fatigue. A high degree of exhaustion causes serious overnight insomnia, irascibility, dizziness of head and eyes: all indicating the extreme glowing of liver yang, imbalance of yin and yang, and an inability of yang to return to yin....Also, inability of blood to nourish the heart with exhaustion of the heart (mental fatigue) leads to wandering of the heart spirit from its shelter, causing insomnia with heart palpitations.
The liver- and heart-nourishing zizyphus seed, with its astringent quality that helps prevent the heart spirit from wandering too far, is an ideal remedy for this type of disorder. Another explanation of insomnia was provided by an orient physician:
According to the ancient teachings: 'The day is yang; the night is yin. The wei qi circulates in the yang [the body surface] during the day and circulates in the yin [the central viscera] at night. In other words, the yang enters the yin in the night. The meeting of yin and yang creates a peaceful serene state, which is sleep. If the yin is deficient and unable to receive the yang, or the yang is in excess and unable to enter the yin, this causes disconnection of yin and yang with resultant insomnia.'...As stressed by Zhang Jingyue [famous physician of the Ming Dynasty]: 'The insufficiency of genuine yin, essence, and blood will cause disconnection of yin and yang, thus disturbing the peace of the spirit and generating insomnia. The heart shelters the spirit and is the house of the yang....Sleep occurs when the wei qi enters the yin and creates a quiet environment. In the words of the ancients, when the yang has a home to return to, the sleep will ensue. When the heart is disturbed by worry and shakes the spirit, restlessness occurs, which generates insomnia.'
Zizyphus is used to help assure that the yang has a home to return to by nourishing the yin and blood of the heart and liver (essentially, making them soft and comforting). According to Xu Dachun, a Qing Dynasty physician: "Everyone knows that one employs zizyphus and fu-shen if one can not sleep." Fu-shen is part of the herb known as hoelen, one of the ingredients of Zizyphus Combination. The herb is a fungus that grows on the roots of pine trees; fu-shen is the portion that includes the root, while hoelen is the portion that does not include the root.
While zizyphus is useful for the cases of yin and blood deficiency, it is not deemed suitable for all cases of insomnia. A modern Chinese physician, identified only as Liu , expressed some specific reservations, as relayed by translator C.S. Cheung:
Liu is reluctant to use zizyphus indiscriminately. Although it is a good agent for nurturing the heart and calming the spirit and is excellent for the treatment of restless heart insomnia with palpitations [due to anxiety and fright], yin deficiency, and profuse perspiration, it is not indicated for insomnia of wet phlegm evil heat or for liver stagnation and qi stagnation. This is because it possesses a sour, astringing property, which may prevent the dissipation of evil [phlegm accumulation and stagnated qi] and therefore delay the recovery from the illness.
To a certain extent, this concern is overstated, in that the fried seed that is actually used is not sour, though it does have a tonifying and astringent quality that can be considered a contraindication for the conditions described here. The concern about phlegm accumulation is often addressed by including polygala with zizyphus in formulas; polygala has both sedative and phlegm-resolving qualities. Qi stagnation may be addressed by inclusion of saussurea, which regulates qi and has secondary sedative effects. As one example, a widely used sedative preparation is Guipi Tang (Ginseng and Longan Combination), which is a spleen tonic formula (includes ginseng, astragalus, atractylodes, ginseng, and licorice to tonify spleen qi) that incorporates sedatives: zizyphus, polygala, saussurea, jujube, and longan (longan, like jujube, is a sweet fruit that is said to benefit the spleen and have a calming effect). Another example is provided by the modern physicians Wu Zimou and Li Hongjian, who described differentiation of complexes associated with insomnia and suggested a formula with for the type characterized as "stagnated obstruction of phlegm-heat." The formula includes a high dose (20 grams) of zizyphus, indicating that they believe it can still be used, but it also is comprised of several phlegm-resolving herbs-pinellia, citrus, chih-shih, bamboo, trichosanthes fruit, and polygala. Citrus and chih-shih also disperse central qi stagnation.
By contrast, if a sedative formulation is made up of many rich tonifying herbs, then the concern expressed by Liu will apply. His hesitance to provide zizyphus in that context is reflected in the statement, from Commonly Used Chinese Herb Formulas with Illustrations (14), that the tonic prescription Tianwang Buxin Dan (Ginseng and Zizyphus Formula) should not be used by "those having gastrointestinal [spleen] weakness with moist tenacious sputum." Although the formula contains herbs that benefit the spleen and others that resolve phlegm (sputum), its strong focus on nourishing yin and blood is considered sufficient to cause concern for those who have the problem of stagnated and accumulated fluids. Zizyphus is one of the ingredients at issue; others are the oily biota seed and the richly sweet herbs rehmannia and scrophularia.
- 1.The Spine Date Seed or Chinese Sleeping Elixir,What is Semen Ziziphi Spinosa?
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