Sometimes effective answers to life’s toughest health challenges can be found on nature’s floor. This is the philosophy behind Traditional Chinese Medicine, a heritage of medical practices ranging back centuries into the past. One herb, called Rehmannia, has been used in Shamanism and folklore and has some fascinating uses in Western medicine today.
The flower, Rehmannia Glutinosa, is largely native to Japan, China, and Korea. Its most common nickname is Chinese Foxglove, because it resembles the genus Digitalis, which commonly goes by the nickname “Foxglove.” Chinese Foxglove has been used traditionally for a wide range of uses, from a general tonic, to strengthening bones and protecting against allergies.
Inspired by centuries of success in traditional practices, Western Medicine has studied chemicals from Rehmannia glutinosa. Extracts of the plant’s root have been packaged as supplements, sometimes as “Adrenal Tonics.” Studies have found that chemicals in the plant’s roots may have positive effects on the immune system and might reduce pain and swelling. Studies have also decided the plant’s chemicals may be able to support a wide range of health issues related to the blood.
An Ancient Chinese Healing Tradition
To understand Rehmannia’s purpose in Traditional Chinese Medicine, one must have a grasp of what certain folklore terms mean. One of the common uses for Rehmannia was to balance “heat in the blood.” This mostly refers to blood that is not moving throughout the body efficiently, thus appearing to have a sluggish nature. Stagnation of blood in any certain area of the body can of course lead to health problems. In more scientific terms, “heat in the blood” may refer to an imbalance of homeostasis.
Another benefit Rehmannia is believed to bring in Traditional Chinese Medicine is ‘nourishing the Yin.’ Generally, Yin is thought to represent the feminine side of a person or their stillness and quietude. In east Asian philosophy, the body and spirit of a person are thought to be balanced by the Yin and Yang. Yin can also represent a dichotomous aspect of the body: the body proper (versus the head), the body front (chest-abdomen), the bottom half of the body, as well as central organs like the heart, lung, liver, spleen and kidney.
Last, and linked slightly more to a Western mindset, Rehmannia is thought to benefit body fluids. From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, body fluids refer to inner working fluids found in organs and tissues, gastric fluids, intestinal fluids, but also some which manifest externally such as semen and tears. Practically speaking, a shortness of fluids will lead to issues such as brittle hair, flaccid muscles, dry eyes, and parched lips.
Why Do People Use Rehmannia Today?
While Western medicine may not offer prescriptions for things such as cooling heat in the blood, balancing your Yin, or supporting body fluids, there are indeed ways chemicals from the Rehmannia plant are used in the western hemisphere today. The first major use is for general autoimmune support. Rehmannia has been studied with autoimmune challenges in the mind and has been found to support against an aggressive autoimmune status.
Rehmannia is also taken to support both bone and joint health. It is thought that an agent in Rehmannia, catalpol, supports certain neurons in joints which protect against the body overreacting to joint challenges. Catalpol is scientifically classified as an iridoid glucoside, which is a type of compound that is related to the plant’s defense mechanism. Today Rehmannia is studied because of promising evidence the plant may be able to protect against common bone diseases.
Rehmannia is taken for other reasons such as kidney health, cortisol metabolism, and blood health issues such as glucose support and blood pressure correction. Cortisol is a hormone your body releases to help handle stress, but too much of it can lead to health challenges. Rehmannia’s link to blood glucose health comes from animal studies where doses of Rehmannia supported against damaging levels of glucose in the blood stream. Rehmannia Six is a common supplement taken for complications related to blood glucose levels
Could supporting blood glucose health be what the ancient Chinese meant by “cooling the blood”? Is balancing your Yin another way of plugging kidney health? Whatever the terminology, it is clear Rehmannia has helped people across the world for centuries. Itis backed by science, and it has the potential to bolster your health today.