Polygonatum, which is commonly called Solomon's Seal, has been used medicinally for thousands of years. The plant is edible and can be made into a tea which has historically been taken to promote healing and to clean out toxins from a number of different organs. The roots can be mashed into a paste and applied topically to injuries to decrease healing time and to stop bleeding. Though none of these potential medical effects has been scientifically studied, scientists in the early 21st century are examining polygonatum for its potential anti-cancer effects.
A member of the asparagaceae family, Polygonatum is a genus of plants that contains about 50 different species. Though not all species in this genus can be used medicinally, a number of them have been used to treat patients with a variety of different medical conditions. Most parts of this plant are edible and many are considered nutritious, making it, generally, a safe herb to consume.
One of the most common medicinal uses for Polygonatum is in the treatment of superficial injuries. The roots of the plant are ground and mixed with liquid to form a paste that can be applied to bruises or cuts. When applied directly to an injury, Polygonatum is believed to decrease the amount of time it takes for the injury to heal. An astringent effect of the roots may also help fight infection in open wounds.
Rhizomes of the Polygonatum plant may also be collected and dried to be used for their potential medical benefits. In most cases, these herbs are made into a tea or steamed in wine, though capsules of the dried rhizomes can also be taken. It is believed that this herb can relieve swelling and clear out toxins in the gastrointestinal tract, liver, spleen, and kidneys. It may also have an effect on the lungs, helping to clear out infection and excess phlegm.
The herbal form of Polygonatum has also been used to stop internal bleeding and promote healing. Historically, doctors have given patients this herb following a serious injury or broken bone in order to speed up the healing process. It has also been given to women who experience heavy menstrual periods.
In 2011, scientists are examining Polygonatum for its potential anti-cancer activity. An enzyme produced by this plant called polygonatum cyrtonema lectin has been shown to cause the death of cancer cells. One of the main reasons tumors grow so quickly is that their cells do not die like normal cells. Using a medicine that instructs the cells to turn off on their own could help many patients overcome this disease.