November 30, 2020
Saposhnikovia is a delightful mouthful that might get mistaken for a Russian profanity if you say it the right way. (No seriously, try it. It’s fun) Siler is much easier to say and type. The Chinese for this herb is Fang Feng 防风. Many of the names given to Chinese herbs make them seem, well, foreign but these names are often descriptive of function or mnemonics for how these plants grow, where they can be found, or how they should be used.
The name Fang Feng 防风 is more about function. Fang here translates to “Protect from” but the character Fang illustrates a hill or the kind of berm that might be built around an outpost on the frontier. Feng literally means “Wind” so the full name gets translated as “Protect from Wind.” This might make you think about hunkering down in the lee of a hill to get out of a cold wind, but this wind is more of a metaphor for external influences. Those kinds of external influences that are invisible and borne on the wind, even in the second century when this herb was first written about. This name was used to remind us to add this to formulas that we would now think of as being for colds and other contagious upper respiratory infections.
Scientific NameSaposhnikovia divaricata Common Name (Western)Siler Root Chinese Name (Pin Yin) Fang Feng Origin Cultivated and wild harvested across most of Northeast Asia, where the climate is harsh and unforgiving.
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A member of the Apium family, which also includes carrots and celery, Siler is a perennial herb that grows in easily in places not hospitable to other plants, like roadways and other places frequently disturbed. It was first described in the Divine Husbandman’s Classic of the Materia Medica in the second century.
Siler is in the category of Wind Cold Releasing herbs. This is a group of herbs that is typically indicated for upper respiratory infections. Other notable herbs in this category include herbs like cinnamon twigs, ephedra and fresh ginger. The first therapeutic action listed in most references for this herb is “dispels wind and releases exterior”. This is a very Chinese Medicine way to say that it is useful in treating colds and other upper respiratory infections.
If using the raw herb, follow the dosage of 3 to 10 grams in decoction and do not exceed 30 grams per day.
Siler root is used in Support System, Support System VZ and Easy Breather to help the aspects of the immune system that protect the lungs and upper respiratory system from infection. It is one of three ingredients in the traditional herbal formula, Yu Ping Fang San, that is used to fortify the lungs from external influences. The other two herbs are astragalus root and bai zhu atractylodes, all of which are in these Herbalogic formulas. For Support System and Support System VZ, it's straight up protection from external forces. With Easy Breather, it's slightly more subtle. The boosting of the immune system helps avoid secondary infection that so often accompanies seasonal respiratory challenges.
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