Thinking about sle-tres

Sle-tres is one of the most popular plants in Tibetan pharmacopeia, it forms part of many well-known classical compositions such as Ma-nu-bzi-thang, Sle-tres-lnga-thang, Nor-bu-bdun-thang, Thang-chen-bchu-pa, Spos-dkar-bchu-pa, A-gar-so-lnga and many others. In The Four Tantras and prescription books you can find recommendations about using sle-tres as monocomponent in the form of decoction. This small article is written for the purpose of knowledge unification about this medicinal raw material on the basis of written sources and oral recommendations of Tibetan medicine specialists.

The name: sle-tres. Is usually pronounced like "le che" or "le tche". Mongol or Buriat version is "le dre" or "li der".

Sle-tres - is the name in Shang-shung language. The secret name is sle-skyed-pa (ShP). Other names: sle-tres, sle-skyud-pa, gu-ru-tsi, ghu-ra-tsa-ja, bdud-rtsi, rgyud-ldan, bchad-skye and others (KM).

The names in Hindu are: guduchi, guchi, giloy, galo, gurcha (MTMD). At Shri-lanka they call it chintil (MTMD).

In Chinese it is 宽筋藤 kuan jin teng (DP). Another specie of sle-tres (Polygonum aubertii, Aubert vine) is called 木藤蓼 mu teng liao (DSh). Another kind of sle-tres (Sophora flavescens, yellowish sophora) is called 苦参 ku shen.

Original material:Tinospora cordifolia, heart-leaved moonseed (branches) or Tinospora sinensis, Chinese tinospora (branches) (AK, ShP, DP, MTMD etc.).

Though in the most of the sources (AK, ShP, DTM, MTMD, DP, etc.) these two species are indicated as original materials, there is also some difference. For example, it is indicated "Stephania sp., stephania (branches) (KLM). The most well-known in medicine is Stephania glabra, sleek stephania. The comprehension of appearence, chemical compositiion and applicationin traditional medicine of Asian countries shows that some kinds of stephania can be the sustitutes for the indicated kinds of tinospora and may be applied in Tibetan medicine. In Soviet Union stephania was cultivated in Caucasus in order to get alkaloids. The cultivation of this plant can be possible in the southern part of the Black sea coast and along the southern coast of Crimea.
Another variety of sle-tres is given in DSh. Chinese equivalent mu en lyao, mentioned in this source, leads us to the plant called Polygonum aubertii. The part that is used is the heart of the runk (gjung-rta) and branches (DSh). The motherland of this plant is in the Western China, but nowadays it is widely cultivated in Russia as a decorative plant. It is a fast - growing bush vine.

Taste:: sweet, bitter, astringent. After digestion turns sweet (AK).

Action: oily, cooling (AK).

ShP gives contradictོory information about the taste and actiion: "...sweet with bitter and burning with astringent...", "sweet-bitter-burning taste...", "... is sweet and bitter, astringent and burning, and after digestion becomes sweet with sour...", "...the bark is sweet, and the heart is bitter....", "... oily, cool, warm...". In MTDM it is indicated: " the taste is sweet, bitter, burning, after digestion is sweet, action is balancing". In KM: "taste is sweet, bitter, astringent, burning, action is balancing". In DSh: "taste is unclear, action is cooling". Mongol tradition (BS) says: "taste is sweet, bitter, astringent, after digestion is sweet, the action is oily, smooth and cooling".

Healing properties: Helps against different combinations of rlung, mkhris and bad-kan, struggle of the three nyes-pa and heat, combination of rlung and heat, heat rims, heat rims accompanied by rlung, makes mature and fights different hot diseases, is the best medicine against dreg and bchud-len against old age diseases.

ShP provides some additional properties of the material: "...balances the elements... cures all diseases...". MTMD says in addition: "... eliminates disbalance of chu-ser in bones and joints, the appearence of red swelling (dmar-skrangs), sharp pains, is useful against old heat and similar diseases". Some more information is in DSh: "... cures combination of bad-kan and rlung, opens the way to the water (chu-lam-byed), is used against blood-rlung, lungs diseases, cham-pa, disease grum-bu". An addition from the Mongol tradition (BS): "...eliminates limph disbalance, cures ulcers and wounds, kills worms, cures tuberculosis and mycosis.sle-tres, that is called "khu shen", is although similar to sle-tres, but is very bitter and eliminates only heat...".

Substitutes:gra-ma (bra-ma) - Caragаna arborеscens, elm tree (trunk, branches) (RT). It has weeker effect then the original sle-tres and its dosage in the recepies should be more. Under the name gra-ma (bra-ma) you can find in different sources: Caragana brevifolia, caragana Pacific yew (routes) (AK), Caragana pygmaea, dwarf caragana (routs) (ShP, TMB), Caragana spinosa, barbed caragana (DSh) and other kinds of caragana (BS). In ShP gra-ma is directly called Tibetan sle-tres. Part of healing effects corresponds: "bra-ma... collects multiple diseases, makes mature heat rims and fights heat of the rlung" (AK). Very interesting information about gra-ma is reported in DSh: "the part that is used is the inner part of the trunck (gjung-rta) and bast of the branches (yal-ga'i-nang-shun). The taste is bitter, the action is cooling, not poisoness. Eliminates combination of bad-kan and rlung, melts blood (krag-'dzu), eliminates pains and water retention. Increases body strength and is useful for kidneys". The similarity of appearance, chemical composition of different kinds of caragana and partial coinsidence of healing properties of gra-ma and sle-tres lets us think of using different kinds of caragana (routes, trunck, branches) as sle-tres. But it is possible that not all of the healing properties of sle-tres can be found in gra-ma .

Most of the Mongol and Buryat sources call Sophora flavescens, the yellowish sofora (routes) the basic substitute of sle-tres (GS, TMB, GL, HAV, OM). The same plant without indication of the useful part is stated in BS, DM and AP. According to RT, this kind of sle-tres even better than the original material. The yellowwish sofora is spread in the territory of Zabaikalsky region in Russia, where it is predatorily collected, and in the Far East (Primorsky an Khabarovsky region, Amurskaia area). Another substotute which is not so well-known, is Sophora alopecuroides, (roots) (HAB, MR), that is growing in the european part of Russia. The same plant is given in BS, EJ without indicaion of the used parts. In the sources there also to substitues: Menispermum dahuricum (fruits), the moonsead (BS) and Robinia amara, bitter robonia (AP, TM).

Possible substitutes: Caragana frutex, the bush of karagana (roots, wood, branches). The specie of karagana, widely spread in the european part of Russia. It is considered the specie of dwarf karagana.
Chamaecytisus ruthenicus, russian rakitnice (roots, wood, branches). The widely spread plant in the european pert of Russia. Looks similar to karagan, the application in traditional medicine is also similar. sle-tres.
Polygonum baldschuanicum, Baljuan Highlander (stem and branches). Its appearence can hardly differ from Aubert vine, the only thing is that the size is bigger. Due to the high speed of growth European gardeners call it " a mile in a minute". Here we can remember that one of the substitutes of sle-tres - bchad-skye, that is translated as "growing the cut". Similar to Aubert vine it is cultivated in Russia by the gardeners as a decorative plant.
Polygonum multiflorum, Fallopia multiflorum (stems and routes). It is also a higlander-vine. Very popular medecine in Chinese tradition, applicable aganst many diseases. The plant lives hundreds of years. According to Chinese legend, the plant that have reached 300 years of age, gives eternal life to a person. It is hightime to remember another synonim of sle-tres - bdud-rtsi, so-called "amrita" or "nectar".
It is Sophora pachycarpa, thick-fruited pagoda tree (routes). It is a weed plant, that grows in big quantity mainly in the Middle Asia. The appearance and chemical composition is close to sophora foxtail.

Terms of collection and methods of processing: for tinospora - "collect branches and trunks in spring, dry, eliminate external skin" (ML). The same period of collection and preparation are applicable for trunks and branches of poligonium and stefania. It's possible that woody trunks and branches of poligonium are more suitable. Roots of sophora don't need preparation, they are digged out in autumn after seeds grow up and all the overground part of the plant has withered, or in the early spring. The trunk and branhes of gra-ma should be cleaned from the outer skin before use, it is better to collect them in spring when the juices start moving.

Sergey Shirshov

The square brackets include the words of the author of this article.

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