DONG QUAI

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Herbal Monograph

Herb:  DONG QUAI   (Angelica sinensis and A. polymorpha; Umbelliferae)

                                                                                                    

Other Names:  Dang Gui   (15)

Character/Energetics:  sweet, acrid, bitter, warm   (6)

Meridians/Organs/Body Parts affected:   heart, liver, spIeen    (6)

Part used:   the root  (6)  (15)

Identification & Harvesting:    Harvest in the fall of the first year.  (15)

A member of the parsley family.  Thrives in high, cool, shaded mountain woods in southern and western China, whence comes most of the commercial supply, usually cultivated.    (61)

Active constituents:  40% sucrose, 0.2‑0.3% essential oil made up of carvacrol, safrol, isosafrol, alcohols, sesquiterpenes, cadinene, n-dodecanol, n‑tetradecanol, n‑butylphalid; also a non‑blycosidal, non-aIkaloid, and a water soluble crystalline material with B 12 and carotene    (6)

volatile oil, bitter iridoids, resin, coumarins, valerianic acid,  tannins, bergapten; vitamins A 

and B also reported in Chinese species  (15)

Actions:  blood tonic, emmenagogue, sedative, analgesic, laxative (6)    

  sedative, analgesic, laxative, reduces blood pressure (hypertension), circulatory                  stimulant, and blood tonic; possibly the single most important tonic herb for women;            good for all gynecological disorders and during menopause; also a good tonic for men.   (15)

Studies show the root’s volatile oil relaxes uterine muscle, while water or alcohol extracts stimulate uterine contractions;  alcohol extracts are stronger.  Also normalizes irregular uterine contractions and improves circulation to the uterus.  The actions do not appear to result from estrogenic activity;  does not produce changes in ovarian or vaginal tissue.  Shown to improve circulation and lower blood pressure, by increasing peripheral circulation and reducing vascular resistance.  Joniris RD Note — [These actions are typical of the so-called blood-thinners;  speculate there could be contraindications with either anti-platelet substances or anti-coagulants, due to the possibility of bleeding disorders.  An item for further study.]  Studies also show anti-inflammatory activity, pain relief, anti-spasmodic;  also increased red blood cell count as well as platelet count.  A recent study indicates dong quai might help improve protein metabolism in patients with kidney disease.  Animal studies show it protects the liver from toxins and helps it utilize oxygen.    (61)

Conditions and Uses:  Dong Quai is used for all gynecological complaints; it regulates menstruation and treats dysmenorrhea and amenorrhea. It tonifies the blood and is good for tinnitus caused by blood weakness, blurred vision and palpitations. It also promotes blood circulation and thus relieves the pain of injuries and pains caused by stagnant blood. Finally, it is used for dryness of the bowels causing constipation.            (6)  

The root,  dang gui, is valuable in anemia and menstrual pain, or as a general tonic after childbirth. It clears liver stagnation (of both energy and toxins) and can relieve constipation, especially in the elderly.  

For anemia–nourishes the blood and invigorates the circulation; contains vitamin B12 and folic acid, so can help prevent pernicious anemia. Take a decoction or tincture. Many commercial preparations are available. Can combine with shu di huang and ho shou wu. Eat plenty of iron-rich foods like liver, watercress, and apricots.  

For menstrual pain–regulates menstrual function, nourishes the blood, liver qi stimulant.

Best used in combinations: add 300 g herb to 500 ml water for a decoction and take in three doses. Combine with 5-10 g chai hu, mugwort, bai shao yao, or chuan xiong in a decoction. Available in many commercial remedy forms in Chinese herb shops. (15)

Dong quai is the supreme tonic for women, and is called female ginseng. It is an emmenagogue and a tonic for blood and hormones. It regulates the menses, relieves cramping, and aids fertility. (Venus)   (52)

In TCM, a powerful alterative for the blood and metabolism, used to treat dys- or amenorrhea, anemia, and other conditions.  Used in the West to tone and regulate female reproductive system, and is prescribed for PMS, dysmenorrhea, and menopause.    (61)

Combinations:  For anemia…combine with shu di huang and ho shou wu.  (15)

  For menstrual pain …best used in combinations: add 300 g herb to 500 ml water   for a decoction and take in three doses. Combine with 5-10 g chai hu, mugwort,   bai shao yao, or chuan xiong in a decoction. Available in many commercial   remedy forms in Chinese herb shops. (15)

Precautions:   Avoid use during the early stages of pregnancy and if there is bloating,  abdominal congestion and conditions of deficient yin with heat symptoms caused      by wasting.  (6)

Avoid regular or large doses in pregnancy, because it is a uterine stimulant, and in diabetes (because of sugar content). 

Angelica is heating, so can be contraindicated in “hot” conditions.

The oil can increase photosensitivity, so avoid excess exposure to sunshine if using angelica externally.  (15)

Avoid during pregnancy unless under physician supervision.  In TCM, not given to patients with diarrhea, because it is considered mildly laxative.    (61)

Tincturing Process:

DONG QUAI   (Angelica sinensis and A. polymorpha; 

                                                      Umbelliferae)

Applications:

                      Decoction: Prescribed for anemia, menstrual irregularities or pains,  liver     stagnation, or weakness after childbirth.  

          For anemia…Take a decoction or tincture. Many commercial preparations are         available. Can combine with shu di huang and ho shou wu. Eat           plenty of iron-rich foods like liver, watercress, and apricots.  (15)

                   For menstrual pain …best used in combinations: add 300 g herb to 500 ml water                       for a decoction and take in three doses. Combine with 5-10 g chai           hu, mugwort, bai shao yao, or chuan xiong in a decoction. Available           in many commercial  remedy forms in Chinese herb shops. (15)

Divination:   III The Empress

        Dong quai is the supreme tonic for women, and is called female ginseng. It is an          emmenagogue and a tonic for blood and hormones. It regulates the menses, relieves          cramping, and aids fertility. (Venus)   

        Symbolically used for: Emotional and physical coldness. Lack of warmth and           compassion for others. Poor circulation. Lack of creativity.

        Divinatory Meanings: Mother nature. A person pregnant with ideas. New life and          possibilities. Abundance and fruitfulness.

          Reverse Meanings: Inability to concentrate. Flightiness.    (52)

Dosage:  3‑15 gms.    (6)

  Take a tincture or patent tablets; take up to 15 g per dose in a decoction.   (15)

Up to 3.5 g capsules daily.  Tincture 5-20 drops, 3 x daily.    (61)

General Notes:    There are many varieties of wild angelicas growing in the mountains throughout North America. One of these,  A· brewerii, found in the California Sierras, seemed a promising substitute for the Chinese dong quai and the author has used it in his clinic with comparable results. The common garden angelica ….(A. archangelica) has the emmenagogic blood‑moving properties of dong quai, but  lacks the degree of sweetness necessary for tonics. (6)

“A water distilled from the root…eases all pains and torments coming of cold and wind…” Nicholas Culpepper, 1653 

            The liqueur Benedictine derives its distinctive flavor from A. archangelica, 

a tall biennial. The candied stalks and roots were traditionally taken as a tonic to combat infection and improve energy levels. Several other species are used in Eastern medicine, including A. sinensis (dang gui/dong quai), one of the most important of the great Chinese tonic herbs, used in many patent remedies as a nourishing blood tonic and to regulate the menstrual cycle. Many over-the-counter preparations based on dang gui are available in the West.  (15)

The name means “proper order”.  Regarded as highly as ginseng.  More research is needed on its actions as a simple.    (61)

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References:

(6) Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., pg. 312 

(15) The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody pgs 36, 150-51- 166-67, 179

(52) The Herbal Tarot Deck (Created by Michael Tierra and Designed by Candis Cantin)

(61) 101 Medicinal Herbs by Steven Foster, pgs. 68-69