Dang Gui (Angelica Sinensis, also know as dong quai and tang kuei) is one of the most versatile herbs available. Practitioners of Chinese medicine have used Dang Gui for centuries to treat various female gynecological disorders. Menstrual abnormalities, such as pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), early or delayed menses, dysmenorrhea (painful periods), and symptoms of menopause have been successfully treated with this herb.
Herbalists describe Dang Gui’s effect as “warm energy”. Its taste is a combination of sweet, acrid and bitter. The primary organs and meridians it benefits include the liver, spleen, heart, kidney, and uterus.
Known in China as the “female ginseng,” Dang Gui is classified as a blood toner, divided into three parts- the head, body, and tail. The head tones the blood. The body nourishes the blood, and the tail invigorates blood circulation. For best effect, herbalists use the entire root.
Dang Gui is grown in Sichuan, Hubei, and Shaanxi, China. After one year, the root is harvested, peeled and placed in the shade to dry. Higher quality roots identified by size and taste- sweet and large reflect quality.
Numerous studies have indicated effectiveness in regulating hormonal imbalances and relieving menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness.
Preparing Dang Gui
Although it can be eaten raw, Chinese herbalists cook the Dang Gui root in water for half an hour, then drink it as a soup. They also recommend eating Dang Gui with rice to maximize the benefit to your gynecological system.
If you prefer “raw,” steam the root for 3 to 4 minutes just to soften it, slice it into small pieces, and dry it in a container away from direct sunlight. After 24 hours or so, move the pieces to a dark jar to store and eat 1 to 2 pieces daily.
Dang Gui also used to create a famous herbal formula called the “Dang Gui Four Combination.” Around for 885 years, this combination of Dang Gui, Rehmannia, Peony, and Ligusticum is used by herbalists to general tonification of the reproductive system and to prevent imbalances.
The European variation if Dang Gui is called “Angelica Archangelica,” or the “herb of the angels,” and is believed to have a mystical and colorful past. The root blooms around May 8th, the “Feast Day of Saint Michael”, the Archangel, hence its name. According to the European legend, this herb wards off evil spirits and witches. The pagans believed an Angelica leaf necklace placed around their children’s necks would protect them.
In Europe, Angelica resembles celery and grows to heights of 4-8 feet. The tiny umbrella-shaped green and white flowers of the angelica stalk are easily mistaken for poisonous water hemlock, and harvesting is best left to experienced botanists.
Other Herbal Uses
In addition to its gynecological benefits, around the 17thCentury, Angelica was used to treat respiratory ailments. Due to its warming qualities and concentration of bitters, Angelica is still used as a digestive aid, easing intestinal colic and flatulence. Modern-day research suggests that it may also be effective when treating cold, flu and congestive bronchial ailments.
Dang Gui and Angelica are actual cousins. Botanically, they are similar, but have slightly different functions. Dang Gui is used more as a tonic, for strengthening the whole female reproductive system, while Angelica is used to increase circulation and stimulate the pelvic region, relieving pain from congealed blood.
Caution is prudent when using either herb. They should not be used during pregnancy, or while menstruating. A with all herbs, consult a medical doctor before using Dang Gui or Angelica.