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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

March 18th WHMonth: CHINESE HERBOLOGY - DONG QUAI

TO CELEBRATE WOMEN'S (HEALERS) HISTORY MONTH (WHM), during the month of March ~ in addition to my weekly postings ~ I will be making DAILY postings of time tested herbal and medicinal foods used from a Medicine Woman's bag, which holds many, many herbs, generating many, many formulas, as one herb used for a cold (mullein), when combined with totally different herbs, can be used as an antispasmodic for inflammation or as an expectorant to relieve asthma or general lung congestion.

This week will be dedicated to Chinese herbs. For the 30 years that I have traveled around the country treating health imbalances with herbs and teaching herb courses and workshops, Chinese herbs have always made up a very large percentage of my inventory, and the success I've had with the efficacy of Chinese herbs are unmatched.

I would like to take a few minutes to explain some healing therapies from various cultures and their herbal efficacies, and how we can benefit from this invaluable difference.  When I first began my herbal studies (I studied Western herbology first, back in the 80s) I was amazed at the power of the Universe and how in the Creator's infinite wisdom herbs were designed to heal physical illnesses in man and animals.   In my studies I came to realize that the various parts of plants (roots, bark, stem, leaves, flowers, fruit, seeds) were designed to heal various parts of man's anatomy (like the Doctrine of Signatures" where herbs/plants look like the parts of the body they heal, i.e., ., the walnut is healing for the brain; kidney beans are good for the kidneys - click here for a fuller description and interesting pictures: Doctrine of Signatures).   

Further, the Chinese principles of healing are deeply connected to their Spiritual belief system, God and the cycles of nature.  Their principles of Yin and Yang are applied to every facet of their being.  When considering illness and remedies, they look at the yin/yang aspect of the person before they consider the remedy.  If you have a cold with diarrhea, chills and runny nose, the symptoms are yin in nature, and so the remedies will have to be yang in nature in order to restore balance.  If your symptoms present as yin and your personal constitution is also yin, they may determine that your symptoms are actually yang deficient as opposed to just simply yin, and would consider dominating the formula with some herbs that yang-ness which strengthen the yin-ness.  This approach gives us a totally different perspective on both the patient and how to view the actual symptoms, and subsequently the best way to treat.  In Western herbology, you just take the herbs for a cold, without even considering anything as deeply as the Chinese system.  I will continue tomorrow with further cultural variances and how we should adopt and utilize them to broaden our tools for healing.

In traditional Chinese medicine, only ginseng is more esteemed. The name dong quai means proper order and for thousands of years the dried roots have been used to restore a healthy order to the body. Since ancient times, dang-quai has been an important herb for women. The phytoestrogens in dong quai work to bring the body's natural estrogen into balance. Historically, it has been prescribed for uterine bleeding, painful menses, and other abnormalities of the menstrual cycle. For menopausal women it addresses symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings.

Dong quai, or dan-gui is one of nine species of angelica, part of the parsley family, a plant family known for vegetables like carrot and parsnips, herbs like parsley and caraway, and its highly toxic members, including poison hemlock.


A decoction of the whole root is considered diuretic and strongly antibacterial. Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antispasmodic activity have been confirmed in experiments. Considered the most important Chinese herb for menstrual disorders, its blood tonic, circulation-enhancing, pain-relieving, tranquilizing, and liver-protecting qualities are sometimes overlooked. Dong quai contains many nutrients, from metals like cobalt, copper and manganese, to plant sterols, which have similar chemical structures to human hormones like estrogen. Among the active medicinal ingredients are coumarins, essential oils, and various flavonoids. Dong quai strengthens the immune system by increasing production of white blood cells, assisting the liver in ridding the body of toxins. This immune enhancement may come into play in cancer prevention and as an adjunct to debilitating effects of treatment.

Dong quai, which literally means “restore proper order,” is considered an important botanical in China, Japan and Korea, where the herb has been used for thousands of years. Also known as Chinese angelica, this member of the parsley family is harvested for its leaves and roots, which contain a variety of fragrant organic compounds called coumarins that are specific to plants. Because the dried root is rich in vitamins A, B-3, C, E, iron, magnesium and other minerals, the herb is commonly used to prepare tonics.Dong quai, which literally means “restore proper order,” is considered an important botanical in China, Japan and Korea, where the herb has been used for thousands of years. Also known as Chinese angelica, this member of the parsley family is harvested for its leaves and roots, which contain a variety of fragrant organic compounds called coumarins that are specific to plants. Because the dried root is rich in vitamins A, B-3, C, E, iron, magnesium and other minerals, the herb is commonly used to prepare tonics.

This herbal remedy is very often suggested to patients by many modern herbalists to be used in the treatment of the majority of gynecological ailments and disorders, these conditions can include persistent menstrual cramps, the presence of some irregularity or a retarded menstrual flow, and to treat physical weakness during the menstrual period of affected women. While the use of the dong quai is not suggested in pregnant women, the remedy is also said provide physical relief from the many symptoms which occur during the process ofmenopause in women. The remedy is also known to be useful in the treatment of disorders such as hypertension and additionally, it is said to possess very effective antispasmodic properties in individuals afflicted by muscular spasms. The herb is also used to induce blood purification and to provide nourishment, for which it has a great reputation-and lastly, it has also been used in the treatment of constipation in individuals affected by this disorder.