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Angelica polymorpha, A. sinensis
Apiaceae (Parsley Family)
The genus name Angelica derives from the Greek angelos, "messenger," which is also the root of the English word angel. The English spelling of the Chinese name appears variously as dong quai, tang kuei, and tang kwei. The Chinese name translates as "state of return," in reference to the belief that the herb helps blood return to where it belongs, rather than stagnating.
Range of Appearance
Dong quai is a 2- to 3-foot-tall perennial native to the mountain forests of China. Its root consists of a whitish or yellowish gray main section with longer branches, both of which are used medicinally. The stem is purplish, glabrous, and slightly striated. The inferior and often the superior leaves are pinnate. The fragrant, five-petaled, white flowers grow in umbels of twelve to thirty-six blossoms. A plant must be two to three years old before the root is considered mature enough to harvest.
Root (dried), rhizome (dried)
Alterative, analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antitumor, aperient, aphrodisiac, aromatic, blood tonic, chi tonic, circulatory stimulant, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, hepatoprotective, hypotensive, immune stimulant, laxative, sedative (mild), postpartum tonic, uterine relaxant, stimulant and tonic, yin tonic
Record of dong quai's use first appeared in the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (Divine Husbandman's Classic of the Materia Medica), compiled during the Han Dynasty (A.D. 25-220). It is still one of the most frequently used herbs in Asia. Dong quai helps stabilize blood sugar levels, thereby helping to support feelings of calm. It builds the blood, relaxes the uterus, improves circulation, and disperses congestion in the pelvic region; women who are going off birth control pills can use dong quai to help reestablish regular menstrual cycles. Dong quai also helps nourish dry, thin vaginal tissues and beautifies the skin. Though it is not estrogenic, its effects are similar in that it binds to estrogen receptor sites. In vitro studies have shown dong quai to have activity against strep, shigella, dysentery, and various fungi. It speeds up wound healing and stimulates the production of white blood cells, including B-lymphocytes and T-lymphocytes. Dong quai may help those with environmental allergies by inhibiting production of allergenic antibodies. Dong quai is used to treat amenorrhea, anemia, arthritis, blood deficiency, blood stagnation, blurry vision, boils, cancer, candida, chills, chronic bronchitis, cirrhosis, constipation (due to dryness), dry skin, dysmenorrhea, endometriosis, exhaustion, hair loss, headache, hypertension, infertility (female), insomnia, irregular menses, menopause symptoms (hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and heart palpitations), muscle spasms, pain, restless leg syndrome, PMS, restlessness in a fetus, sciatica, stroke, tinnitus, and traumatic injury.
Dong quai root is edible and is often added to poultry or grain dishes or soups. In fact, in some parts of Asia it is traditional for new mothers to eat dong quai chicken soup for a month following childbirth.
Vitamin B2, niacin, folic acid, vitamin B12, chromium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, flavonoids, coumarins, polysaccharides, essential oils (carvacrol, safrole, isosafrole), butylidene phthalide, n-valerophenone-o-carboxylic acid, beta-sitosterol, angelic acid, angelicone
Avoid dong quai during pregnancy, except under the supervision of a qualified health-care practitioner. Avoid in cases of diarrhea, poor digestion, abdominal distention, heavy menstrual flow, or high fever with a strong fast pulse, or when using blood-thinning medications. Use of dong quai can increase photosensitivity.
Plant details were provided by iPlant by Brigitte Mars.