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Dong-Quai; The Herb for Women; Dong-Quai Notes
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Dong Quai The plant
Dong quai (also called dang gui, which means proper order) is considered by the Chinese to be the "empress of herbs" and the "sovereign herb for women." It is one of the most widely consumed herbs in China, used as frequently as ginseng and licorice. Dong quai's botanical name is Angelica sinensis (from the Umbelliferae family), but it has lots of other common names. Depending on where you are in the world, dong quai might be called tang kuei, tang kwei, doong quai, danggui, qingui, yungui, kara toki, min-gui or Chinese angelica.
Dong quai originates from the provinces of Gansu, Yunnan, Shaanxi, Guizhou, Sichuan, and Hubei all in southwestern China. During China's Cultural Revolution of the 1960's, sudden increased demand exhausted supplies of wild dong quai. Alternatives were researched and dong quai was commercially cultivated to keep up with the booming demand. The roots were found to transplant easily to rich, moist and well drained soils where it grows more vigorously than it does in the wild.
The leaves of dong quai resemble those of carrots, celery and parsley. It's stem is smooth and purplish with light striations. The brown main root or "head" is short, with ten or more finer tentacle-like roots branching from its extremities. When the dong quai root is one year old the root is harvested, peeled and dried in the shade. The highest quality root is large, with a sweet taste, a yellowish- white interior, and strong aroma. Lesser quality dong quai is characterized by a short main root with numerous rootlets, reddish-brown interior and a weak odor.
In general practice, the whole root of dong quai is used. Pieces of the root are cut in longitudinal slices about the thickness of a penny in order to fully utilize the many properties of the root. Traditionally in China it is said: the head staunches bleeding, the body preserves the internal organs and nourishes the blood, while the tail moves the blood. As a whole the root is said to "harmonize" the blood.
Dong quai root contains .4 to .7% volatile oil, primarily consisting of phthalides, butylidene being the major one. Ligustilide is another important constituent in the oil. The root also consists of special acids including ferulic acid as well as various polysaccharides and coumarins.
Dong quai may be taken raw or cooked, alone or in combination with other herbs, in capsules or liquid extract. The Chinese often boil dong quai with jujube dates to make a pleasant tasting tea. Another popular dong quai recipe is chicken soup in which the root is used with the vegetables. This traditional dish is considered very nourishing and is used when recovering from an illness. Many Chinese will argue that the dong quai in the soup is more important than the chicken.
Dong quai has been used by the Chinese for more than two thousand years, as a strengthener of the heart, lung, spleen, liver and kidney meridians and as a tonic for the blood. It is traditionally characterized as a warm atmospheric energy that promotes blood circulation.
The root has earned a reputation as the "ultimate herb" for women. It is widely used among Chinese women as a fortifying daily tonic, much as Chinese men rely on ginseng. Women in other parts of the world have also discovered this 5,000 year old tradition that naturally provides balancing and normalizing support for women's unique rhythms, cycles and body systems. It's not recommended during pregnancy or menstruation or for people taking blood thinning agents.
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