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Angelica roots

Chinese: 白芷

Pinyin: Bái Zhǐ

Parts used: Dried root

TCM category: Warm/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Pungent

Organ affinity: Spleen Stomach Lung

Scientific name: Angelica dahurica

Other names: Dahurian angelica, Chinese Angelica, Garden Angelica, Root of the Holy Ghost, Wild Angelica

Use of angelica roots (Bai Zhi) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Remove impurities, wash with water, slice and dry.

Dosage: 3 - 10g

Main actions according to TCM*: Relieves the Exterior and disperses Wind. Disperses Wind and Cold from the Yang Brightness channels. Relieves Wind-Damp Cold painful obstruction. Dries Dampness and pus and reduces swelling. Opens the nasal passages.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which angelica roots may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Common cold Headache Sinusitis Leukorrhalgia Mastitis Toothache Leukorrhea

Contraindications*: Should not be used by those with Yin or Blood Deficiency

Common TCM formulas in which angelica roots (Bai Zhi) are used*

Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Releases the Exterior. Transforms Dampness. Regulates Qi. Harmonizes the Middle Burner.

Conditions targeted*: GastroenteritisStomach flu and others

Bai Zhi is a deputy ingredient in Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San, Bai Zhi is very effective in treating headaches.

Read more about Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San

Shu Jing Huo Xue Tang

Source date: 1587 AD

Number of ingredients: 16 herbs

Formula key actions: Expels Wind Damp from the Channels. Invigorates Blood. Unblocks the channels.

Conditions targeted*: ArthralgiaBell's palsy and others

Bai Zhi is an assistant ingredient in Shu Jing Huo Xue Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Shu Jing Huo Xue Tang, Bai Zhi disperses Wind Cold from the Yang Brightness Channels. It also relieves pain and swelling due to Cold invading the Channels and Joints

Read more about Shu Jing Huo Xue Tang

Gua Lou San

Source date: 1826 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Remove breast carbuncle (mastitis) after birth giving.

In Gua Lou San, Bai Zhi expels pus

Read more about Gua Lou San

Tuo Li Xiao Du San

Source date: 1548 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Draws out toxicity. Expels pus from the interior. Tonifies Qi and Blood.

In Tuo Li Xiao Du San, Bai Zhi opens the orifices and helps to resolve Toxin 

Read more about Tuo Li Xiao Du San

Key TCM concepts behind angelica roots (Bai Zhi)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), angelica roots are plants that belong to the 'Warm/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior' category. Herbs that release the Exterior aim to to treat the early stages of diseases that affect the upper respiratory tract, the eyes, the ears, the nose, the throat or the skin. TCM believes that External diseases such as colds or allergies can only invade the body if the External environment overwhelms our Wei Qi (the TCM version of the immune system). In order to counteract this invasion Warm/Acrid herbs aim to induce sweating by increasing the flow of sweat to our capillary pores. The belief is that this will expel the disease from the body and stop it from invading further.

As suggested by its category angelica roots are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that angelica roots tend to help people who have too much 'Cold' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Cold in their body are said to either have a Yin Excess(because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang Deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition angelica roots can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Angelica roots also taste Pungent. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Pungent ingredients like angelica roots tend to promote the circulations of Qi and Body Fluids. That's why for instance someone tends to sweat a lot when they eat spicy/pungent food.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such angelica roots are thought to target the Spleen, the Stomach and the Lung. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body. The Stomach on the other hand is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought in TCM to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the Body Fluids that nourish the body.

Research on angelica roots (Bai Zhi)

Angelica dahurica may have a potential clinical value for treating mild to moderate pains1

Angelica dahurica has anti-staphylococcal properties and may be used for the treatment of some infections.2

Sources:

1. Yuan CS, Mehendale SR, Wang CZ, Aung HH, Jiang T, Guan X, Shoyama Y. (2004). Effects of Corydalis yanhusuo and Angelicae dahuricae on cold pressor-induced pain in humans: a controlled trial. J Clin Pharmacol. , 44(11):1323-7.

2. D Lechner, M Stavri, M Oluwatuyi, R Pereda-Miranda et al. (2004). The anti-staphylococcal activity of Angelica dahurica (Bai Zhi). Phytochemistry, 2004 - Elsevier

Use of angelica roots (Bai Zhi) as food

Angelica roots are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Candied angelica or Angelica jam.