Dong quai

Chinese: 当归

Pinyin: Dāng Guī

Parts used: Dried root

TCM category: Tonic herbs for Blood Deficiency

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): PungentSweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenHeartLiver

Scientific name: Angelica sinensis

Other names: Female ginseng, Chinese angelica

Use of dong quai (Dāng Guī) 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 practitionner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: At the end of fall, the root is picked and cleaned. It is left to dry slightly, bundled into small pieces and smoked slowly. After that it is washed, cut into thin slices and dried.

Dosage: 6 to 12g

Main actions according to TCM*: Tonifies the Blood. Lubricates the Intestines. Relieve constipation. Promotes circulation and dispels Bi Pain. Reduce Dysmenorrhea and help with irregular menstruation.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which dong quai may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Irregular menstruation Anemia Amenorrhea Dysmenorrhea Constipation Arthralgia Abdominal pain

Contraindications*: Not for those with diarrhea, abdominal distention caused by Dampness or those with Yin Deficiency with Heat signs.

Common TCM formulas in which dong quai are used*:

Key TCM concepts behind dong quai's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), dong quai are plants that belong to the 'Tonic herbs for Blood Deficiency' category. Tonic herbs are used for patterns of Deficiency, when one lacks one of the 'Four Treasures' (Qi, Blood, Yin and Yang). Blood tonics tend to be bitter-sweet with either a Warm or neutral nature. Because the Liver stores Blood, all Blood tonics enter that Organ meridian.

As suggested by its category dong quai are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that dong quai 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 dong quai can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Dong quai also taste Pungent and Sweet. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Pungent ingredients like dong quai 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. On the other hand Sweet ingredients tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such dong quai are thought to target the Spleen, the Heart and the Liver. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, blood coagulation and fluid metabolism in the body. In addition to regulating blood flow, the Heart is believed to be the store of the "spirit" which basically refers to someone's vitality. The Liver is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and body fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions.

Research on dong quai

Dong quai may retard the progress of renal diseases.1.

Dong quai injection can significantly inhibit platelet activation, relieve vascular endothelial cell injury, and improve microcirculation in ulcerative colitis.2.

Dong quai injection has evident therapeutic effect in treating acute cerebral infarction.3.

Astragalus and Dong quai mixture could improve the renal function of chronic kidney disease patients, elevate their plasma albumin levels, and ameliorate associated qi deficiency syndrome, blood deficiency syndrome, and yin deficiency syndrome, especially for chronic kidney disease patients of qi-blood deficiency syndrome.4.

Sources:

1. Song JY, Meng LQ, Li XM. (2008). Therapeutic application and prospect of Astragalus membranaceus and Angelica sinensis in treating renal microvascular lesions. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. , 28(9):859-61.

2. Dong WG, Liu SP, Zhu HH, Luo HS, Yu JP. (2004). Abnormal function of platelets and role of angelica sinensis in patients with ulcerative colitis. World J Gastroenterol. , 15;10(4):606-9.

3. Liu YM, Zhang JJ, Jiang J. (2004). Observation on clinical effect of Angelica injection in treating acute cerebral infarction. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. , 24(3):205-8.

4. Li S, Yin XX, Su T, Cao C, Li X, Rao XR, Li X. (2014). Therapeutic effect of Astragalus and Angelica mixture on the renal function and TCM syndrome factors in treating stage 3 and 4 chronic kidney disease patients. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. , 34(7):780-5.

Use of dong quai as food

Dong quai are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Dong Quai Chicken Soup.