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The Many Wonders of Dang Gui

By Diane Sheppard, PhD., L.Ac.

Dang Gui, sometimes spelled Dong Gui or Dong Quai, is Chinese angelica root. It is a perennial plant found along ravine streams, marshy meadows, river banks and sea coasts. Long used in traditional Asian herbal remedies, Dang Gui root is among the most important of the Chinese blood tonics.

It has a strong but pleasant musky odor. According to Chinese theory, this odor indicates that the herb will not only nourish, but will also disperse the blood through the body, penetrating the tissues and making the skin glow, the hair luxuriant, and the mind serene.

Pungent and both sweet and bitter in flavor, and warming in action, it affects the heart, liver and spleen channels. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is considered to replenish and tonify blood; form healthy new blood and promote blood circulation; nourish the female essence and regulate menstruation; and relieve pain. It is used to treat any syndrome of blood-deficiency, various kinds of pain due to blood stasis, swellings, and traumatic hematoma. While nourishing blood it is also helpful in lubricating the bowel, for relief from constipation due to blood deficiency and dryness in the bowel.

Dang Gui is almost never administered as a single herb but appears in many well known formulas combined with other herbs, including Shou Wu Chih (the famous tonic) and Ba Zhen Wan (Woman’s Precious Pill). Often used as a daily supplement to maintain good health, and/or to aid a wide variety of complaints. Indicated when there are signs of blood deficiency such as pale tongue, hormonal problems and circulatory issues, Dang Gui is used to treat dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, female infertility, anemia, tinnitus, hair loss, blurred vision, mental fogginess, fatigue, weakness, lightheadedness, reduced appetite and heart palpitations.

Available as whole dried root, which needs to be boiled as a tea, in tinctures and concentrated powder or encapsulated, most often it is mixed with other herbs in a Chinese prescription or a prepared herbal remedy. The root extracts are rich in calcium, essential oils, magnesium, iron, vitamins A and B, Folic Acid, Biotin, Nicotinic Acid and Cobalt which helps increase the hemoglobin content of the blood.

Dang Gui is also rich in phytoestrogens, botanical substances that mimic the action of estrogen. It has the ability to balance female hormone levels and can be used during the menstrual cycle as well as during menopause and perimenopause. It is useful for treating hot flashes, mood swings, headaches and other menopausal symptoms. Additionally, because of its ability to improve circulation it is good to use when recovering from illness or injury.

Dang Gui should not be used during pregnancy as it may cause the uterus to contract, increasing the risk of miscarriage. Nursing mothers should not take Dang Gui. Dang Gui may act like estrogen in the body: therefore, exercise caution when taking it with hormone medications. Also, do not use with blood-thinning medications such as Coumadin as it may increase the risk of bleeding. Dang Gui, particularly at high doses, may make you more sensitive to sunlight and cause skin inflammation and rashes.

Diane Sheppard is a licensed acupuncturist with a PhD. in Oriental Medicine. She is a practitioner at Eisenhower Wellness Institute and owner of AcQPoint Wellness Center in La Quinta. (760) 775.7900 www.AcQPoint.com.

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