Dong quai is a plant in the same family as celery, parsley, and carrots. The plant thrives in high, cool, shaded mountain woods in south and western China. Most of the supply is commercially grown there, rather than wild harvested.
The Chinese phrase "dong quai" literally means "state of return." Used in China for thousands of years, it is as highly regarded as ginseng.
Dong Quai as an Herb for Medicinal Uses
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the root is believed to nourish the blood and help harmonize vital energy, thus returning the system to proper order. In China it is one of the more frequently prescribed herbs and appears in prescriptions (with other herbs) for abnormal or suppressed menstruation, anemia, and other conditions.
In herbal medicine, the primary use of dong quai is as a uterine tonic, reducing menstrual pain and reducing disagreeable symptoms of menopause. Dong quai does not stimulate the production of estrogen.
Most research on dong-quai has been done in China and Japan since the early 1960s. Experiments show that whereas the volatile oil in the root causes relaxation of the uterine muscle, both water and alcohol extracts stimulate uterine contractions. Alcohol extracts are stronger. Dongquai also normalizes irregular uterine contractions, improving blood flow to the uterus.
Dong-quai has been shown to improve circulation and lower blood pressure by increasing blood flow in the peripheral vessels and reducing vascular resistance. Experiments have also confirmed that it reduces inflammation, pain, and spasms, and increases the numbers of red blood cells and platelets.
A combined tea of equal parts Dong Quai and Peach Bark has been used to treat alcoholism.
Dong Quai tea has been used for arthritis, bronchitis, the side-effects of chemotherapy, cancer of the esophagus (to ease), fevers, headache (1 cup tea or a warm pack soaked in the tea), intestinal pain, bruises (alternating hot and cold packs which have been soaked in the tea), migraines (men), hypoglycemia, blood clots, and nervousness.
1 teaspoon dried root to 1 cup water; steeped 10 to 20 minutes.
All Purpose Women's Tonic
Dong quai is an aromatic herb that grows in China, Korea, and Japan.
The reputation of Dong quai is second only to ginseng and is considered the ultimate, all-purpose woman's tonic herb. Women use it to strengthen their reproductive organs, regulate the menstrual cycle and regulate the blood throughout the body, but especially in the pelvic area.
Some researchers contend that active ingredients called coumarins are responsible for Dong Quai Roots effectiveness. Coumarins dilate blood vessels, stimulating the central nervous system and increasing blood flow throughout the body. They may also relax the smooth muscles of the uterus, which would help to explain the herb's traditional use for menstrual cramps.
Dong Quai also balances PMS symptoms including breast tenderness, constipation and dizziness.
For menopausal symptoms, women use dong quai for hot flashes, pelvic pain, insomnia, mood changes, and vaginal dryness.
Chinese medicine also uses this herb for balancing blood pressure, cholesterol levels and lung function. Both men and women use the herb as a general blood tonic.
Dong quai is found in tea, herbal preparations, capsules, extract and recipes.
Culinary Uses of Dong Quai
Used in China to make Dong Quai Duck
Pregnant or nursing women should avoid dong-quai unless under supervision of a qualified medical practitioner.
Avoid when there is diarrhea with flatulence.
Some angelica species are associated with contact dermatitis and related members of the parsley family are known to cause photodermatitis.
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