Dong quai, or angelica sinensis, has been used for thousands of years in traditional remedies of the Chinese, Japanese and Korean cultures. Known also as angelica, tang kuei, tang kwei, or dang gui, received its name, according to legend, after an angel revealed herself to a medieval European monk and taught him the medicinal virtues of angelica.
It is an important part of many Chinese medicines, used mainly for women’s health. Dong quai is sometimes referred to as “female ginseng,” due on its use for gynecological issues, such as:
•recovery from childbirth
It can be also used for strengthening what the Chinese call “xue” (shw?), a way they refer to what we know as blood, but in Chinese tradition, it is more like the life force. It is taken for:
•high blood pressure
Dong quai comes from a perennial plant that comes from the celery family, and displays fragrant, umbrella-shaped flowers. In July and August, the plant bears pretty, winged fruits. Although the plant is beautiful, it is the roots that are used for medicinal purposes.
Dong quai has a slight taste of anise, and the seed oil can be used as a flavoring. The liqueur Benedictine is flavored with the leaves of the European species of the plant.
The roots contain ferulic acid, a natural muscle relaxer and pain reliever. Studies have shown the way this muscle relaxant works to help with cramps. Before it causes the uterus to relax, it briefly stimulates the uterine muscles, helping to improve muscle tone. All muscles work better when they are well toned, including the uterus. A strong, healthy uterus is less prone to muscle spasms and cramps.
Ferulic acid also appears to relax the heart muscles, lower blood pressure, and calm cardiac arrhythmias, a variation in the normal rhythm of the heartbeat.
Dong quai's has also shown results in treating allergies and respiratory problems. Several chemical agents in dong quai may have an antihistamine and antiserotonin effect. Histamines, serotonin, and other substances are released in the body as a response to something that irritates the body, such as pollen, dust, animal dander and other irritants that may trigger allergies. Antihistamines tackle these symptoms, which would explain dong quai's anti-allergy effects.
The roots also contain phytoestrogens, which are chemicals found in plants that mimic the effects of estrogen. The name dong quai translates to “proper order,” which is what it helps do to restore hormonal balance in women. The phytoestrogens in dong quai help to regulate estrogen levels, both restraining and supplementing the body’s production of estrogen as needed.
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