Herb of the Month - November 2011

Dang Gui (pronounced Dang gway) – Radix Angelicae Sinensis

A sweet, acrid, bitter and warm medicinal entering the heart, liver, and spleen channels.

Parts used: Root

Treatment focus: Pain, blood deficiency, constipation, sores and abscesses.

The English translation of the Chinese word Dang Gui, means "state of return". With the use of the Dang Gui, the qi has the ability to return back to it's root, which is the blood. The nourishing action and sweet flavor of Dang Gui is what allows this "return" to exist.

Medieval and Renaissance herbalists referred to it as the "Root of the Holy Spirit", and used it to treat fatigue and stress related disorders. They also believed it promotes grounding for those who search for reality. Well, there it is again! The "return" concept is associated with this herb in at least three schools of thought.

Words like grounding, root, return, and nourish are all words that are used to describe the vast concept of "YIN". The opposite of YANG of course! These two mutually dependent and opposite concepts are the foundation of Traditional Chinese Medicine. I mention the yin concept because blood is "of the yin". Yin means everything of substance in the body. Fluids, blood, bones, tendons, connective tissue, marrow, hair.. you get the idea. When an herb nourishes a part of the yin in our body it is regarded as very precious. This is because the only other way to directly "nourish" the yin is through diet via eating substances like the ones that need repair or nourishing. Bone marrow, and tendons of animals sound really yummy right? Acupuncture and energy cultivation practices like qi gong help to facilitate the qi and organs to optimal function, as a way to set the body up for nourishing success. But in my opinion, do not directly nourish the yin.

When yin and yang are not in balance, it creates a different set of symptoms depending on the person, but in general many are similar. In regards to a person lacking in yin, they can have symptoms of heat such as thirst, unusual sweating and flushing (think menopause), insomnia and crazy dreams, dry skin, hot soles of the feet and palms, poor appetite, constipation, epigastric pain (heartburn, and below the rib cage pain), dry mouth, dry cough, night sweats, muscle spasms of the limbs, swellings and abscesses, no menses and heavy bleeding followed by spotting type menses, irregular menses and painful menstruation.

When our yin is not full or nourished, some common mental and emotional aspects are revealed such as a feeling of not being grounded, a sensation of everything coming up at once (like an emotional acute hot headache), restlessness, mental agitation, and anxiety symptoms.

Sometimes we see cold hands and feet, a preference for warm beverages, sleeping on your side in a ball, blurred vision, palpitations, an ashen or pallid complexion, lusterless skin and no menses. These symptoms are brought on by the presence of cold along with blood deficiency or just a lack of blood in general.

Let's get back to Dang Gui. It directly nourishes and builds our blood, which is of the yin, and therefore it helps with the above symptoms. What a nice little angel of an herb (haha!).

Dang Gui stands alone in the tonifying blood category as the only herb that is "Huo". The only word in the English language that matches this Chinese word is "quicken". Quicken in English means to make something move faster (think blood). However, it also means to make something that is dead return to life (again, think blood). This is important because when blood is not moving it is called "static" or "dead blood" (si Xue). Thus, Dang Gui which quickens the blood not only makes the blood move quicker, but it returns it back to life, so it can perform its functions of nourishing and moistening the body. Remember the set of symptoms above? They all relate to the blood being dry, empty, and lacking in movement. Because of Dang Gui's ability to nourish and quicken the blood makes the the premier herb for moving and rejuvenating dead, non-moving blood in the body. This makes it a very important herb in the treatment of pain.

Dang Gui has many amazing actions and it is a very safe herb that can be used long term in most people in the right dose and combination. If you are interested in getting a herbal formula with the herb in it for any of the above symptoms, give us a call or email us and we can set up a 30 minute herbal consult for you ($35 plus price of herbs).