Monday, September 25, 2006

Dong Quai-Women's Ginseng?

Dong quai (angelica sinensis), sometimes spelled tang kwei or dang gui, is called women's ginseng.

In Chinese medicine, men are considered to be more ruled by qi (qi is usually translated as energy, but it is a more complex substance; Ted Kaptchuk, author of The Web That Has No Weaver, describes qi as energy on the verge of becoming matter and matter on the verge of becoming energy), and women more by blood. Ginseng is one of the primary qi tonics; dong quai is one of the primary blood tonics. This is why it is referred to as "women's ginseng".

Traditionally, dong quai is used to tonify the blood and regulate menstruation. It is used for all deficient blood patterns, and irregular menstruation, amenorrhea (failure to menstruate) and dysmenorrhea (pain or painful cramps before or during menstruation).

The herb is available in several forms: raw, it is available sliced, or as dried whole roots, (I find the slices to be easier to use, if I want the raw herb); freeze-dried powder, capsules and tinctures.

In traditional Chinese medicine, the herb is usually used as part of a formula; the primary blood tonic formula is called Four Things Soup or Four Things Combination. It includes dong quai, rehmannia, ligusticum, and white peony root. It is the base for may tonic formulas in Chinese medicine, especially relating to any blood vitalising or clearing tonics.

It is possible to obtain this formula as a combination of the raw individual herbs, or as pills, capsules, tinctures and freeze dried concentrate. Follow the manufacturers directions in any prepackaged formula, I always recommend starting with the lowest possible dose, and adjustin as you see how it affects you.

As with any herbal formulation, results take time. If you see no results at all within seven to ten days, consider increasing the dosage. If you still see no results, you may need a different formula, or one of the variants of this formula. (There are many variants, from varying the proportions of the four ingredients, to adding other herbs.)

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