Braving the cold and damp mountains of China, Japan and Korea, dang gui (Angelica sinensis) has been used as a medicine and spice for thousands of years. Related to wild celery, dang gui’s smooth purple stems boast clusters of white flowers and fruit in the summer. However, it is the yellowish brown root of the perennial plant that is prized by practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Another common Western name for dang gui is “female ginseng” because it is a popular treatment in TCM for symptoms like hot flashes caused by menopause and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The plant requires three years to mature before the root is harvested in the fall, a tradition that has been passed down for thousands of years in China because of dang gui’s use in TCM for women’s health. Especially in combination with herbs like mint and white peony, it is known to have a soothing and purifying effect.
For men, too
Although dang gui is famed in TCM for its ability to assist in women’s health, it has benefits for people of any gender. It’s calming impact can quiet anyone’s system. It has also been known to ease symptoms related to inflammation, headache, fatigue and high blood pressure. A 2014 study by Korean researchers found that dang gui extract prevented bone loss in rats, but the herb’s ability to treat osteoarthrosis in humans is not fully understood by Western science. Indeed, the National Institute of Health says that research on dang gui’s legendary abilities as a medicinal herb is still inconclusive, but scientists are learning more about dang gui every year. The root of dang gui remains one of the most popular herbs in China and is often used in supplements (an important ingredient in Emotional Balance by Dao Labs) available in Europe and North America.
Xiao Yao Powder
One of the reasons dang gui is still so popular in China is because it is a key ingredient in Xiao Yao, a powder that is ingested to relieve stress. The term Xiao Yao has a special place in Chinese culture, according to Dr. Eric Karchmer, a doctor of TCM with Dao Labs.
“Known as Xiao Yao Powder in Chinese, this formula has a uniquely evocative name that means to wander freely, to ramble, to move unimpeded and unfettered,” Karchmer says. “This same phrase, Xiao Yao, is also the title of the first chapter of the famous Daoist text, Zhuang Zi, and it captures beautifully the philosophy of this great Daoist thinker of the same name. Zhuang Zi stressed above all the importance of being in the flow, of becoming one with the Way.”
Dang gui is prized within TCM because it can be used in several herb combinations that alleviate feelings of stress, fatigue and anxiety for both men and women. The Daoists who wondered the mountains of China near dang gui’s natural habitat happily spread the word about the root’s ability to help one find emotional balance, an essential goal of Daoism. And in today’s always rushed world, dang gui can again help us become happy wanderers.