Angelica Synensis Dan Quai Tankwei
Dong quai (Angelica sinensis).
Best for: Painful periods
Dong quai is a female tonic. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is a warming blood tonic. This means that it promotes the healthy production of red blood cells, and increases circulation. The result is easier blood flow to the uterus, and fewer painful spasms during the period.
In western medicine, period pain is understood to be caused by inflammatory compounds called prostaglandins. Conventional drugs for period pain block prostaglandin synthesis. This works for periods, but with long term use, they also damage ‘good' prostaglandins, causing problems with the heart and the kidneys.
Dong quai is different. It regulates prostaglandins, but it does not block them completely, so it works for periods without causing side effects. Furthermore, because Dong quai is beneficial for ‘good' and ‘bad' prostaglandins, the herb can be used for more than just pain. Studies have shown that it benefits other prostaglandin-related conditions, such as allergies and inflammatory bowel disease.
Use Dong Quai if you need your bleeding to be easier, with smoother flow and less pain. The herb may even be effective as part of a treatment for endometriosis, which is an inflammatory condition causing painful periods. If you are prone to fatigue during your period, Dong quai will help. It is slightly oestrogenic and may promote fertility.
How to take: Dong quai is a popular ingredient in most "female" herbal mixes. To prevent menstrual cramps, it combines well with peony and cinnamon. This warming combination is best suited for "cold" period pain, which means pain that feels better with a hot water bottle. To work, it must be taken throughout the month, not just during the period itself.
Tip: If you need this herb, then you are "blood deficient" according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is very likely that you also need an iron supplement.
Precautions: Do not take during pregnancy, as it may produce unwanted contractions. It should also be avoided if you take a blood-thinning drug, such as warfarin, and before surgery.
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