Chinese Herbs : Dong Quai

Chinese Herbs : Dong Quai


The name of the herb that is mostly popular in Eastern herbal medicine for treating gynecological ailments, fatigue, mild anemia and high blood pressure, is translated as “return to order” and speaks of the plant’s properties to act as general tonic. Dong quai (Angelica sinensis) is also known as “female ginseng”, Chinese angelica and tang kuei (Korean).

The plant belongs to the Apiaceae family and is native to China, Korea and Japan where it favors cold damp climate of mountainous regions. One can easily recognize this fragrant perennial herb by smooth hollow purplish (up to 2 meters) stems and umbrella-shaped clusters of white flowers. It produces clusters of greenish-white flowers followed by winged fruits. The roots are large, yellowish-brown with multiple branches.

Health Benefits

In herbal medicine the major use of dong quai is to treat and relieve menstrual and menopausal symptoms in women. The active compounds in the herb act strengthening reproductive organs, and help with endometriosis and internal bleeding or bruising. They also stimulate central nervous system and thus advance in relieving PMS, weakness, hot flashes and headaches associated with menstrual disorders.

Moreover, hormone-like actions of the plant balance woman's hormones and cycles and help restore menstrual regularity. Dong quai is also suggested for the patients with circulatory conditions. The herbs is able to reduce the viscosity of blood, treat hypertension and high blood pressure and lower the stress on heart by soothing the arteries and the vascular system in general.

Blood-purifying properties of dong quai make it a useful herb for dealing with liver conditions. Although, more research is needed to be done for this property. Containing high amounts of iron, the herbal preparations of dong quai are often used for prevent iron deficiency and anemia. Patients that suffer from stress, migraine headaches, and insomnia may consider using dong quai for its properties to stimulate nervous system and produce mild sedative effects. Constipation is also treated with the help of this herb.

Before deciding on dong quai and choosing it for your health condition, you should mind some side effects that may occur. Due to the effects of coumarin that acts as anticoagulant and prevents the action of Vitamin K (the blood-clotting vitamin), dong quai should not be taken together with the blood thinning medicines. Dong quai also increases skin’s sensitivity to sun and should be used by fair-skinned people with additional precautions to prevent burning. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid it too due to the hormonal-like actions.

Chinese Herbs: Echinacea

Chinese Herbs: Echinacea

There is hardly a place in the world, where people know nothing and never heard of Echinacea – a plant, traditionally recognized as a valuable medicinal herb.

Echinacea belongs to the aster family (Asteraceae). Though there are as many as nine species of the plant, only three of them are used medicinally (Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea pallida, and Echinacea purpurea). Out of these Echinacea purpurea is the most popular and best studied. It happened due to the mistake of Dr. Gerhard Madaus, a leading German herbal medicine manufacturer of the last century. He went to the United States in search of Echinacea angustifolia, but brought the seeds of Echinacea purpurea.

The given plant is native to the open woods and prairies of the USA: it can be found growing wildly in Ohio and Iowa, Louisiana and Georgia. Indians used it for ages to cure flu and colds, to heal cuts and burns. However, the majority of the studies on Echinacea were conducted in Europe, mainly in Germany, since the remedy went into disuse in America with the invention of antibiotics.

Echinacea is a perennial, long-lived plant with quite large (4-6 inches in diameter) wonderful pink or purple flowers. The flower-head has a stiff cone-shaped center, which is, actually, composed of tiny brownish-red individual flowers, with seeds being formed inside. Each flower-head is placed on a separate long, strong, erect stem, which reaches the height of about 4 feet.

The plant prefers dry soils, being afraid of too much moisture. Sunny locations are the best for Echinacea. However, the herb is strong enough to stand harsher conditions.

This medicinal herb can be propagated either by sowing seeds or by dividing older plants. Professionals confirm that planting the seeds in autumn is more beneficial for the further bloom period (Echinacea blooms from June to October).

Herbalists use roots and flower tops for medicinal purposes. Roots are harvested in autumn when the plant is three years old. The tops are the most valuable just when the flowers begin to open. The plant has the best medicinal properties during the first year of storage.

Finally, even if a gardener does not plan to use Echinacea for improving health, it is also worthy to grow it, since the beautiful large bright flowers will definitely decorate any garden.

Chinese Herbs : Aloe Vera

Chinese Herbs : Aloe Vera


Aloe Vera (aloe barbadenis) is a short-stemmed (or stemless) succulent plant which belongs to Lily family. The color of its thick and fleshy leaves with serrated margin varies from green to grey-green; and the flowers are pendulous with the yellow tubular corolla about 2-3 cm long.

Aloe vera is usually cultivated in frost-free climates with the well-drained sandy potting soil in moderate light. If it is being planted in pot or other containers, the sufficient drainage with drainage holes must be provided for the plant. Re-watering is done only after the complete dryout of the potted plant. During the winter time little moisture is required. Aloevera has been traditionally cultivated throughout the drier tropical and subtropical regions of the world.

Health Benefits

Aloe vera juice is effective in enhancing digestive functions, restores the balance of the stomach acids. Gel is effectively used in treating athlete’s foot, any forms of burns, bruises, muscular pains, varicose veins, herpes, eczema, pimples, diaper rash, wounds and cuts, hair loss, allergies, insect bites, furuncles, scleroderma, psoriasis and acne; it also acts as antifungal. But the major use of the aloe vera gel is in wounds healing therapies. Aloe vera active components in medications are beneficial in treatment of bronchial infections, useful in stimulating bile flow and enhancing appetite. The plant is effective for uterus, liver and colon disorders. Aloe vera is also considered to be one of the best natural moisturizer.

Chinese Herbs : Fenugreek

Chinese Herbs : Fenugreek

The herb named Fenugreek, Bird’s foot, Greek hay-seed or Trigonella foenum-graecum LINN from fabaceae family had found its first application in ancient Egyptian culture in 16th century BCE as a substance for mummification. Ancient medical practice of Greeks Indians and Arabians used the herb to treat disorders of different nature and severity.

The rich chemical content and valuable qualities of the plant allows using it as a supplement or all-sufficient mean for treatment or strengthening the organism, aromatization of hay or quarters.

It’s a popular cookery addition in the world known spice mixtures: “curry”, Ethiopian “berbere”, Bengali “panch phoron”, Tamil “sambaar podi”, Iranian “ghorme sabzi”, Georgian “khmeli-suneli”. The herb is used also as a coffee substitute in Northern Africa, in pickling, and even in perfumery for Indian hair conditioner.

Numerous constituents of the herb could not be counted even on the fingers of both hands. I’ll try to list them in a short manner not to bore your fascinated reading. So there are: mucilage (28%), proteids (22%), fixed oil (5%) volatile oil, alkaloids (Trigonelline and Choline), phosphates, lecitin, nucleoalbumin, iron in organic form, trimethylamin, neurin, betain, coumarin, gelatinous textures, phytoestrogen, diosgenin, steroidal saponins and amino acid 4-hydrxisoleucine.

Fenugreek affects on the human body include stimulation of the appetite by action on the nervous system, decrease of calcium oxalate in the kidneys, diuretic and ureo-poietic effects, soothing the skin, inhibition of cholesterol absorption and synthesis, alteration of the levels of thyroid hormones, uterine stimulation, decrease of blood sugar and potassium levels and pressure, increase of the body production of insulin when blood sugar levels are high, stimulation of sweat production.

Besides that the herb has the ability to decrease the activity of an enzyme that’s involved in releasing stored sugar from the liver into the blood, to slow down the time that food takes to go through the intestine tract. Sometimes it can increase the duration and severity of a migraine, to increase the risk of bleeding, cause allergy like peanut or enhance the effects of other drugs.

Chinese Herbs :Feverfew

Chinese Herbs :Feverfew

Feverfew is the herb that has been given eleven different names. References to the plant were found in the works of ancient Greek physicians. The botanical name of flower group to which feverfew belongs is the derivation from Greek “pur” (fire) which is the metaphoric characteristic of the hot taste of the feverfew root.

The botanical name of feverfew is Tanacetum parthenium, and the number of names for the plant itself includes altamisa, chamomile grande, featherfew, featherfoil, febrifuge plant, midsummer daisy, mutterkraut, nosebleed, wild chamomile, wild quinine. This multi-naming is probably one of the proofs that feverfew has long and widely been known and used in world medicine.

Feverfew is herbaceous and perennial plant. It can grow in any ordinary good soil, although best favors the ground with well-drained, stiff, loamy ground, enriched with good manure. Just once planted, feverfew gives a rich supply of blossoms year after year. The best time for planting is the end of April, but it can also be done in autumn.

The methods of propagation are by seed, (sowed in February and planted in March), by division (dividing roots into 3 or 5 pieces, better done in March) and cuttings (at any time from October to May, by cutting the young shoots and inserting in a bed of light, sandy soil, in the open). A good watch for snails must be kept for slugs, snails and black flies, the latter being fought with the help of plant peppering.

The active elements containing in feverfew decrease the release of polymorphonuclear leukocytes in joints that cause arthritis and inflammation and are effective in treating migraine prophylaxis. Feverfew limits the inflammation of blood vessels in the head. This effect is achieved by the release of serotonin and prostaglandins, both of which are believed to aid the onset of migraines. Parthenolide and tanetin are the elements at action while decreasing migraine.

Numerous studies has proven feverfew’s efficacy in handling such conditions as dysmenorrhoea, sluggish menstrual flow, coughs, wheezing and difficult breathing, pain and swelling caused by bites of insects and vermin. Digestive problems are also treated with feverfew.

There are numerous uses of feverfew that are not related to the medical efficacy of the plant. People use it as an effective insect repellent, atmosphere purifier, and even as a wrist bound which is believed to be a virtue against ague.

Chinese Herbs: Ginkgo Biloba

Chinese Herbs: Ginkgo Biloba

The herb we know as ginkgo biloba has been cultivated and used by the Chinese and other Asian cultures for thousands of years, and it has traditionally been used to treat a wide variety of illnesses and ailments. Ginkgo biloba takes its name from the tree from which it is derived, the ginkgo tree, and this tree is well known throughout Asia.

The latest research indicates that the Ginkgo tree has been a part of the earth’s environment for between 150 and 200 million years. Fossils of ginkgo have been found that date back to the Paleozoic era. With such a long history, it is no wonder that ginkgo biloba is one of the oldest, and most thoroughly researched, of all herbal remedies. For many thousands of years, ginkgo biloba has been used in traditional medicine to improve blood flow, to improve sexual performance and even to increase the life span of those who took it.

Ginkgo has been used to improve the heart and lungs functionality, and to treat coughs, asthma, and acute allergic inflammations. With more than 1,000 published studies, ginkgo biloba is one of the best known and excellent-documented herbal nutritional supplements available.

One of the most well known effects of ginkgo biloba has to do with blood circulation, and ginkgo biloba is thought to have a strong impact on maintaining normal blood flow and reducing tissue damage. In addition, the herb is thought to help maintain optimum levels of oxygen and glucose in the blood. Ginkgo biloba is also a rich source of the antioxidants which are so important to reducing damage done by free radicals in the modern environment.

The ability of ginkgo biloba to influence and increase blood flow extends to the brain as well, and ginkgo is thought to enhance memory by increasing the amount of blood flow to the brain. Many clinical studies continue into the memory enhancing effects of this popular herbal remedy. Ginkgo biloba has also shown great promise as a way to combat stress and anxiety, and many clinical studies continue into the emotional effects of this popular remedy.

The tree can reach heights up to 125 feet and is extremely hardy. It is resistant to many insects, diseases and pollution. A single tree can live as long as 1000 years. The species name "biloba" refers to the two distinct lobes, typical of the tree's leaves.

The best quality of ginkgo leaves are obtained from plantations located in Europe and America. Ginkgo leaves are picked when they are green. Then they are dried and milled. Milled leaves are extracted with an acetone-water mixture. The extract is processed, dried, and standardized to a potency of 24 percent flavonoids and 6 percent terpenes.

Chinese Herbs: Ginseng

Chinese Herbs: Ginseng

The first recorded use of ginseng is over two thousand years old in Chinese Medicine. Since that time, ginseng has been used medicinally by every culture and healers around the world. Science today is proving what the Ancient Chinese and other healers have known for millennium; ginseng can help boost energy, reduce stress and increase stamina. It all depends on the variety of the ginseng.

All three types share a common constituent, ginsenosides. These ginsenosides are what give ginseng its distinct properties. The amount of ginsenosides in the ginseng depends on how the plant was cultivated and the age of the root.

Wild ginseng, no matter the variety, is rare and commands the highest prices. Most ginsengs on the market today are cultivated and are priced reasonably. Red Panax ginseng is the most popular form available and most often is packaged as a liquid or tea.

Asian or Oriental ginseng (Panax) comes in two forms, red and white. The colors refer to the type of processing. White ginseng is unprocessed and allowed to dry naturally. Red ginseng is preserved with steam and is believed by many to be more potent.

The health benefits of Panax ginseng include increased energy, better body functions and calm a stressful mind. Research has shown that ginseng can lower blood pressure and appears to help those with diabetes.

American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium) either is found growing wild in the mountainous areas of the United States or is cultivated under shade on ginseng farms. In most locations, a license is required to harvest wild ginseng.

Native Americans have long used American ginseng for dry coughs, constipation and fevers. Many women have found relief from night sweats and hot flashes from the use of American ginseng.

The last variety of ginseng is Siberian ginseng, which is not a true ginseng at all, but does have many of the same properties. Siberian ginseng (eleutherococcus senticocus) as the name implies is grown in Siberia and is the least expensive form of ginseng.

Several Russian studies performed on both production workers and athletes proved that Siberian ginseng increased endurance and stamina. Like its cousins, it is also taken to reduce stress and as a calmative.

Ginseng, no matter the type, has also been purported to help in fighting cancer and aging. As science continues to find uses for ginseng, it is a supplement that the Chinese were correct about many years ago. As a daily tonic, ginseng in the recommended dosage is a safe way to boost energy, vitality and overall health.