Dong Quai Health Benefits:

Dong Quai, Angelica sinensis, is also known under many other names in its native areas, including can qui, dangdanggui, dang gui, dong quai, duong qui handanggui, hashyshat almalak, kara toki, langdu danggui, min-gui, tang-kuei, and tangkuei tân qui, and in the West as female ginseng or Chinese angelica. It is closely related to angelicaparsley, celery, carrots, and poison hemlock.

Description

It is a fairly hardy perennial (tolerating minimum temperatures of -5º C) which is found at higher altitudes in China, Japan and Korea. It prefers moist soil and will not grow in full shade, but otherwise is not fussy about location. The part used medicinally is the root, so although it is self-fertile, as it is propagated from seed, it is necessary to grow more plants than you need in any season, so that you can keep it going while the smaller seedlings produce a good sized root, which takes 3 years.

Aesthetically speaking, it is a fragrant plant with smooth purplish stems reaching a height of around 1m (39″), a spread of 70cm (16″) and typical Umbellifer umbrels of 5-petalled flowers in early Fall, followed by winged fruits in late Summer. The roots are yellow brown and branched, about 15-25cm (6-10″) long when mature.

Cultivation and harvest

If you plan to grow your own dong quai for use on a regular basis, you need to sow enough for one year, then the same the following year and the year after that. In the third year, you can harvest the first sowing, replacing them with new seedlings, and so on. To be honest, you may prefer to buy ready prepared dong quai in the form of capsules or tincture. You can also buy dried roots in a Chinese grocers.

Sow seed as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame, making sure it has light for germination. Prick out into pots and grow on for the first Winter in the frame, then plant out in their permanent position in the Spring. You can also sow in its final position when the seed is ripe if you don’t have a cold frame.

Dig up whole 3-year-old plants in Fall and discard the tops. Clean and cut up the roots and dry in trays away from direct sunlight but with good air flow, checking and turning regularly until thoroughly dried, then transfer into an air tight container and label.

Edible uses

It is used as an ingredient in a tonic soup for women, and has also been used to flavour liqueurs and confectionery.

Medicinal uses

Dong quai roots contain many active constituents including terpenes, phenylpropanoids, benzenoids and coumarins. A major constituent is ligustilide, which can be up to 5% of the total.

Dong quai is one of the most popular herbs in the Chinese pharmacopoeia, and has been used for thousands of years to strengthen heart, liver, lung, spleen and kidney and as a tonic for the blood and circulation. It is known as the female ginseng and is used in a similar way and for similar purposes as ginseng in men. Regular ginseng is sometimes prescribed for women for various purposes, and similarly dong quai is sometimes prescribed for men.

In the West, dong quai is mainly used to balance hormone levels and is particularly helpful because it is antispasmodic so it reduces cramps. It’s also useful for PMS, menopause, reducing anxiety and mood swings. It can be used in both sexes to enhance fertility, as a blood tonic and to boost the immune system. Chinese women often use it as a daily tonic in the same way as ginseng is used by men.

Dosage recommendations vary, but tend to be in the range of 500-1500mg three times a day.

Contra-indications and warnings

Not suitable for children, pregnant women or while breastfeeding. Women should also not use dong quai if they have breast cancer or any other oestrogen-dependent cancer, endometriosis or fibroids. Men shouldn’t use it if they have prostate cancer. Nobody should use it if they have an acute viral infection, chronic diarrhea, protein S deficiency, hemorrhagic disease, abdominal bloating, low blood pressure or if they are taking warfarin or other blood thinners including fish oils and other omega-3 supplements, Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis), feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), garlic (Allium sativum), ginger (Zingiber officinale), ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), ginseng (Panax ginseng), liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and turmeric (Curcuma longa).

May increase skin sensitivity to sunlight and may cause dermatitis. Stop taking dong quai at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Aromatherapy

Dong quai essential oil is used with an appropriate carrier oil for the same purposes outlined in this article. Do not swallow dong quai essential oil because it contains cancer-causing substances.

Final Notes

You may prefer to grow this, if at all, as a decorative plant rather than going to the trouble of processing your own dong quai. However, if you do decide to grow it for medicinal use, it’s important to ensure that you use organic methods to avoid noxious chemicals getting mixed up with your remedy. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.


Sweet basil essential oil is extracted from the same herb used in Italian cooking

Sweet Basil essential oil, benefits and uses

Description

Sweet basil essential oil is extracted from the same herb used in Italian cooking

Sweet basil essential oil is extracted from the same herb used in Italian cooking


Sweet basil essential oil has a refreshing aroma similar to the herb used in Italian cooking – as it is, in fact, extracted from the same herb, when it is in flower. The botanical name is Ocimum basilicum. Be careful not to mix it up with Holy basil, Ocimum sanctum aka Tulsi.

Sweet basil is available in several chemotypes, the primary one may have the label Ocimum basilicum ct. linalool, whereas so-called exotic basil, which should be handled with caution, has the botanic name O. basilicum ct. methyl chavicol.

I offer sweet basil essential oil in my online shop.

Contra-indications and warnings

As with all essential oils, sweet basil essential oil should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.


Blending: Undiluted basil oil is likely to cause irritation if applied directly to skin. It’s important to dilute basil oil for use in massage or other topical applications with an appropriate carrier oil or other base at a rate of no more than 1 drop to each 2ml carrier before use. Bear in mind that this amount refers to the total eg. if you’re making an equal blend of basil, rosemary and peppermint, you would use a maximum of 1 drop of each to 6ml base.

May cause sensitisation. Do not use on sensitive skin. Not suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women or children under 13 years of age. Consult your doctor before using basil essential oil if you are currently being treated for a chronic condition.

Therapeutic uses

Basil is a good expectorant. Use it in an oil burner or electric oil warmer for breathing disorders including COPD, bronchitis and other coughs, sinusitis, catarrh, colds and flu. Diffused basil oil is also helpful as an aid to concentration and mental clarity and for nervous conditions including anxiety, depression, insomnia and fatigue.

Use in a massage blend for rheumatism, cramps, muscle pain, gout, indigestion, flatulence (“wind” or “gas”), abdominal cramp and for migraine. It is also helpful used in this way for infections and to lower high temperatures. You can also use blended oil to treat earache.

Other Notes

Basil blends well with bergamot, clary sage, geranium, lavender, peppermint and rosemary. See note above as to proportions.