Dong Quai Health Benefits: tonic for women

Dong Quai has many names

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.


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, or for use during pregnancy or 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.

Where to get it

I offer dong quai root in my online shop.


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.

Ylang ylang essential oil, benefits and uses

Ylang ylang is used in perfumes as well as aromatherapy

Ylang ylang is used in perfumes as well as aromatherapy

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

Ylang ylang essential oil is extracted from the freshly picked flowers of Cananga odorata, a tropical tree which is native to Indo-China, Malaysia and Queensland, Australia.

As with all essential oils, ylang ylang 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.

The oil is extracted by water or steam distillation, and like olive oil pressings there are different grades depending on when the distillates are collected. These grades are: extra, grade 1, grade 2 and grade 3. You may also find 2 or more grades mixed together and sold as “ylang ylang complete”. A concrete and absolute are also produced.

Extra grade ylang ylang oil is the first distillate and is generally used for top class perfumery because it has the most full-bodied scent. Grade 3 is the fourth distillate, used commercially as a fragrance in soap, shampoo and similar purposes. Grade 1, the second distillate, is most frequently offered for use in aromatherapy, though other grades are found. Complete ylang ylang oil is either a blend of all the distillates or a distillate which has just continued from start to finish, without fractionating.

The cheapest ylang ylang essential oil on sale is likely to be an imitation/fake oil or a mixture of ylang ylang and other ingredients, neither of which is suitable for aromatherapy. Remember to check that the oil offered is 100% pure essential oil and always buy from a reputable supplier, not just someone online with no provenance.

Cautions: Not suitable for use on children under 13 years of age. May reduce concentration. Use in moderation. Excessive use may cause headache or nausea, even though it’s used as an ingredient in some motion-sickness remedies.

When mixing an ylang ylang massage oil, you may want to reduce the quantity of oil used from the normal 5 drops per 10ml to, say, 3 drops. As it is such a strongly fragrant oil, when making a mixed blend, you may wish to use less ylang ylang in proportion to other oils in the mixture so as to avoid the ylang ylang overpowering the other scents.

Despite its heady fragrance, ylang ylang is a cooling oil and makes a good general tonic. It’s also used to reduce high blood pressure (hypertension), over-breathing (hyperpnea) and palpitations (tachycardia).

Ylang ylang oil is used topically to treat irritated skin, acne, insect bites and for general skin care. It normalizes sebum production which makes it useful as a skin softener for both dry and oily skin-types. It’s also used as a hair rinse and rubbed into the scalp to promote hair growth. To treat split ends, massage the ends of the hair with a blend of ylang ylang oil in apricot or jojoba base oil.

On the non-physical side, ylang ylang essential oil is calming and sedative, recommended for treating anger, anxiety, depression, detachment, fear of failure, guilt, impatience, insomnia, irritability, jealousy, nervous tension, panic attacks, mood swings caused by PMS*, lack of self-confidence, low self-esteem, selfishness, shock, shyness, stress and stubbornness.

*A mixture of ylang ylang, clary sage and neroli is also recommended for PMS.

Ylang ylang has a reputation as an aphrodisiac and for treating what used to be called frigidity, which is probably why the marital bed was customarily spread with ylang ylang flowers on Indonesian wedding nights. In the Philippines, it is one of the flowers used to make a lei (necklace) both for humans and religious images.

I offer
Ylang Ylang Extra Essential Oil (1st distillate)
Ylang Ylang I Essential Oil (2nd distillate)
Ylang Ylang III Essential Oil (4th distillate for soaps, etc.) and
Ylang Ylang Complete Essential Oil, Organic (blend of all fractions)
in my online shop.

Geranium essential oil, benefits and uses

Rose geranium is the plant usually used for geranium essential oil extraction

Rose geranium is the plant usually used for geranium essential oil extraction

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

As with all essential oils, geranium 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.

Geranium essential oil is offered in two types. Rose geranium oil (which you will often find called just geranium essential oil), Pelargonium graveolens, is the one most easily sourced, and also the most expensive. You may also find a product called geranium essential oil which is actually the essential oil of the apple geranium, Pelargonium odoratissimum. This is cheaper, but also does not have all the same properties.

Both types are extracted from the leaves and stalks of the appropriate plant by steam distillation, and range in color from colorless through to a light green. They are quite thin oils, so care must be taken when using them not to add too much to your carrier oil or other base by accident.

Cautions: Do not use either type of geranium essential oil during pregnancy or on sensitive skin. Not suitable for use by diabetics or anyone else who suffers from hypoglycemia. Not suitable for use on children under 1 year old. Avoid use when studying or taking exams, as it may lower concentration.

As already mentioned, the two types have different properties.

Rose geranium essential oil is often used for skin care both for dry and oily skins; it’s astringent, so it balances sebum production while simultaneously soothing and softening the skin, and is helpful for treating acne, eczema and psoriasis. Because of its antiseptic and cytophylactic (promotes healing) properties, it’s also useful for cuts, burns and external ulcers and its antifungal qualities make it an excellent topical treatment for candida (thrush) and other fungal conditions. It’s also styptic – which means it helps to stop bleeding.

Rose geranium oil’s balancing properties aren’t just restricted to the skin. It also helps to balance the mind, emotions and hormonal system. Of course, though conventional medicine tends to treat these as entirely separate, in fact they are quite closely interlinked. We all know how our emotions seem to affect everything, and PMS (a hormonal condition) is well known to cause severe dysfunction both of mental and emotional health. It’s no surprise, then, that this oil works to relax, reduce anxiety/depression and stress, stabilize the emotions and restore mental balance. As a hormonal regulator, it is useful for treating menopausal problems, menorrhagia (heavy periods) and PMS.

And that’s not all. Rose geranium oil is also an adrenal stimulant, deodorant, diuretic (useful in treating edema), a lymphatic stimulant, and a good general tonic and detoxing agent. It can be used to treat gallstones and jaundice (only after consultation with your regular physician) and cellulite. Finally, it is a lice (cootie) repellent, mosquito repellent, general insect repellent and anti-parasitic.


I offer rose geranium essential oil and organic rose geranium essential oil in my online shop as well as a range of other products derived from them.

Apple geranium essential oil has many, but not all, of the same properties (and a few extra ones of its own): acne, adrenal stimulant, anxiety, astringent, improves circulation, cytophylactic (promotes healing), diuretic, deodorant, dry skin, eczema, edema, hemorrhoids, hormone regulator, lice repellent, lymphatic stimulant, menopause, mental balance, mosquito repellent, neuralgia, oily skin, PMS, skin care, stress, styptic (stops bleeding), tonic, ulcers, vermifuge (anti-parasitic), vulnerary (treats cuts and wounds).

For most of these conditions, use geranium oil diluted in the usual way either directly on the area to be treated or for massage, or add 4-5 drops to your bath. For emotional and mental difficulties, it can also be used in an oil diffuser.