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Education & Resources

Herbal Origins in the Tradition of the Dao Di Yao Cai
from View from the Summit, Volume 1, Number 1

Radix Angelica sinensis

By Emmanuel Segman, MA, Biological Sciences

Dang Gui Root (Radix Angelica sinensis) in China is grown first as a seedling on a particular mountain in Gansu Province in the mountain ranges south of the capital city of Lanzhou. It is said that all of the Dang Gui which grows in China derives from this individual mountain harvest of seedlings. (No doubt Dang Gui may grow in private or special gardens elsewhere in China.) These seedlings are then distributed throughout the mountain villages of Gansu Province and less than 20% are also sent to Yunnan for growing a large but so far less effective form of Dang Gui.

There are a wide variety of growing techniques. The most medicinally successful growing technique is considered to be the technique of the farmers that also grow the original seedlings. The seedlings that remain in the local area of the original mountain growing site are transplanted inside the neighboring mountain. They are grown for that second year inside the mountain, protected from the cold winter. During the summer months of the second year of growing, the plant is then transported and transplanted to the more fertile valleys near the original mouintain growing site. The roots are left through the winter and allowed to grow and mature through a third growing year. In the fall of the third growing year, the roots are harvested. These particular roots from the original growing area actually have an interior signature when the root is cut open so that these roots can be recognized by all who are familiar with the highest grade of Dang Gui roots.

The Dang Gui roots are carefully harvested from the valleys so that all of the root head, root legs, and smaller root branches are freed from the ground. They are then carefully washed. Finally the roots are hung to dry. The drying process may occur by many methods but the most traditional and cleanest is by ambient air drying. The method takes from November through to April of the following year to complete. Another method that speeds the process would be smoking. This would dry the roots in about one month's time. The smoky fragrance will still be on the roots. Also in the smoking process sulfur preservatives can be included. This increases the shelf life of the root.

Dr. Y. J. Liang is an OMD who personally buys the Dang Gui roots from the remote village at the original growing site where the seedlings originate in order to bring tonnage of the roots to America. She insists on the ambient air drying method and insists that no sulfur preservatives be applied to the root during its drying nor at any time afterwards. She then supervises the loading and sealing of containers in order to ensure the quality of the herbs. In America the Dang Gui roots are inspected by customs and FDA and then transported to Dr. Liang's warehouse where they are kept at cool temperatures in all seasons.

At the end of the drying time in Gansu Province, spring has arrived. The long thin tails of the roots are cut off with the exception of the five or six "legs" or primary root branches that descend from the root head. Normally the root head is one or two inches long and is undivided. At the distal end of the head, the the root separates into five or six primary root branches or "legs." These primary root branches then further branch into many smaller branches all the way down to root hairs. The smaller root branches are removed and saved for use in formulas that require increased blood circulation. They are given the name Dang Gui Wei. The head of the root is said to tonify blood. When the whole root head with the primary root branches are used together, it is said that this herb can regulate blood flow, regulate hormonal output and regulate female menses. Dang Gui also is used in formulas for men to stimulate blood circulation and tonify the blood.

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