Angelica and white peony are two traditional Chinese herbs that are considered the emperor/empress or king/queen of liver herbs. Since we are in the wood element, I thought I would highlight different liver herbs and what they are best used for. That way we can all start to understand how herbs help with specific imbalances. Empowering us all with plant wisdom so we can start to gain clues that lead us down our path to healing. But as always this is just for educational purposes and if you need clarifications please talk to an experienced herbalist or healthcare practitioner.
Understanding Chinese Herbalism
In Chinese herbal medicine herbs are classified a little differently than “western” herbalism. First we look at if the disruption is caused by Qi, blood, or moisture. Every herb will have a special affinity for one. But know that all herbs affect qi, blood and moisture but not all herbs affect all organ systems. The organ system that is disrupted by qi, blood and moisture creates patterns of disharmony that affect other organs. It is the herbalists job to study these patterns so they can put all the puzzle pieces together when choosing herbs that best fit one person.
The five herbal correspondence used to define the actions of herbs in TCM are purge(rid, eliminate, evict), Tonify (augment, nourish build), Consolidate (gather, astringe, condense), and disperse (circulate, distribute, move).Then the five adverse climates within each organ system are taken into consideration. Phlegm, wind, cold, heat, and dampness. The herbalist identifies the patterns of the plant and the patterns of the body to discover the best match that will help bring someone back into harmony.
Angelica: Angelica sinensis
Energetics/Flavor: warming, sweet, acrid, bitter
Meridians: Heart, liver, spleen, kidney
Chakras: Solar plexus, crown
Magical uses: protection, uncrossing, healing, recovery from physic attack, psychic development, astral travel. *symbolizes ecstasy and inspiration
Therapeutic uses: feeling unsafe, sense of being cut off, lack of guidance, abandonment, isolation, disorientation, low self confidence. Used in herbal baths to remove curses.
Angelica in Traditional Chinese Medicine
Angelica is known as Dang Gui in Chinese medicine, meaning “state of return”. It is primarily thought of as a nourisher for deficient blood. Symptoms of this state is when a person feels weak, irritable, restless, weak hearted, anemic, underweight, cold and fragile. It has a calming effect that is useful when anxiety and stress arise. Popularly known as a woman’s health herb mainly beacause of its ability to restore blood which regulates menstrual rhythms and strengthens the womb. Research has shown that it tones the entire female hormonal system. It builds blood just like astragalus builds qi which stimulates warmth and nourishment to the viscera, skin, muscles, and flesh. As well as, quickens and enriches blood and banishes wind, cold, and dampness.
Research has found that it helps with uterine contractions, increases utilization of oxygen in the liver, calms central nervous system, and relieves pain associated with neuralgia, angina, rheumatic and osteoarthritis. Angelica drives away pain caused by obstructed stagnation. It is also used to treat anemia, abdominal pain, menstrual cramps, and heart disease. It also promote healing of wounds, ulcers, and inflammation. By improving blood circulation it helps to beautify the skin, hasten cuts, sores, and wounds. Also works to lowers blood pressure and relax the cardiac muscle and lower blood sugar levels.
Key actions of Angelica:
Tonify, invigorate, and harmonize blood, disperse cold, moisten intestines, unblocks the bowels, reduces swelling and expels pus, generates flesh, and alleviates pain. Angelica’s western herbalism actions known are carminative, stimulant, diaphoretic, stomachic, tonic, expectorant, emmenagague, digestive, antiseptic, analgesic, relaxant, aromatic bitter, nervine stimulant.
Key constituents: Volatile oil, Valeric acid, Angelic acid, sugar, resin (angelicin) Essential oils; terebangelenee and terpenes, coumarin compounds, butylidene phthalate, ligustilide, Vitamin b12, vitamin e, nicotinic acid and carotene.
Common Medicinal Uses
Menstrual disorders, menopause symptoms, undeveloped fetus, pain due to blood stasis, abdominal pain, traumatic injury, sores, infertility, anxiety, anemia, poor circulation, loss of appetite, nausea, anxiety, insomnia, heartburn, neuralgia, premature ejaculation, nicotine withdrawal colds, ought, bronchitis, skin nourishing, topically for joint and nerve pain, recovery of abscesses, lowers blood pressure and blood sugar.
Botany and Orgins of Angelica
There are approximently 60 species of Angelica. It is part of the Apiaceae/Umbellifeerae family. It is neightere annual nor naturally perennial. The seedling do not mature in 12 months and old place died off after going to seed. The inflorescence is a globe lie inflorescence and the stem is hollow. Only advanced seedlings flower in their second year and third year. The roots of a mature plant can weigh up to 3 pounds. It is a biennial that returns year after year if you only cut one flower. The leaflets are toothed and serrated and the flowers are small and numerous and fragrant.
Some say it is native to Syria and spread to other parts of the world. It likes temperate and subarctic regions in the northern hemisphere. Reaching as far north as Iceland. It likes deep, moist loam and shade and is most often found near running water.
Root, seed, leaf, and fruit.
Menstrum of choice: alcohol
In China the upper part of the plant is used to treat the head, the middle part of the root helps preserve the internal organs and strengthen the body and the tips of the roots, which are considered more blood moving. In TCM they also fry the herb in vinegar or wine to strengthen the blood invigorating properties. Toasting the herb to ash enhances its ability to warm the meridians and stop bleeding.
The roots are the most medicinal part but the stems add flavor candy and stews. The stems prevent and aid digestion. It has a long history of use to protect against contagion, purifying blood and curing ailments like the plague. A tonic used to restore health and vitality.
Externally effective for joint pain, nerve pain, and skin disorders. The resin angeelicin stimulates the lungs and skin. The fresh leaf poultice benefits lung and chest diseases.
Angelica is also a common birthing herb used to assist delayed labor and to expel the placenta following childbirth. In Finland the roots are commonly used in soup and the leaves and stale tree are used as medicine.
White Peony Root – Bai Shao
Energetics/ Flavor: Bitter, sour, slightly sweet, cool, slightly astringent
Key constituents: Monoterpene glycosides (including Paeoniflorin and Albiflorin), Paeonol, Calcium, Copper, Astragalin, Tannins, Flavonoids
Meridians: Liver, spleen
Planet: Sun and moon
Magical Uses: Protection, healing, dreams
Therapeutic uses: Banishes anger and anxiety. Brings in abundance, success, healthy boundaries, and confidence. Helps you be more open and receptive. Slows you down, calms and relaxes, helps you find presence and gratitude.
White Peony Root In Traditional Chinese Medicine
White peony root helps the liver store by consolidating blood and counteracting spasms. In TCM, the liver is associated with the Hun. The ethereal soul that is part of your being and psyche. It is intuitive and wanders at night in your dreams to bring inspiration. By nourishing liver blood, white peony helps strengthen this important aspect to of the liver functioning to help calm, strengthen and improve mental and emotional clarity. It stabilizes emotions and improves mental focus.
Peony root is a blood tonic. Treating stagnant liver qi, with symptoms that includes, muscle spasms, irregular periods, abdominal pain. It also treats infertility associated with prostate, ovarian failure and endometriosis.
White peony is effective at supporting liver blood. Anemia, irregular menses, muscle spasms, cramping, restless leg syndrome, inflamed tendons, numbness, and muscle weakness associated with liver blood deficiency. With better effects when combined with licorice. It counters the effects of blood deficiency caused by an excessive use of draining herbs.
It also has a unique ability to both nourish liver blood and subdue liver yang, which helps with headaches caused by liver blood deficiency and liver yang rising. When comparing it to lavender it can direct liver qi (yang) downwards, but it does not nourish the blood like peony does.
The astringent properties aid excess sweating and night sweats. Calms and cools the liver, allowing it to effectively fulfill its function by regulating the flow of qi and therefore also blood, throughout the body.
Key Actions of White Peony Root:
Eliminates heat, dampness, and stagnation. Relaxes nerves and blood vessels. Tonifies qi, nourishes liver blood, calms liver yang, preserves and purifies yin, cools blood.
Common Medicinal Uses:
Treat female disorders, excellent blood tonic, relieves pain in chest or abdomen due to stagnant liver qi, headaches, dizziness, regulates blood pressure, regulates blood sugar, relieves pain, muscle spasms, numbness, arrests, sweating, night sweats, systemic lupus, hepatitis, autoimmune disorders, PMS, irregular menses, excessive menses, blurry vision, acne, builds bones, arthritis, weakness tendons, restless legs and female hormonal disorders, sin disorders and is anti-aging.
Botany and Origin
Peony is in the Ranunculaceae family. There are 25-40 different species and hundreds of cultivars. Most are herbaceous perennial that grow 20-28 inches tall and can resemble trees. They are native to Asia, Southern Europe, and western America. They like deep, rich, well drained soil in full sun or partial shade.
Root, seeds and petals
In Chinese tradition it is said that women who use peony root tea on a regular basis will become as radiant and beautiful as the flower itself. It makes skin young and silky. It is used in TCM to support the function of other herbs and as a counterbalance to their strong actions.