Friday, May 11, 2007

Dong Quai Soup

This is one of my favourite blood tonics!

I have grown up with this herb because my mom used to boil dong quai for my sisters and me especially when our menses are over. Mom used to emphasise that women benefit most from this herbal soup/tonic.

Now that I've married and left home, I still make this dong quai tonic for myself each month. Not many people like the smell of dong quai - but I do. The smell of dong quai simmering in the slow cooker for a few hours is out of this world.

Again, I am one of the many odd ones out. Many people I know will run at the smell of chinese herbs but not me. I enjoy going into Chinese medicine shops, and the smell of herbs is divine!

Dong quai is really a woman's herb because it helps to correct women's problems such as painful periods, irregular periods, PMS, hormonal imbalance, anaemia, fatigue, high blood pressure, postpartum conditions and menopausal symptoms. If you're a woman and feeling blah most of the time, you should take dong quai. In fact, dong quai helps to make women's reproductive system better!

Scientifically, dong quai does effect the uterus positively. It strengthens and normalises uterine contractions due to the ferulic acid and lulgutilide in this herb.

Dong quai or angelica polymorpha var sinensis is one of the most popular Chinese herbs with a warm character. The part that's used is the root which affects the liver, heart and spleen.

Like I said, it is traditionally used to nourish blood and invigorate blood circulation and as a laxative. A typical dose is about 3 to 12 grammes.

I usually make this tonic a few days after my period ends. Put a few slices of dong quai into a slow cooker with a piece of chicken drumstick/thigh. Add 3-4 dried red dates. Remember to remove the skin from the chicken; otherwise your tonic will be very oily!

Pour boiling water into the slow cooker - enough water for one small bowl of soup. Cover pot, switch on electricity and turn the dial to Auto. Let it simmer for 4 hours.

Just before I drink this soup, I add in some salt. Take the soup/tonic, eat the softened slices of dong quai and of course, eat the tender chicken meat. The soup will be a clear yellow, somewhat like a light tea colour.

I take this soup just before I go to bed. It does tend to be a bit heavy on the stomach but the wonderful aroma of dong quai is simply too irresistible.

One more tip: Do not drink water after you drink this soup. You want the full benefits of this herb which you have just boiled for 4 hours. The next day, do not take Chinese tea or whatever tea for a full 12 hours. As with all chinese tonics and herbs, drinking tea will prevent the goodness of the herbs from being absorbed by the body.

Dong quai is also good for coughs but you should avoid taking this herb if you are pregnant, having diarrhoea or abdominal fullness/congestion.

And men, well, men have often been advised NOT to take this herb. It is after all a women's herb.

My husband won't touch this soup, no matter how tempting it smells like. He's worried his hormones will change!

Note: Another blood tonic to try is Ba Zhen Tang or Eight Precious Soup. This is another women's herbal tonic concoction. Simmer in a slow cooker with some chicken (like the dong quai recipe) but this tonic is really black when it's done. The taste is somewhat strong too. If you don't like putting chicken with Ba Zhen Tang, use a hardboiled egg. Drop a peeled, hardboiled egg into your Ba Zhen Tang as it is simmering. Eat the egg later when you drink the soup.
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