Dahurian Angelica Root (Bai Zhi)
What is Dahurian Angelica Root (Bai Zhi)?
Dahurian Angelica Root (bai zhi, 白芷), also known as Radix Angelicae Dahuricae, refers to the roots of the plants Huang Bai Zhi and Qi Bai Zhi. The former mainly grows in provinces such as Jiangsu, Anhui and Hunan. With a long cone-like shape, the plant is 10 – 20 cm tall, and its cortex is densely covered with oil spots that form squarish rings.
Qi Bai Zhi is a perennial herb that is mostly produced in the provinces of Henan and Hebei. Also in conic shape, it is usually 7 – 24cm, yellowish in colour, and its cortex is scattered with oil spots that form brown layered round rings.
After being harvested, Bai Zhi is cleansed by having its dirt and fibril removed. The herb is then dried under the Sun for medicinal usage. Medicinally, Bai Zhi that is heavy in weight and has a rich aroma is considered to have a better quality.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Bai Zhi falls under the category of ‘Warm/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior’. Such herbs can treat the early stages of diseases that affect the upper respiratory tract, the eyes, the ears, the nose, the throat or the skin.
Warm in nature, Bai Zhi can help individuals who have too much Cold in their body, such as those who are experiencing a Yin Excess or a Yang Deficiency, to restore a harmonious yin-yang balance. Pungent in taste, the herb can promote the circulations of qi and body fluids. In particular, the herb targets the Spleen, the Lungs and the stomach.
Functions and Benefits of Dahurian Angelica Root (Bai Zhi)
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shows that Bai Zhi has the following health benefits.
Bai Zhi can disperse Wind-Cold to relieve symptoms caused by External Wind-Cold. In TCM, it is believed that External diseases such as colds or allergies can invade the body if the external environment overwhelms our wei qi (immune system). Bai Zhi can thus counteract this invasion by inducing sweating to increase the flow of sweat to our capillary pores, expel the disease from the body and stop it from invading further.
By dispersing external pathogens in the Lungs, Bai Zhi can effectively nourish the nose to relieve symptoms such as stuffy nose, running nose, tinnitus and headaches caused by External Wind-Cold. It can be used internally through consumption or externally by smelling it.
Bai Zhi also has strong effects in relieving pain, especially for pain located in the forehead, between the supra-orbital ridge and gums. Its effectiveness can be enhanced when combined with other Wind-expelling and pain-relieving herbs such as Szechuan lovage root (Chuan Xiong). Other forms of pain that Bai Zhi may be able to help alleviate include toothache, arthralgia and traumatic pain.
Bai Zhi is also indicated for women experiencing too much leucorrhea as the herb can dry Dampness and astringe leucorrhea. In addition, due to its effectiveness in dispelling pathogens, warming and dredging vessels, Bai Zhi can relieve pruritus as well. For instance, the herb can be used in the initial stage of carbuncle to relieve swelling. After the formation of abscess, Bai Zhi can also assist qi-tonifying herbs and blood-nourishing herbs to expel pus.
In addition, it has the effect of expelling Wind and relieving pruritus, and it can be used in cutaneous pruritus. Because of its action in dispelling pathogens, warming and dredging vessels, it can be used in the initial stage of carbuncle to help clear Heat and detoxicate to relieve swelling. After the formation of abscess, it can help those qi-tonifying and blood-nourishing herbs to expel pus. For example, the herb can help to treat anal abscess.
Modern research has shown that Bai Zhi may help to promote metabolism in the skin to accelerate pigment decomposition and lighten flecks. Shen Nong’s Materia Medica has pointed out that this herb can help individuals to attain healthy and clear skin through effective whitening and hydration, and it can be used as a face cream. It was said that Bai Zhi is a primary herb of Yu Rong San’s recipe, a beauty recipe that is used exclusively by Empress Dowager Cixi. Today, more research is proving that this herb can treat skin problems such as acne, blackhead and pimples.
How to Use Dahurian Angelica Root (Bai Zhi)
The recommended daily dosage of Bai Zhi is 3 – 10g. A common way to prepare Bai Zhi is to cook it in boiling water to make tea or soup for consumption.
You can find Bai Zhi in many Asian specialty markets and herbal stores.
Cautions and Side Effects of Dahurian Angelica Root (Bai Zhi)
Bai Zhi should not be used by individuals who are experiencing Blood Deficiency, Yin Deficiency, vomiting caused by Fire, febrile disorders or pregnancy. The herb also should not be used in cases of uterine bleeding and vaginal discharge caused by blood Heat due to Yin Deficiency. In addition, large amounts of Bai Zhi may trigger convulsions and general paralysis.
Do not consume Bai Zhi together with Inula Flower (xuan fu hua, 旋覆花) as these two herbs are incompatible. Also, this herb may have an inhibitory effect on liver microsomal cytochrome P-450. Concurrent use of this herb may lead to increased plasma concentration of other drugs such as testosterone, tolbutamide nifedipine and bufuralol.
Here is a summary for Dahurian Angelica Root (Bai Zhi):
- Herb name (Chinese): 白芷
- Herb name (Pin Yin): bái zhǐ
- Herb name (English): Dahurian Angelica Root
- Herb name (Botanical): Radix Angelicae Dahuricae
- Origin of species:
- Angelica dahurica (Fisch. ex Hoffm) Benth. et Hook. f.; Angelica dahurica (Fisch. ex Hoffm) Benth. et Hook. f. var. formosana (Boiss.) Shan et Yuan
- Part(s) of herb used: Root
- Geo-specific habitat(s): Henan, Hebei, Shaanxi, Zhejiang, Fujian, Sichuan and north eastern parts of China
- Taste(s) & Properties: Pungent; Warm; Administrates the Lung, Stomach and Large Intestine Meridians
- Actions: Helps to relieve symptoms of common cold and related respiratory ailments; Eases headaches, toothaches or rheumatic pains; Relieves nasal congestion and related discomforts; Helps to relieve skin itching
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Wang, C., Sun, J., Li, H., Yang, X., Liu, H., & Chen, J. (2016). In vivo anti-inflammatory activities of the essential oil from Radix Angelicae dahuricae. Journal of natural medicines, 70(3), 563-570.[Accessed on 13th December 2022]
Yi, S., Cho, J. Y., Lim, K. S., Kim, K. P., Kim, J., Kim, B. H., … & Yu, K. S. (2009). Effects of Angelicae tenuissima radix, Angelicae dahuricae radix and Scutellariae radix extracts on cytochrome P450 activities in healthy volunteers. Basic & clinical pharmacology & toxicology, 105(4), 249-256.[Accessed on 13th December 2022]
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