Growing on mountain slopes in the Gansu province, cowering from the sun, the white perennial flower is patiently waiting to be harvested once autumn comes. Below the veiny leaves and hiding under the damp soil is where you’ll find the star of the show – Dang Gui.
Angelica Sinensis has been used in the treatment of female ailments for thousands of years. Its reputation has led to it being known as the ‘female ginseng’ as it is particularly noted for its blood tonic effects on women. However, Dang Gui can also benefit both sexes to treat traumatic injury, sores, constipation and coughs. The root has a sweet and pungent aroma that is very distinctive and it is often used in Chinese cooking, specifically Chinese soups and broths.
Authentic Dang Gui
Authentic Dang Gui is a medium/dark brown colour with long, thin tails. It is usually dried at low temperatures in the shade, followed by a short period in the sun. Our Dang Gui is grown in the place of origin, harvested at the correct time, then washed, sliced and thoroughly dried. Dang Gui is endemic to China. Due to its popularity worldwide, the wild population of Dang Gui has greatly diminished, resulting in unofficial substitutes circulating the market.
European Dang Gui (Levisticum Officinale) and Japanese Dang Gui (Angelica Acutiloba) have been used more widely in TCM since the demand for Dang Gui grew; however, neither substitute is native to China.
European Dang Gui was extensively cultivated in China in the 1950s as a government-approved Dang Gui substitute when the latter was in short supply. However, once the Dang Gui production recovered by the 1980s, the substitute was banned in 1984. Despite this, it continues to be widely grown in mainland China as an unofficial substitute.
With clinical properties similar to those of the Pharmacopoeia species, Japanese Dang Gui is used as a substitute in the Jilin province, in the North East of China. However, it is more commonly used in Japan and Korea but is unlikely to be used in Western markets.
Sulphur Treated Dang Gui
As well as unofficial substitutes of Angelica Sinensis, practitioners also need to be aware of sulphur-treated Dang Gui. Despite the authentic herb being a dark brown colour, sulphur treated Dang Gui can look almost white in colour.
To achieve this appearance, manufacturers will initially soak the Dang Gui in water for two days; this can cause the active ingredient Ferulic Acid will leach out into the water. Next, the herb is steamed in sulphur for 4 days to soften the herb and to increase the size by up to 70%. This processed also helps to change the colour to a bright white colour. During this process,
a large majority of the essential oils are removed, drastically reducing the efficacy of the final product drastically. Lastly, the herb is compressed and sliced to achieve a larger surface area. In 1kg of Dang Gui, there will be up to 17.29g of sulphur.
By treating a herb with sulphur, manufacturers are able to increase the size and therefore increase profit. Sulphur treatment also prevents mould growth resulting in a long shelf life and kills any insects. As well as removing active ingredients and essential oils, reducing the efficacy and changing the chemical composition, sulphur treatment can also be extremely dangerous for patients who suffer from Sulphur allergies. Symptoms include; rashes, headaches, anaphylaxis, wheezing and difficulty breathing. At Phoenix, we do not condone the sale of sulphur treated herbs and we are proud to be the leading organisation in the UK to supply a 100% non-sulphur treated herbal product range.
If you would like to know more about our non-sulphur treated herbs, please visit our quality assurance page. If you have any additional questions about Dang Gui or any other herbs and their unofficial substitutes, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org