Clockwise from Top :-
Black Dates, Red Dates, Sliced Dong Quai, Wolfberries
Centre :- Whole Dong Quai (Angelica Root)
Hi there, dear friends 😀
This post is in response to some queries from a blog visitor, Stephanie, who had asked if I have any soup recipes for relieving menstrual cramps, countering fatigue during menstruation, to replenish or nourish blood after the menses, and to relieve arthritic pains in winter months .
Although the menstruation is a monthly affair that most of us have gotten used to with a little sense of irritability at the inconvenience of it all, there are some ladies who dread the coming of their next menses – they experience painful lower abdominal cramps (a friend of mine would bend over, holding her abdomen, suffering from the cramps on the first day of her period). Some feel very tired, to which no amount of rest or sleep seems to help.
For Chinese families here in Malaysia, once a girl reaches puberty and begins the onset of her menses, the mother would start the practice of brewing the Chinese herb, Dong Quai (Angelica Root), monthly for her to drink. This is to ensure that as the girl grows up, her menstruation will be as problem free as possible, with regularity of timing and her blood is nourished as it is purged out through the menses.
The timing of having the Dong Quai herbal soup is very important ===> it must be consumed on the day that the menses has completely stop flowing. Preferably just before bedtime.
Because Dong Quai is a heaty herb, the effects of its heatiness will not be felt because when we are menstruating, we are in the “heaty immunity”mode. Just like during the confinement month for new mothers (within one month after childbirth in the Chinese culture), they can consume lots of heaty foods containing ginger, wine, sesame oil, etc, daily for one month without getting sore throats, headaches, gum pains, which are the signs of heatiness. 😉
Secondly, the most goodness from this “women’s herbal soup” (Dong Quai) is reaped when we consume it on the last day of our menstruation.
Dong Quai is most famously known as a herb which is good for women’s health because it can 😀 :-
1) nourish blood
2) improve blood circulation
3) reduce menstruation cramp
4) improves regularity or timing of menstruation
5) help “smoothen” the menstruation cycle, making it as comfortable as possible for women to go through the experience
6) ease some perimenopausal symptoms
In my family, I have 2 daughters and so, I usually remind them to tell me when their menses will finish so that I can prepare the Dong Quai soup for them.
Luckily for us, we love the taste and aroma of Dong Quai and so, we look forward to having this soup. Heheh, whenever I make this soup, I will tell my husband and sons on that day that we are having “Women’s Soup” and they can’t have it. Anyway, they can’t stand the smell of Dong Quai! 🙄 😆
Dong Quai has a strong, aromatic, bitter smell…a bit like ginseng, but stronger. But when we cook/boil Dong Quai with Black Dates, Red Dates and Wolfberries, its flavour is mellowed out and soup tastes so sweet and good. If we add in some lean chicken or pork, it tastes absolutely delicious (to me and my girls anyway)!
Here is the recipe for Dong Quai Soup (per person) –
Dong Guai, sliced into pieces – 1 tahil or 40 gms or 1.4 ounce
8 Black Dates
10 Red Dates
1 heaping tbsp Wolfberries
Water (refer to method for amount required)
*** Optional – Some Lean Meat (can be chicken, or pork) or Hard Boiled Eggs
1) Cut around both black and red dates to remove the seeds
2) Arrange all the herbs (and meat, if there is any) into a pot
3) To add water, decide on method below of cooking the Dong Quai soup to get water amount and duration of cooking time :-
*** Boiling pot over direct fire/heat on stove – put in 3 rice bowls of water (about 250 ml or 1 liquid cup in one rice bowl), bring ingredients to a boil, lower heat to medium fire and simmer until there is 1 rice bowl of water/soup remaining. This takes around 40 minutes to 1 hour depending on your fire. Be sure to keep an eye it to prevent drying up or burning. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
*** Cook soup in crockpot or slow cooker –put in 2 rice bowls of water and rest of ingredients and bring to a boil. Thereafter, let simmer for about 5 hours. Remove and serve immediately
*** Cook soup in a double boiler or steam the soup pot in a wok or larger pot on the stove – put in 2 rice bowls of water and rest of ingredients and steam for 3 hours.
The purpose of cooking the soup so long is to ensure that all the tastes and goodness of the herbs are totally infused into the soup.
Just drink the soup only and if there is meat, the meat can be eaten with the soup, too. Yummy! 😀
When I have poured the soup out into bowls for my girls and I to drink, I even reboil the herbs again with a little water for about 20 minutes to get a second round of soup, for all that Dong Quai goodness.
Black and Red Dates harmonise the harsh effects of Dong Quai. They imparts a wonderful sweet taste, too. They help to tonify the spleen, improves the stomach and have nourishing qi/chi/energies on the body
Wolfberries also have a sweet taste and are added for healthy eyes – a good ingredient to add as these days, we are straining our eyes more using the computer. 😉
For those of you living in the West and you can go to a Chinatown nearby, you can easily find Dong Quai herbs there.
If you can’t buy Dong Quai herbs, I have seen some online store selling Dong Quai powder in capsule form. However, I don’t know how those are to be taken and how effective they are and so, I can’t advise you on that. However, if you are suffering from bad menstruation symptoms, I guess taking Dong Quai powder capsules is better than not taking any form of Dong Quai at all.
The picture below is another typical Chinese prescription for women’s health called “Ba Zhen”….however, I don’t know what some of the ingredients are called as the herbs come prepacked for sale at the Chinese Medical Halls (shops) and one packet of Ba Zhen is for one person’s consumption.
Ba Zhen Soup Ingredients
For Ba Zhen, we just boil the herbs in 3 rice bowls of water until 1 bowl of soup is left. Drink the soup whilst it is still warm. Hard boiled eggs or lean meat can be added when cooking this soup.
For those of you trying these herbal soups for the first time, I hope you like their taste! It takes a while to get used to….but if you are experiencing painful menstruation, these soups are just for you. 😉
With best wishes for good women’s health,
P.S. The next time I cook some Dong Quai soup, I will post a photo of it here 😉
Important Notes :-
1) If you are taking any Western medicine, it is best to wait 2 to 3 hours before you drink the Dong Quai soup, to prevent any contra-indications between them
2) If you are experiencing severe menstruation symptoms, it may take a few months before you notice any improvement, as this soup is only taken once a month and it works gently on you
3) Even if you are not experiencing any menstruation problems, this soup is good to have monthly to maintain good health