Ligusticum waHichii (Cnidium; Chuan xiong)

Ligusticum wallichii is from the Chinese pharmacopoeia and is used primarily for its ability to relax smooth muscle. Angina pectoris, stroke, menstrual pain and uterine overactivity have all been treated with this herb. An active, short-acting substance—tetramethylpyrazine—has been shown to improve coronary blood flow (probably through non-specific relaxation of smooth muscle), to prevent arrhythmias and the release of inflammatory mediators,73 and to relax uterine muscle. Tetramethyl-pyrazine is under investigation as an isolated agent to be used to reduce uterine contractions in pregnant women at term.74

Ligusticum is a component of a commonly used blood tonic in Chinese medicine, and is combined with Angelica sinensis and Paeonia lactiflora. It is often assumed that the term blood tonic refers to a herb with the ability to improve blood parameters as measured by blood tests. However, in this instance, the improvement is in both quality and regularity of menstrual blood flow and not in quantifiable blood test results. Ligusticum may have a hormonal action, but much of the outcome is related to the spasmolytic effect on the uterus.

Both Ligusticum wallichii and Angelica sinensis also contain ferulic acid, and both herbs have an inhibitory effect on uterine contraction in

Rats when given intravenously and orally. Tetramethylpyrazine and feru-lic acid, given in combination at doses individually insufficient to inhibit uterine contraction, act synergistically.75 Traditionally, these two herbs are combined to treat menstrual disorders and coronary insufficiency leading to chest pain.

Ligusticum is also part of a traditional formula used in the treatment of anxiety, insomnia and related symptoms.76 It has been shown to have a mild sedative action, but the effects of the whole formula (Suan Zao Ren Tang or Zizyphus Combination) are much stronger.

Dose

Ligusticum is acrid and Warm and as a fluid extract (1:2) can be given in doses 2-6 ml, one to three times daily.

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