Dong quaiAlso listed as: Angelica sinensis; Chinese angelica; Danggui; Tan kue bai zhi; Tang kuei
Dong quai (Angelica sinensis) root has been used for more than a thousand years as a spice, tonic, and medicine in China, Korea, and Japan. It is still used often in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), where it is usually combined with other herbs. In TCM it is used most often to treat women's reproductive problems, such as dysmenorrhea or painful menstruation, and to improve circulation. Dong quai is sometimes called the "female ginseng." Although there are few scientific studies on dong quai, it is sometimes suggested to relieve cramps, irregular menstrual cycles, infrequent periods, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and menopausal symptoms.
Dong quai grows at high altitudes in the cold, damp, mountains of China, Korea, and Japan. This fragrant, perennial plant -- a member of the celery family -- has smooth purplish stems and bears umbrella-shaped clusters of white flowers and winged fruits in July and August. The yellowish-brown thick-branched roots of the dong quai plant have several medicinal uses. It takes 3 years for the plant to reach maturity. The root is harvested and made into tablets, powders, and other medicinal forms.
Medicinal Uses and Indications
Very few studies have been done looking at the use of dong quai in humans. Some lab tests suggest that dong quai contains compounds that may help reduce pain, dilate blood vessels, and stimulate and relax the muscles of the uterus. More studies are needed to see whether dong quai is safe or effective.
Dong quai is sometimes suggested for the following conditions:
Some women report relief of symptoms such as hot flashes when taking dong quai. Researchers aren't sure whether dong quai has estrogen-like effects or if it blocks estrogens in the body, and the studies so far have been conflicting. One study found that dong quai did not help to relieve menopausal symptoms.
Dong quai has also been suggested for these conditions, although there isn’t good scientific evidence:
- Amenorrhea (absence of menstruation)
- Heart disease -- One study suggested that a combination of dong quai, Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng), and astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) decreased symptoms of chest pain in a small group of people with heart disease.
- High blood pressure
- Premature ejaculation -- as one ingredient in a cream applied topically
Dosage and Administration
Dong quai is available in a variety of forms, including tablets and powders. Injections are used in China and Japan in hospital or health center settings. You should not use injections at home.
Dong quai should be stored in a cool, dry place.
You should not give dong quai to a child.
There is no evidence to show what a safe dose is for humans, so it’s impossible to say what a recommended dose might be.
Dried herb (raw root) may be boiled or soaked in wine before consuming.
Powdered herb (available in capsules). In one study for menopausal symptoms, 500 - 600 mg tablets or capsules were taken up to six times daily.
Tincture (1:5 w/v, 70% alcohol): 40 - 80 drops (equivalent to 2 - 4 mL, there are 5 mL in a teaspoon), three times daily.
You should not drink the essential oil of dong quai because it contains a small amount of cancer-causing substances.
People who have chronic diarrhea or abdominal bloating should not use dong quai.
People who are at risk of hormone-related cancers, including breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers, should not take dong quai because researchers aren’t sure if it acts like estrogen in the body.
Dong quai, particularly at high doses, may increase your sensitivity to sunlight and cause skin inflammation and rashes. Stay out of the sun or use sunscreen while taking dong quai.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Dong not use dong quai during pregnancy. It may cause the uterus to contract and raise the risk of miscarriage. Nursing mothers should avoid dong quai because no one knows if it is safe when you are breastfeeding.
Do not give dong quai to a child because no one knows whether it is safe for children.
Interactions and Depletions
Dong quai may interact with the following medications and herbs:
Anticoagulants (blood-thinners) -- Dong quai may make the effects of these drugs, including warfarin (Coumadin), stronger, and raise the risk of bleeding. The same is true of using dong quai with the herbs listed below. Talk to your doctor before taking dong quai with any of the following:
- Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)
- Garlic (Allium sativum)
- Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
- Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)
- Ginseng (Panax ginseng)
- Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
- Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis)
- Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Hormone medications -- There is little research on using dong quai with hormone medications, such as estrogens, progesterones, oral contraceptives, tamoxifen, or raloxifene (Evista). But, because dong quai may have estrogen-like effects, you should not take it with hormone medications except under your doctor's supervision.
St. John's wort -- Both dong quai and St. John's wort can increase your sensitivity to sunlight. Talk to your doctor before taking them together.
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Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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