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Dong Quai

Common names: Dang-gui, Chinese angelica

Botanical name: Angelica sinensis

Photo

© Steven Foster

Parts used and where grown

Dong quai is a member of the celery family. Greenish-white flowers bloom from May to August, and the plant is typically found growing in damp mountain ravines, meadows, river banks, and coastal areas. The root is used in herbal medicine.

Dong quai has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information):

Science Ratings Health Concerns
1Star

Anemia (due to dialysis)

Dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation)

Menopause

Premenstrual syndrome

3Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.

Historical or traditional use (may or may not be supported by scientific studies)

Also known as dang-gui in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), dong quai is sometimes referred to as the female ginseng. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, dong quai is often included in herbal combinations for abnormal menstruation, suppressed menstrual flow, dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), and uterine bleeding. It is not used in TCM for treating symptoms associated with menopause, such as hot flashes. It is also used in TCM for both men and women with cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure and problems with peripheral circulation.1

Active constituents

Traditionally, dong quai is believed to have a balancing or “adaptogenic” effect on the female hormonal system. Contrary to the opinion of some authors, dong quai does not qualify as a phytoestrogen and does not appear to have any hormone-like actions in the body. This is partially supported by a double-blind trial with menopausal women that found no estrogenic activity for the herb.2 In Traditional Chinese Medicine, dong quai is rarely used alone and is typically used in combination with herbs such as peony and ligusticum for conditions such as menstrual cramps.3

Dong quai has been traditionally used as a way to promote formation of red blood cells, an effect partially supported in a case study of a man with kidney failure who had a significant improvement in anemia due to dialysis while drinking a tea composed of dong quai and peony.4 No clinical trials have examined dong quai alone for this purpose, or for the treatment of other forms of anemia.

How much is usually taken?

The powdered root can be used in capsules or tablets.5 Women may take 3–4 grams daily in three divided applications. Alternatively, 3–5 ml of tincture may be taken three times per day.

Are there any side effects or interactions?

Dong quai may cause some fair-skinned people to become more sensitive to sunlight. People using it on a regular basis should limit prolonged exposure to the sun or other sources of ultraviolet radiation. Dong quai is not recommended for pregnant or breast-feeding women.6

Are there any drug interactions?
Certain medicines may interact with dong quai. Refer to drug interactions for a list of those medicines.

References:

1. Foster S, Yue CX. Herbal Emissaries. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1992, 65–72.

2. Hirata JD, Swiersz LM, Zell B, et al. Does dong quai have estrogenic effects in postmenopausal women? A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Fertil Steril 1997;68:981–6.

3. Qi-bing M, Jing-yi T, Bo C. Advance in the pharmacological studies of radix Angelica sinensis (Oliv) Diels (Chinese danggui). Chin Med J 1991;104:776–81.

4. Bradley RR, Cunniff PJ, Pereira BJG, Jaber BL. Hematopoietic effect of Radix angelicae sinensis in a hemodialysis patient. Am J Kidney Dis 1999;34:349–54.

5. Foster S. Herbs for Your Health. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, 1996, 28–9.

6. Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press, 1996, 28–9.

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