Dong Quai: Snapshot


Often called “the female ginseng.” Though Dong Quai has no specific hormonal action, it exerts a regulating and normalising influence on hormonal production through its positive action on the liver and endocrine system. It has a sweet and unusually thick, pungent taste and is warming and moistening to the body.

Chinese Angelica is taken in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a tonic for “deficient blood” conditions, anaemia and for the symptoms of anaemia due to blood loss, pale complexion, palpitations, and lowered vitality. Chinese angelica regulates the menstrual cycle, relieves menstrual pains and cramps and is a tonic for women with heavy menstrual bleeding who risk becoming anaemic. Since it also stimulates menstrual bleeding, other tonic herbs, such as nettle, are best taken during menstruation if the flow is heavy. It is also a uterine tonic and helps infertility.

Chinese angelica is a “warming” herb, improving the circulation to the abdomen, hands and feet. It strengthens the digestion, and it also is useful in the treatment of abscesses and boils. Research has shown that the whole plant, including the rhizome, strengthens liver function and the whole rhizome has an antibiotic effect.

Botanical Name

Angelica sinensis

Part Used

Root

Common Names

Chinese angelica, dang gui, dong qui, tang kwei, honeywort; shan chin

Brief History

The Chinese name translates as “state of return,” in reference to the belief that the herb helps blood return to where it belongs, rather than stagnating. Record of dong quai’s use first appeared in the Shen Nong· Ben Cao ling (Divine Husbandman’s Classic of the Materia Medica), compiled during the Han Dynasty (A.D. 25-220). It is still one of the most frequently used herbs in Asia.

Cultivation

Angelica chinensisA sturdy, erect perennial growing to 6 feet, with large, bright green leaves and hollow stems. The whole root is small and whitish and looks like carved ivory.

Native to China and Japan. The best rhizomes are in Gansu province in China. Seed is sown in spring, and the rhizomes are lifted in autumn. A plant must be two to three years old before the root is considered mature enough to harvest.

Constituents

Vitamin B2, niacin, folic acid, vitamin B12, chromium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, flavonoids, coumarins, polysaccharides, essential oils (carvacrol, safrole, isosafrole), butylidene phthalide, n-valerophenone-o-carboxylic acid, beta-sitosterol, angelic acid, angelicone

Edible

Dong Quai root is edible and is often added to poultry or grain dishes or soups. In fact, in some parts of Asia, it is traditional for new mothers to eat Dong Quai chicken soup for a month following childbirth.

Therapeutic Properties

antispasmodic, analgesic (mild), blood purifier, circulatory stimulant, emmenagogue, hormone regulator, nutritive, tonic.

Vitalist PropertiesDried Dong Quai Root

Flavour: sweet, bitter, pungent

Temperature: warm

Moisture: moist

Polarity: yin

Therapeutic Indications

Amenorrhea, Anemia, arthritis, blood deficiency, blood stagnation, cancer, candida, chills, chronic bronchitis, cirrhosis, constipation (due to dryness), dry skin, dysmenorrhea, endometriosis, exhaustion, hair loss, headache, hypertension, infertility (female), insomnia, irregular menses, menopause symptoms (hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and heart palpitations), muscle spasms, pain, restless leg syndrome, PMS, restlessness in a fetus, sciatica, stroke, tinnitus, and traumatic injury.

Primary Uses

Dong Quai relieves some, but not all, of the symptoms of menopause and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). It also is used in the treatment of arthritis, chronic kidney inflammation, various blood-vessel disorders, pernicious anaemia, and neuralgia. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Dong Quai is used to treat boils that develop at sites of injury to the skin. Benefits of Dong Quai for specific health conditions include the following:

Atherosclerosis, heart attack, and high blood pressure.

Dong Quai teas contain active compounds that prolong the resting period between heartbeats and dilate the coronary blood vessels, increasing coronary blood flow. Together, these actions lower blood pressure. Of additional importance to people at risk for heart attack, Dong Quai inhibits the release of a chemical in the blood that promotes the formation of clots and starts inflammatory reactions.

Eye disorders.

Dong Quai contains flavonoid compounds that keep microscopic blood vessels in the eye from leaking and causing swelling in the retina. It also impedes the formation of tiny blood clots that might impede circulation in the eye.

Infertility

One of the chemical components of Dong Quai, ferulic acid, increases the motility and viability of sperm cells by protecting their membranes from the action of cell-harming free radicals.

Menopause-related problems, menstrual problems, migraine, ovarian cysts, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

One of Dong Quai’s best-known uses is that of a regulator for the female reproductive system. Some of its compounds stimulate the uterus, while others relax the uterus. The compounds that stimulate the uterus are water-soluble and are absorbed into the body from teas or capsules containing freeze-dried herb. The compounds that relax the uterus have a very high boiling point are soluble in alcohol and are provided by tinctures.

There is general agreement among herb experts that this herb helps stop cramping and migraine attacks of PMS, and eases the pain of ovarian cysts. There is less agreement over whether it stops hot flashes. Tens of thousands of women have reported that taking the herb for four to six weeks prevents hot flashes related to entering menopause. Most women say that the herb is better for women who have intermittent hot flashes than for women who feel hot constantly. It is reportedly more effective for women who enter menopause after surgery. These women tend to have more severe hot flashes than women who enter menopause gradually.

Psoriasis and vitiligo.

Dong Quai is a traditional treatment for a variety of skin conditions. It does not stimulate the growth of healthy skin cells (actually, in overdose, it may kill healthy cells). Rather, Dong Quai compounds called coumarins stimulate circulation to the skin.

Dosage (Divided Daily)

Dried Root: 6,000 – 12,000mg

Tincture: 4.5 – 8.5mL (1:2)

Contraindications

Contraindicated in the first trimester of pregnancy, especially in higher doses.

Side effects

None known

Interactions with other drugs

Caution is advised for patients receiving chronic treatment with warfarin


 Link to Dried Dong Quai Root @ HerbosophyDried Dong Quai Root


Bibliography

Balch, P. A. (2002). Prescription for Herbal Healing. New York: Avery.

Bone, K. (2003). A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs: herbal formulations for the individual patient. St. Louis, MI: Churchill Livingstone.

Bone, K. (1996). Clinical Applications of Ayurvedic and Chinese Herbs: Monographs for the Western Herbal Practitioner. Warwick, Qld.: Phytotherapy.

Chevallier, A. (2000). Encyclopedia of herbal medicine (2nd American ed.). New York: DK Pub.

Herbalpedia 2013 (CD-ROM)

Ulbricht, C. E., & Natural Standard (Firm). (2010). Natural Standard Herb & Supplement Guide: an evidence-based reference (1st ed.). Maryland Heights, Mo.: Elsevier/Mosby.


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