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Dong Quai: The Female Ginseng

Dong Quai can have profound benefits for menstrual problems
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Reprinted with the kind permission of Dr. Mercola.

Dong Quai dates back to over 2,000 years ago, with a history deeply steeped in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Because its benefits are geared toward feminine health, it has earned the moniker “female ginseng.”1 However, it can be useful for males, as well. Here’s everything you need to know about this traditional herbal remedy.

What Is Dong Quai?

Also known as Chinese angelica, Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis) is a fragrant perennial herb that can be found growing at high altitudes. Its other names include dang gui, tang kue, tang kuei2 and the “empress of herbs”.3 Asian countries are the primary sources of Dong Quai, and it can be found growing in the cold and damp mountainous regions of Japan, China and Korea.4

Dong Quai belongs to the plant family Apiaceae (Umbelliferae),5 alongside parsley, carrot and celery.6 The plant can be identified by its smooth, purple stems, white, umbrella-shaped flowers and winged fruits, which are usually seen in July and August.7

However, the most important part of this plant is its root. The yellow-brown Dong Quai rootholds the most beneficial chemical components of the plant, and is harvested into different products, including powder and capsules.8 The Dong Quai plant offers a wealth of nutrients, including vitamins A, B12, C, and E, and minerals such as niacin, potassium, and magnesium. It also has phytochemicals like coumarins, flavonoids, phytosterols and polysaccharides.9

Dong Quai’s Benefits for Feminine Health

In TCM , Dong Quai is primarily used to improve blood circulation. It may be particularly helpful for women who are struggling with menstruation problems, (such as cramping and PMS), delayed or irregular periods or a weak uterus.10 Dong Quai is also known for promoting hormonal balance and may specifically address congestive fertility issues, such as ovarian cysts.11

Several studies have been conducted to test Dong Quai’s feminine health benefits. In a 2006 study published in Phytotherapy Research, it was found that Dong Quai may have an estrogenic effect on rat subjects, and may help regulate hormone levels and ease symptoms of menopause.12 In a separate study, published in 2004, researchers observed that a medicinal preparation that included chamomile and Dong Quai helped ease hot flashes in postmenopausal women.13

Dong Quai is found to be especially effective when combined with other herbs – it’s rarely used by itself. White peony, Corydalis and licorice root are herbs that may be combined with Dong Quai for easing dysmenorrhea.14

Other Health Benefits of Dong Quai

The effects of Dong Quai go beyond feminine health, and both genders may actually benefit from using this Chinese remedy. Dong Quai may be able to:

• Help reduce inflammation — One test tube study investigated the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activity of Dong Quai combined with Sophora extract, and found that they both efficiently decreased levels of different inflammatory markers.15

• Promote heart health — In a 2000 study published in the Chinese Medical Journal, researchers found that a combination of Dong Quai and the plant Huang Qi helped lower levels of triglycerides, low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) among rat subjects.16

• Help manage blood sugar levels — A 2015 research found that mice given purified polysaccharides from the fresh roots of this plant for a month had lowered fasting blood glucose (FBG) levels and reduced insulin resistance.17

• Promote bone health — The hormone estrogen is important for not just reproductive health, but for regulating both bone formation and protecting bone cells from breaking down as well.18 A 2014 research observed that this herb has anti-osteoporotic effects in rats, helping minimize bone loss.19

Dong Quai May Have Potential Side Effects

Aside from being prohibited for children, using Dong Quai is not advised for certain groups of people due to its potential to trigger adverse reactions. Do not use Dong Quai if you belong to any of the groups listed below:20,21

Pregnant women — Dong Quai can have a stimulating effect on the uterus and may put you at risk of a miscarriage.

Breastfeeding mothers — There are no definitive studies confirming that using Dong Quai is risk-free for women who are breastfeeding.

People with diarrhea, heavy menstrual flow or hemorrhagic diseases.

Individuals who are taking blood-thinning medications, or undergoing hormone replacement therapy — If you are taking any type of prescription drug, consult a physician before taking Dong Quai.

Those who are allergic to plants from the carrot family — Taking Dong Quai could trigger an allergic reaction.22

Patients about to undergo surgery — If scheduled for surgery, stop taking Dong Quai two weeks before the procedure, as there could be potential blood-thinning effects.

Women with breast, uterine or ovarian cancer, or other hormone-sensitive conditions — Dong Quai acts like estrogen in a woman’s system and may have an effect on these illnesses.

Taking high doses of Dong Quai may lead to photosensitivity, skin inflammation and rashes. To remedy this, use sunscreen or avoid going out into the sun for prolonged periods of time.23

See the Merits of This Traditional Chinese Remedy

Dong Quai may not be very common in Western medicine, but in Traditional Chinese Medicine, it’s very popular for its beneficial characteristics. Women have long taken it to ease menstruation and fertility issues. Be advised that Dong Quai is not be recommended for everyone. Check with your healthcare provider before using this herbal supplement.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Dong Quai

Q: What is Dong Quai used for?

A: Also referred to as “female ginseng,” Dong Quai is known for its potential to help address menstruation and fertility-related problems in women by promoting circulation and hormonal balance. Dong Quai may also help promote bone and heart health, ease inflammation, and assist in managing blood sugar levels.

Q: Is Dong Quai safe for pregnant women?

A: No. It is ill-advised for pregnant women to take Dong Quai due to its stimulating effect on the uterus, which may trigger a miscarriage. There are also no studies that can confirm that it is safe for breastfeeding women.

Q: Where can you buy Dong Quai?

A: You can purchase Dong Quai from online websites and health stores. Make sure to look for a high-quality product made by a reputable manufacturer and check with your physician if you’re qualified to take this supplement.

This article was brought to you by Dr. Mercola.

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Sources and References


1 “Natural Standard Herb & Supplement Guide” E-book, July 2016

2 Cancer Network, January 20, 2011

3, 5, 9 Encyclopedia.com, Dong Quai

4 “Women’s Health Issues Across the Life Cycle,” February 2016

6 “Meyler’s Side Effects of Herbal Medicines,” 2009

7, 8 “The Encyclopedia of Nutrition and Good Health,” 2003

10, 21 Natural Fertility Info, Dong Quai: Uterine Tonic and Fertility Herb

11 Natural Fertility Info, How to Help Ovarian Cysts Naturally and Safely with Herbs and Supplements…

12 Phytother Res. 2006 Aug;20(8):665-9.

13 Clin Exp Obstet Gynecol. 2003;30(4):203-6.

14 Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health, 2010, Pages 97–185

15 Inflammation. 2012 Jun;35(3):913-9.

16 Chin Med J (Engl). 2000 Apr;113(4):310-4.

17 Food Funct. 2015 Mar;6(3):902-9.

18 Calcif Tissue Int. 2001 Oct;69(4):189-92.

19 Nutrients. 2014 Oct 16;6(10):4362-72.

20 ”Solve It With Supplements,” Schulman, Rober and Dean, Carolyn, 2006

22 Solve It With Supplements, Schulman, Rober and Dean, Carolyn, 2006

23 “Natural Standard Herb and Supplement Handbook,” 2005

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