The Benefits of Dong Quai

Health Benefits, Uses, Side Effects & More

Dong quai in dish
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Dong quai (Angelica sinensis) is an herb native to China, Japan, and Korea. A member of the celery family, it's long been used in traditional Chinese medicine. Since it's thought to have a balancing effect on the female hormonal system, dong quai is sometimes referred to as "female ginseng."

Dong quai supplements typically contain extracts of the root of the plant. The root is rich in a number of substances thought to influence health, including compounds with anti-inflammatory and immune-stimulating effects.

Dong quai root also contains a substance called ferulic acid

Uses for Dong Quai

Dong quai is said to aid in the treatment of the following health conditions: allergies,constipation, fibroids, headache, high blood pressure, menopausal symptoms, menstrual cramps, nasal and/or sinus congestion, osteoarthritis, premenstrual syndrome, and rheumatoid arthritis.

The Benefits of Dong Quai

Although research on dong quai's health effects is limited, some studies suggest that the herb may help treat certain health problems. Here's a look at the science behind the potential benefits of dong quai:

1)  Hot Flashes

There's some evidence that taking dong quai in combination with other herbs may help soothe hot flashes in women going through menopause.

In a small study published in Clinical and Experimental Obstetrics & Gynecology in 2003, for example, 55 post-menopausal women struggling with hot flashes were split into two groups: one group was given a placebo, while the other group was given chewable tablets containing a combination of dong quai and chamomile.

After 12 weeks of treatment, study members who received the combination of dong quai and chamomile had experienced a greater improvement in hot flashes (as well as in sleep disturbance and fatigue).

Additionally, a small study published in Gynecological Endocrinology in 2007 found that an herbal formula containing dong quai along with several other herbs (including black cohosh, milk thistle, red clover, American ginseng, and chaste tree berry) helped relieve hot flashes and sleep disturbance in pre- and post-menopausal women.

The study involved 50 women (ages 44 to 65) and a treatment period of three months.

2)  Arthritis

Dong quai shows promise in the treatment of osteoarthritis, according to a preliminary study published in PLoS One in 2014. In tests on cells taken from human cartilage (and in tests on rats), scientists observed that compounds extracted from dong quai might inhibit osteoarthritis-related breakdown of cartilage. 

Dong Quai and Breast Cancer

Some research indicates that dong quai may be harmful to women with breast cancer or at high risk for the disease. In a study published in Menopause in 2005, for instance, tests on cells in culture demonstrated that dong quai may promote the growth of breast cancer cells.

Side Effects & Safety Concerns

Dong quai may trigger a number of side effects, including: bloating, diarrhea, drowsiness, headache, increased sensitivity to sunlight, nausea, and sleep disturbance.

Since dong quai may have anticoagulant effects, it should not be used by people with bleeding disorders or by women who tend to experience excessive menstrual bleeding.

Dong quai may also be harmful to individuals taking blood-thinning medications.

Dong quai should not be used by pregnant or nursing women. Due to its estrogen-like effects, it should also be avoided by people with hormone-sensitive conditions such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or cancers of the breast, uterus, or ovaries. 

You can get tips on using supplements here, but if you're considering the use of dong quai, talk with your primary care provider first. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Alternatives to Dong Quai

Dong quai is one of many natural remedies used for menopausal symptoms. Some research suggests that black cohosh, red clover, and evening primrose oil may also alleviate menopause-related issues.

In addition, studies show that natural remedies such as avocado/soybean unsaponifiables, glucosamine, and chondroitin sulfate may help ease symptoms of osteoarthritis.

Where to Find It

Dong quai supplements are sold in many natural-foods stores and stores specializing in herbal products, as well as online.

Sources

Chao WW1, Lin BF. "Bioactivities of major constituents isolated from Angelica sinensis (Danggui)." Chin Med. 2011 Aug 19;6:29.

Circosta C1, Pasquale RD, Palumbo DR, Samperi S, Occhiuto F. "Estrogenic activity of standardized extract of Angelica sinensis." Phytother Res. 2006 Aug;20(8):665-9.

Deng S1, Chen SN, Yao P, Nikolic D, van Breemen RB, Bolton JL, Fong HH, Farnsworth NR, Pauli GF. "Serotonergic activity-guided phytochemical investigation of the roots of Angelica sinensis." J Nat Prod. 2006 Apr;69(4):536-41.

Kupfersztain C1, Rotem C, Fagot R, Kaplan B. "The immediate effect of natural plant extract, Angelica sinensis and Matricaria chamomilla (Climex) for the treatment of hot flushes during menopause. A preliminary report." Clin Exp Obstet Gynecol. 2003;30(4):203-6.

Lau CB1, Ho TC, Chan TW, Kim SC. "Use of dong quai (Angelica sinensis) to treat peri- or postmenopausal symptoms in women with breast cancer: is it appropriate?" Menopause. 2005 Nov-Dec;12(6):734-40.

Rotem C1, Kaplan B. "Phyto-Female Complex for the relief of hot flushes, night sweats and quality of sleep: randomized, controlled, double-blind pilot study." Gynecol Endocrinol. 2007 Feb;23(2):117-22.

Wen Y1, Li J2, Tan Y1, Qin J1, Xie X2, Wang L1, Mei Q3, Wang H4, Magdalou J5, Chen L6. "Angelica Sinensis polysaccharides stimulated UDP-sugar synthase genes through promoting gene expression of IGF-1 and IGF1R in chondrocytes: promoting anti-osteoarthritic activity." PLoS One. 2014 Sep 9;9(9):e107024.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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