Often referred to as the “female ginseng,” Dong Quai is a staple in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for treating disorders of the female reproductive system. In addition, the herb has applications in blood disorders, hypertension and arthritic pain.
Native to areas of Asia including China and Japan, angelia sinensis, is a perennial herb that grows upwards of seven feet tall. The sizeable leaves shoot from a hollow blue stem and greenish flowers bloom from May to August, emitting a honey-like aroma.
When researching what is Dong Quai, take note of its active components: sequiterpenes, dihyrophyhalic anhyride and beta-sitosterol; in addition, the herb contains significant vitamins such as A, C and E and B-Complex, minerals such as Cobalt, Iron, Magnesium and Potassium and serves as a powerful antioxidant.
A wide-array of treatment possibilities relate to properties such as:
Sometimes spelled Dang Kwai, it possesses analgesic and sedative/hypnotic characteristics as well.
Internal ingestion can take place in the form of capsules, teas, tinctures and extracts.
Literally translated “state of return,” TCM utilizes Dong Quai to assist the body to return to a state of emotional and hormonal balance.
Specific to women’s healthcare, the herb alleviates symptoms and treats conditions such as:
- Pre-menstrual Syndrome (PMS)
- Dysmenorrhea – pain and cramps
- Menstrual Irregularities
- Menopause – hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, insomnia and vaginal dryness
- Speeds recovery time following childbirth, especially in cases of significant blood loss
- Uterine fibrous tumors
- Fibrocystic breast conditions
An effective treatment for hypertension, a condition marked by dizziness, headache, tinnitus, insomnia, poor memory and insomnia, TCM theory believes Dang Kwai restores balance to visceral organs such as the liver, spleen and kidney that are essential to circulation in both men and women.
Additional modern uses, regardless of gender, include:
- Poor circulation
- Herpes Zoster
- Emotional distress
- Digestive issues – constipation
- Headaches and Migraines
- Lung diseases and infections – asthma, bronchitis
- Urinary tract infections
As a circulatory agent and general blood tonic, this herb:
- Increases production of red blood cells, white blood cells and hemoglobin
- Inhibits platelet aggregation and thrombosis
- Regulates lipids
- Protects against myocardial ischemia and arrhythmia
Precautions and Interactions
Relatively safe for most people, some side effects of Dong Quai include:
- Gastrointestinal upset
- Allergic reaction
- Inhibited blood clotting
Persons who take anticoagulant medications such as Coumadin or Warfarin, Plavix and Heparin should avoid this herb. Also take caution with common over-the-counter analgesics that contain ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin. Although compatible with a wide range of herbs, avoid using it in combination with herbal supplements known to slow coagulation such as clove, garlic, ginseng, gingko biloba, red clover, licorice, turmeric, feverfew, poplar and ginger.
Stop taking this herb at least two weeks prior to any surgical procedure to ensure proper blood clotting and lessen the chances of excessive, uncontrollable bleeding.
The herb is contraindicated in pregnant and nursing women, those taking oral contraceptives and during menstruation. Women with hormone-sensitive conditions including breast, uterine and ovarian cancers, endometriosis and fibroids are advised to avoid this herb alone or as part of an herbal supplement.
Persons diagnosed with severe liver or kidney disease, blood clotting disorders such as hemophilia or protein S deficiency and children should not take as safety has yet to be established.
Consult an expert in TCM or natural medicine before starting any healthcare regime; if you experience unusual symptoms or feel worse, discontinue and seek guidance from a qualified herbalist.
Angelic sinensis can be used as a spice or taken in the form of essential oil, tea, powders, supplement capsules, tonics and tinctures.
Containing the greatest concentration, a Dong Quai tincture can be purchased or prepared at home. Tinctures are often based in alcohol and, when stored in a dark and cool place, can last a few years. Due to the high potency indicative of tinctures, most adults find relief with a 1/4 teaspoon twice a day; consult a TCM practitioner for more precise dosage recommendations.
Dong Quai tea can be purchased at local nature stores or prepared in a homemade concoction.
One method, specifically designed to return strength after a period, requires:
- 1 piece, Dong Quai Root
- 10 pieces, stoned Chinese dates
- 3 regular-sized eggs
- 3 slices, Ginger
- 5 cups, water
Begin by rinsing the root and placing it into hot water for 30-60 minutes. Remove the root and place the water to the side; slice the root as thinly as possible. Cook the eggs and peel away the shell; using a toothpick or similar object, poke holes into the eggs. Pour 5 cups of cold water into a pot and bring to a boil; add the ginger, dates and sliced herb and keep over high heat for 10 minutes; add eggs and return to a boil; lastly, add the rock candies and cook for a final 5 minutes.
Other methods of tea preparation can be located on the Internet. Whether you purchase ready-made tea or opt to make your own, read all associated information. Certain preparations may contain other herbs or ingredients that will aggravate your condition; in addition, do not drink more than the recommended maximum dose.
A Return to Balance
Dong Quai is a relatively safe herb effective in restoring balance disrupted by hormonal and blood disorders. Historically used by TCM for a variety of gynecological disorders, modern applications in the form of herbal teas or tinctures treat conditions such as high blood pressure, poor circulation, arthritic pain, urinary tract and bronchial infections, headaches and emotional distress.