Dong quai, also known as Angelica sinensis, is a traditional Chinese herb used for thousands of years in various forms of alternative medicine. It is often called “female ginseng” because of its popularity as a women’s health supplement.

Revered for its numerous health benefits, this medicinal plant has been used for centuries to support women’s health, improve circulation, and promote overall well-being.

This article will explore dong quai and its origins, benefits, and how to incorporate it into your daily wellness routine.

What is Dong Quai?

Dong quai is a plant indigenous to China, Japan, and Korea that grows best in cool and damp environments.  Roots are collected in the autumn when they are most potent, then processed further by being washed, dried, and sliced for use in different medical concoctions.

The roots of dong quai are the most common part used for herbal medicine. The combination of various bioactive chemicals within its structure, such as ferulic acid, coumarins, and polysaccharides, is responsible for its many different medicinal qualities.

You may get this supplement in many different preparations, such as capsules, pills, extracts, and even teas. Although this medicinal plant is often used to enhance the well-being of women, its potential benefits on men’s health have also been researched.

One reason for this is that it has adaptogenic properties, meaning it might make the body better able to deal with stress, which would benefit the individual’s health. [1]

Benefits of Dong Quai

1. Hormonal Balance and Menstrual Health

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Dong quai may have estrogenic properties, making it work similarly to estrogen in the body.  While it doesn’t directly increase estrogen, it can have similar effects, which may help alleviate menopause symptoms. As a result, this medicinal herb is believed to control hormone production and balance estrogen and progesterone levels.

In certain women, this may aid in regulating ovulation and increasing fertility. However, because of the negative effects of increased estrogen levels, women with hormone-sensitive cancers should avoid using dong quai.

It may also help alleviate menstrual symptoms as it may act as a serotonin reuptake inhibitor. This may help treat hot flashes and irritability related to menopause. [2]

However, another trial indicated no significant change in women who used a dong quai-containing product for hot flash control. [3] Hence, more clinical trials are needed to confirm this.

In addition, this supplement is also known for alleviating muscular cramps and pain due to its antispasmodic qualities. This is because it contains an ingredient called ligustilid, which has been proven to increase nonspecific antispasmodic action, particularly in the uterine muscles. [4]

Also, women who took dong quai twice daily reported a normalization of their menstrual cycle and a decrease in abdominal pain without the need to take painkillers.

Dong quai is also used to make postpartum mothers feel better and recover faster by reducing their tiredness.

While these benefits are promising, more research is needed to confirm dong quai’s effectiveness and safety for women’s health.

2. Anemia and Iron Deficiency

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Anemia is a common blood disorder that happens when there aren’t enough red blood cells or enough hemoglobin, the protein that moves oxygen around the body. [5] Hemoglobin is the iron-containing protein in your blood that carries oxygen to your cells and carbon dioxide away from them.

Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia since iron is important to making hemoglobin. Iron deficiency anemia happens when the amount of iron you take in, the amount of iron you store, and the amount of iron you lose aren’t enough to make enough red blood cells. [6]

Since dong quai is high in iron, it is often used to treat anemia caused by a lack of iron, especially when mixed with other herbs. Also, the cobalt in itz is thought to increase the hemoglobin in your blood.

Also, dong quai’s high iron content helps fight anemia and iron deficiency. In addition, it helps the body make more blood cells, which improves oxygen transport and makes you feel less tired.

3. Improve Blood Flow and Heart Health

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Dong quai can help with heart health in two ways. First, it has active compounds that make the heart rest longer between beats and lower blood pressure in the arteries, which helps the heart pump more blood.

Also, research shows that it stops plaque from forming on the walls of blood vessels, which could help prevent atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and high blood pressure. It may also improve blood flow and relieve pain. [7]

The other way it helps the heart is by lowering dangerous levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. Reducing cholesterol levels is an effective way to lower the risk of heart disease and improve heart health.

Also, its root oil injections have been shown to improve blood flow and reduce blood pressure in dogs, cats, and rabbits. [4]

4. Decreases Inflammation

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Inflammation is the body’s natural reaction to being hurt, getting sick, or being exposed to something harmful. Acute inflammation is necessary for the body’s recovery and defense mechanisms, while prolonged inflammation is harmful.

There are many anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving compounds in this compound. These compounds work together to stop the production of inflammatory mediators, which reduces pain and inflammation. [8]

Dong quai extract may reduce levels of six distinct inflammatory markers, according to a test tube research reported on inflammation. [9]

In a separate experiment, dong quai extract was shown to considerably reduce inflammation brought on by spinal cord damage in rats. [10]

Dong Quai Side Effects

While dong quai is generally considered safe, especially in appropriate doses, it can still cause some side effects. Its common side effects include diarrhea, skin rashes, dizziness, and increased sensitivity to sunlight.

Dong Quai Risks

Some risks are associated with using this medicinal herb. These include:

Drug Interactions: It may interact with certain medications, such as blood thinners, increasing the risk of bleeding.

Hormone-Sensitive Conditions: As mentioned earlier, this herb may have estrogen-like effects, potentially worsening hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine fibroids, and endometriosis. People with these conditions should avoid dong quai.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: The safety of this supplement during pregnancy and breastfeeding has not been well-established. Pregnant or nursing women should avoid using dong quai unless under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Does Dong Quai Cause Cancer?

There is no concrete evidence linking dong quai to increased cancer risk. However, due to its potential estrogenic effects, it is advised that individuals with hormone-sensitive cancers.

Contrary evidence suggests that dong quai extracts may be able to inhibit the growth and death of cancer cells. It is effective against cancer cells in the brain, the blood, and the intestines. [9]

Although some research suggests this may be the case, other studies have shown little evidence of a major effect on cancer cells, particularly in people.

Is Dong Quai Safe?

You should be OK if you don’t take more than six months’ worth of dong quai. You can also use it safely combined with other substances at dosages of up to 150 mg daily.

Bottom Line: What is Dong Quai? 4 Helpful Benefits and Its Side Effects

dong quai is a fascinating herb used to treat health problems in women. It may help with menstruation discomfort, and menopausal symptoms and provide anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Still, it’s important to know its risks and side effects.

As with any supplement, talking to a medical professional before adding dong quai to your wellness routine is important. By doing this, you can ensure you use this herb safely and effectively while minimizing the risks.

Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.

Editorial References And Fact-Checking

  • Liao LY, He YF, Li L, Meng H, Dong YM, Yi F, Xiao PG. A preliminary review of studies on adaptogens: comparison of their bioactivity in TCM with that of ginseng-like herbs used worldwide. Chin Med. 2018 Nov 16;13:57. doi: 10.1186/s13020-018-0214-9. PMID: 30479654; PMCID: PMC6240259.
  • Carroll DG. Nonhormonal therapies for hot flashes in menopause. Am Fam Physician. 2006 Feb 1;73(3):457-64. PMID: 16477892.
  • Kelley, Kristi W. et al. Evaluating the evidence for over-the-counter alternatives for relief of hot flashes in menopausal women. Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, Volume 50, Issue 5, e106 – e115
  • European Medicines Agency Science Medicines Health Assesement Report on Angelica sinensis (Oliv.) Diels, radix.9 July 2013. EMA/HMPC/614586/2012.
  • Turner J, Parsi M, Badireddy M. Anemia. [Updated 2022 Aug 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499994/
  • Miller JL. Iron deficiency anemia: a common and curable disease. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2013 Jul 1;3(7):a011866. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a011866. PMID: 23613366; PMCID: PMC3685880.
  • Wu YC, Hsieh CL. Pharmacological effects of Radix Angelica Sinensis (Danggui) on cerebral infarction. Chin Med. 2011 Aug 25;6:32. doi: 10.1186/1749-8546-6-32. PMID: 21867503; PMCID: PMC3174116.
  • “Dong Quai” or “Angelica sinensis”. Posit Health News. 1998 Fall;(No 17):15-6. PMID: 11366544.
  • Han C, Guo J. Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activity of traditional Chinese herb pairs, Angelica sinensis and Sophora flavescens. Inflammation. 2012 Jun;35(3):913-9. doi: 10.1007/s10753-011-9393-6. PMID: 21976127.
  • Xu J, E XQ, Liu HY, Tian J, Yan JL. Angelica Sinensis attenuates inflammatory reaction in experimental rat models having spinal cord injury. Int J Clin Exp Pathol. 2015 Jun 1;8(6):6779-85. PMID: 26261562; PMCID: PMC4525896.

Author

  • Shaira Urbano, Licensed Pharmacist

    Shaira is a licensed pharmacist (Bachelor of Pharmacy) and an experienced content writer. She enjoys inspiring and informing her readers through research-backed, comprehensive health content. Shaira draws from her personal experience working with real-life patients in a hospital setting and is currently pursuing her passion in writing.

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Shaira is a licensed pharmacist (Bachelor of Pharmacy) and an experienced content writer. She enjoys inspiring and informing her readers through research-backed, comprehensive health content. Shaira draws from her personal experience working with real-life patients in a hospital setting and is currently pursuing her passion in writing.