Dong Quai – #1 Woman’s Herb of Chinese Medicine
Angelica sinensis, or Dong Quai (also spelled Dang Qui, Tang Kuei, and a variety of other ways) has long been used it Chinese medicine, particularly by women. For this reason, it has earned the nickname the “Female Ginseng.”
The Chinese characters for Dong quai means that “a husband shall return back to his wife,” which speaks to its efficacy in supporting health and sexuality.* One of the classic texts of Chinese medicine, The Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica has said of it that “It is all but indispensable for any woman’s disease.”*
This is why it makes up one of the main components of our Athena Woman’s Formula.
The #1 Blood Builder of Chinese Medicine
This root supports the building of blood within the human body and has been used in cases of anemia.
- Improves Red Blood Cell Count*[1,2]
- Improves Hemoglobin*
- Enhances Hematopoietic Growth Factors, a group of hormone-like substances that help promote blood cell growth and bone marrow proliferation.*[1,2]
- Increased Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) which increased capillary network, thus bringing more blood and oxygen to all areas of the body.*
- Protects Vascular Endothelial Cells*
- High in iron and cobalt, thus helps with iron-deficient anemia*
- Used by athletes for enhancing blood supply and sports-induced anemia*
- Traditionally used after injuries or surgery to support healing*
- Aids in circulation and detoxification of the blood, supporting beauty of the skin*
Furthermore, in Chinese Medicine, blood is not just the blood, but a more condensed form of Qi.
Dong Quai for Menstrual Health and Fertility*
Dang quai is especially for women with no or scant menstrual flow.[6,7]* This includes:
- Menstrual irregularities
- Delayed menstruation
- Light or slow starting menstruation
- Amenorrhea (absent menstruation)
- Cramping (Butylidenephthalide displays antispasmodic activity in vitro.)
- Assists in other PMS symptoms as it has some pain-relieving and muscle-relaxant properties*
It is considered one of the best herbs for helping restore natural fertility.* For women that have gotten off of birth control, dong quai can assist in getting back to a normal cycle.*
It is also considered a Uterine Tonic. Traditionally it has been used for stagnation in this area, which would include PCOS, endometriosis, ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids.*
Dong Quai for Menopause
Dong Quai has a reputation for helping many women with various symptoms of menopause and perimenopause.* The Kupperman index lists a number of these:
- Hot flashes
- Paresthesia (burning or prickling sensation in the skin)
- Sleeping issues
- Depressive mood
- Joint pain
- Heart palpitations
While many women have found relief by using dong quai, the one double-blind, placebo-controlled trial on this, showed no significant difference compared to the placebo group. This could be because of the quality of the extract used, or a number of other possible reasons. Hopefully, another trial will be done soon.
How the components of this root interact with hormones is not completely clear. In human trials with women, dong quai supplementation has not shown any change in hormone levels. But in vitro, or cell, studies possible estrogenic effects are seen. As with all herbs, it contains many different compounds, no one of which is responsible for its action. Contains:
- Polysaccharides (including APS-1a and APS-3a)
- Ferulic acid
- Senkyunolide I & H
- Coniferyl ferulate
Not Just for Women
Despite its strong reputation as a female herb, dong quai can be great for men too. It may be especially interesting to athletes of all ages.
The hormone and sexual effects of dong quai can benefit men too. For instance, the ferulic acid found inside has been shown to help improve sperm quality.*
Some other benefits that will help both sexes include:
- Supporting Cartilage Repair*
- Protective of Neurotoxicity*
- Supporting Mood*
While known for helping assist in fertility, it should not be taken by pregnant women. (Dong quai supports uterine contractions and is implicated in miscarriage).
It is untested in lactating women, so to be on the safe side it should be avoided.
As a blood builder, it should also be avoided by women with heavy menstrual bleeding.
Because the estrogenic activity is unclear, to be on the safe side, women with breast, ovarian or uterine cancer, and men with prostate cancer should avoid dong quai.
Lastly, it may slow blood clotting so be wary of combining it with any blood thinning medication.