My latest homework assignment…
Dong Quai or Radix Angelicae sinensis is second only to ginseng in the Chinese herbal pharmacopoeia. Though it is used for both men and women, it is most known as the female ginseng. As dong quai is most know for its use in treating women’s health conditions. Common Names for Dong Quai are: angelica root, Chinese angelica, dang gui, tang kuie, and root of the holy ghost (wholehealthmd.com), (mayoclinic.com), (Teeguarden, 1984; 85). Dong Quai is a member of the Apiaceae or Umbelliferae family which also includes the more commonly known foods – carrots, celery and parsley.
The root of the Dong quai plant is used exclusively. Dong quai works on the following systems in the body: cardiovascular, digestive, uterine (Teeguarden, 1984; 86-87), immune (webmd.com) and nervous (mayoclinic.com). It’s action is sweet, pungent, slightly bitter, acrid and warm and is primarily used as a blood tonic (Teeguarden, 1984; 85).
Dong quai is a blood tonic used to counteract blood deficiencies, pallid skin and fatigue by promoting red blood cell formation. It’s anti coagulant and anti platelet properties lends itself to treating cardiovascular conditions, hypertension, headaches and promoting blood circulation. As an anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic, it is also used for asthma, arthritis, traumatic injuries, reducing menstrual cramps, alleviating intestinal distress and relieving constipation (raintree.com).
Dong quai is commonly used for women to regulate the menstrual cycle, alleviate pelvic pain, and aid in delivery and recovery from child birth (mayoclinic.com), (Teeguarden, 1984; 86-7). As a calmative, it is useful in addressing PMS and insomnia. In combination with chasteberry it is said to reduce the pain of endometriosis (wholehealthmd.com). Dong quai ‘s anti microbial and anti fungal qualities lends itself to treating infections with immune enhancing abilities (raintree.com), (Murray, 1995; 47). Donq quai has also been found to help the liver utilize oxygen so has been used for treating hepatitis and cirrhosis (raintree.com).
The effectiveness of Dong quai to reduce the symptoms of menopause has been mixed. There are some studies that have disputed dong quai’s phytoestrogenic properties (raintree.com), (healthnotes.com).
Dong quai is made up of many compounds.
The main constituents are coumarins (anti coagulant, anti bacterial, and anti fungal), phytoestrogens, essential oils, flavonoids, calcium channel blockers, vitamin B12, nictonic acid, folic acid, vitamin A, vitamin E, and sucrose (Murray, 1995; 44-46), (wholehealthmd.com), (Teeguarden, 1984; 86).
Contraindications for dong quai are as follows: pregnancy, breast feeding, NSAIDS, blood thinning medications or medications that have anticoagulant side effects, diarrhea, stomach ulcers, bleeding disorders. In people with fair skin, dong quai can cause photosensitivity (wholehealthmd.com). It is also recommended that use should be discontinued prior to major dental work or surgery (mayoclinic.com). Prolonged use may also cause gastrointestinal distress. In addition, per the rules of Chinese herbal medicine, any tonic herb such is dong quai should not be used when suffering from any acute illnesses such as a cold or flu (Teeguarden, 1984; 77).
The active part of the dong quai plant is the root. There are three parts of the root, which have differing effects, but the whole root is generally used (Teeguarden, 1984; 86). The raw root can be eaten but are more readily available dried in the United States. Dried roots can be used whole or sliced to make a soup or tea. Powdered root can be taken in capsules. Tinctures and extracts are also made in alcohol and non-alcohol bases.
According to Ron Teeguarden, a noted authority on Chinese herbal medicine, the best delivery method is to make a soup with the roots using chicken stock. Making a soup or tea from the whole root or slices is more in keeping with the Chinese tradition and the whole food model. However due to natural variations a standardized dose may not be attainable. The key is to purchase the highest quality roots from a reputable source. Liquid forms such as tinctures and extracts from sources that are standardized and are third party tested may be a more desirable method.
Therapeutic use and Dosage
The below doses may not apply to all brands. Read product labels before starting therapy. According to mayoclinic.com 1 gram of 100% dong quai extract is equal to 4 grams of fresh dong quai root.
For menstrual disorders, migraine headaches, coronary artery disease, arthritis, nerve pain, hypertension, menopausal symptoms, etc (mayoclinic.com).
Dried Root, slices, powder: 1 to 5 grams three times per day
Fluid Extract/Tincture: 3 to 8 ml extract (1:2) or 10 to 40 drops tincture (1:5 in 50-70% alcohol three times per day
Decoction: 1 t to 1 T of cut root in 1 cup of water simmered for 2 to 5 minutes then removed from heat to let stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Drink one to three cups of tea per day.
For menstrual disorders, menopausal symptoms, smooth muscle spasm, enhancing immune system during cancer therapy (Murray, 1995; 48-49)
Dried Root or as a tea: 1 – 2 grams
Tincture (1:5): 4 ml
Fluid Extract (1:1): 1 ml
For PMS, menstrual cramps, irregular menses, menopausal symptoms (wholehealthmd.com).
Capsules: 200mg/ day, three times per day
Extract: 30 drops (1.5 ml) in two-three divided doses per day
As a blood tonic (Teeguarden, 1984; 88).
Simmer 1 root plus 6 chinese red jujubes with 3 cups water until there is 1 cup of liquid. Drink in two divided doses for 3 days. Or make a chicken soup with 3 roots and drink over 4 days.
The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any diseases.
Murray, Michael. The Healing Power of Herbs. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1995
Teeguarden, Ron. Chinese Tonic Herbs. Tokyo and New York: Japan Publications, Inc., 1984
Beinfield, Harriet and Korngold, Efrem. Between Heaven and Earth. New York: Ballantine Books, 1991
Murray, Michael. Natural Alternatives to Over-the-Counter & Prescription Drugs. New York: Quill William Morrow, 1994