Dong Quai: Herbal Remedies


©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Dong quai, also called Angelica, helps prevent blood clotting and serves as an anti-inflammatory.

Dong Quai, also know as Angelica, and as dang gui, tang kuei, and tang kwei, received its name, according to legend, after an angel revealed herself to a medieval European monk and taught him the medicinal virtues of angelica. Angelica sinensis, commonly called dong quai, is native to China and has been used there as a medicine for thousands of years.

This herbal remedy botanical, taken primarily from the root (however also sometimes the leaves, stem and seeds are used as a confection and flavoring agent) is now commonly used in North America as well.

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Dong quai has a faint aniselike flavor; that's why the seed oil is sometimes extracted and used as a flavoring. (The leaves of the European species, Angelica archangelica, flavor the liqueur Benedictine.) Dong quai preparations are readily available in health food stores and many regular grocery stores, and can be used to treat certain gynecologic issues.

Uses for Dong Quai

Dong quai is used primarily to treat menstrual complaints, such as menstrual pain and scanty menstruation. Studies have shown that dong quai is useful in treating other gynecologic complaints as well, including premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and menstrual problems such as cramping and irregular cycles.

Though dong quai does not actually contain steroids or hormone molecules, one of its constituents is coumarin. Coumarin is most widely known for its use in preventing blood clotting, but constituents related to it may have numerous actions. Coumarin compounds have an anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic effect, especially on the uterus.

Dong quai also contains ferulic acid, a pain reliever and muscle relaxer. Indeed, the herb is often used to treat painful menstrual cramps or other cases of uterine spasms. Oddly enough, several studies have shown that dong quai acts as a muscle relaxant overall, but before it relaxes the uterus, it stimulates the uterus briefly. The uterus is a muscle, and when dong quai stimulates it, its tone improves and it becomes tight and contracts more readily.

All muscles function better when they are well toned, and the uterus is no exception. A well-toned, strong, healthy uterus is less prone to cramps and muscle spasms. In addition to relaxing the uterus, ferulic acid also may relax the heart muscles, lower blood pressure, and calm cardiac arrhythmias (a variation in the normal rhythm of the heartbeat).

Studies also cite dong quai's effectiveness in treating allergies and respiratory complaints. Several chemical agents in dong quai may have an antihistamine and antiserotonin effect. Histamine, serotonin, and other substances are released from blood cells in response to something that irritates the body -- such as pollen, dust, chemical fumes, or animal dander -- and causes the symptoms we associate with allergies. An antihistamine curbs these symptoms, thus explaining dong quai's reported anti-allergy effects.

In the next section, you will learn how to prepare dong quai for herbal remedies and some of the potentially dangerous side effects.

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This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies.   Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.

Preparations and Warnings for Dong Quai

Like all herbs, there are some precautions you should take before using dong quai medicinally.

Dong Quai Preparations and Doseage

A close American relative of dong quai is garden angelica, Angelica archangelica. You can prepare a candied treat from its stems.

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Slice the hollow stems into thin strips. Immerse them in boiling water for three to five minutes. Remove and quickly plunge them into ice-cold water for several minutes. Spread the slices on a paper towel to dry for several hours.

Dip each slice in a bowl containing whipped egg white and lemon juice, and transfer to a sheet of wax paper. Sprinkle each slice with sugar and allow the egg white to absorb it. Flip the slices over and repeat. Continue sprinkling sugar every few hours until the egg white is saturated with sugar and begins to crystallize.

Transfer to a clean sheet of wax paper and store in a small, covered container. These treats will keep indefinitely. Eat them as is or use them to decorate frosted cakes and cookies.

Dong Quai Precautions and Warnings

Because dong quai dilates the blood vessels and improves circulation in the uterus, regular use can sometimes make menstrual flow heavier -- in China, dong quai is called a "blood mover." Many herbalists recommend stopping the use of dong quai during the actual menstrual period in women prone to heavy flow or if heavy bleeding is a concern. These women can use a separate formula, such as cramp bark or cinnamon bark, during their menstrual period and dong quai during the rest of the cycle.

Do not use dong quai if you take blood-thinning or high blood pressure medication. Also avoid during pregnancy.

Side Effects of Dong Quai

Dong quai is considered quite safe, though it may make some people's skin more sensitive to sunlight. You should avoid prolonged sun exposure while using dong quai preparations.

To learn more about treating common medical conditions at home, try the following links:

Jennifer Brett, N.D. is director of the Acupuncture Institute for the University of Bridgeport, where she also serves on the faculty for the College of Naturopathic Medicine. A recognized leader in her field with an extensive background in treating a wide variety of disorders utilizing nutritional and botanical remedies, Dr. Brett has appeared on WABC TV (NYC) and on Good Morning America to discuss utilizing herbs for health.This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies.   Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.