Angelica archangelica. Family: Umbelliferae
angelica, Chinese angelica, Japanese angelica
Dong quai is a fragrant perennial or biennial plant. It has greenish-white flowers. It's grown in Asia for medicinal purposes. In the U.S., it’s mostly used as a food flavoring. The roots and leaves are the parts of the plant that are used for medical reasons.
Dong quai contains coumarins. These act as vasodilators and antispasmodic agents. One of these coumarins stimulates the central nervous system. It’s called osthol. Other parts of the root may have anti-inflammatory and analgesic actions. Dong quai can make some people more sensitive to the sun. This is called photosensitivity.
Medically valid uses
At this time, there are no proven uses for dong quai.
There may be benefits that have not yet been proven through research.
Dong quai is used to treat female reproductive problems. These include vaginal dryness, premenstrual syndrome, menopausal symptoms, and hot flashes. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study shows that dong quai doesn’t have an estrogenic effect. This means that it likely has little effect on post-menopausal symptoms. Aside from that, there aren’t many scientific studies on dong quai.
Dong quai is available as oral tablets and capsules, tincture, extract, and essential oil. Follow the instructions on the package for the correct dose.
Side effects, toxicity, and interactions
There is a slight chance of phototoxicity due to the furocoumarins in dong quai. Symptoms can include skin rash, irritation, and extreme sensitivity to the sun or sunburn. If you develop these symptoms, stop using dong quai.
When taken with estrogens, dong quai might increase the risk of estrogenic side effects.
Dong quai has a stimulant effect on the gastrointestinal tract. Talk with your healthcare provider before using it if you have a long-term (chronic) intestinal disease. These can include diverticulitis or irritable bowel syndrome.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding shouldn’t use dong quai.
Dong quai might slow blood clotting. People who take the blood thinner warfarin shouldn’t use dong quai. Doing so may increase the risk of bleeding. Stop taking dong quai at least 2 weeks prior to undergoing surgery. Don't use dong quai with other herbs or dietary supplements that may also slow blood clotting.
Don't use dong quai if you are being treated with radiation therapy. Don't use dong quai if you have a hormone-sensitive cancer.