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Women's Health

Dong Quai 

Botanical name(s):

Angelica archangelica. Family: Umbelliferae

Other name(s):

angelica, Chinese angelica, Japanese angelica

General description

Dong quai is a fragrant perennial or biennial plant. It has greenish-white flowers. It is 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. 

Unsubstantiated claims

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 is 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.

Dosing format

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.

Dong quai has a stimulant effect on the gastrointestinal tract. Talk to your healthcare provider before using it if you have a chronic intestinal disease. These can include diverticulitis or irritable bowel.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding shouldn’t use dong quai.

People who take the blood thinner warfarin shouldn’t use dong quai. Doing so may increase the risk of bleeding. 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.

Online Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Godsey
Online Medical Reviewer: Diane Horowitz MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2019
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