What Is Dong Quai?
Dong quai, also called Angelica sinensis, dang gui, and female ginseng, is a popular herb used in traditional Chinese medicine. Native to China, Japan, and Korea, the root of the plant is rich in various nutrients thought to aid health, especially the balance of female hormone levels. Dong quai benefits seem to be rather far-reaching, and may help with conditions ranging from diabetes to high blood pressure.
What Are the Benefits of Dong Quai?
Although dong quai has been used for centuries, there is not a lot of convincing scientific evidence of its effects on humans. Still, considering its long held anecdotal relevance, it’s impossible to assert it lacks any effects.
Dong quai has been used in excess of 2,000 years for its potential ability to:
- Improve blood quality
- Improve blood flow (circulation)
- Control the immune system
- Alleviate pain
- Relax bowels
Dong quai should never be your primary form of treatment for any health issue. Its therapeutic effects may complement other treatments; however, any side effects of dong quai must be considered. Talk to your doctor before use.
Strong bones are essential for balance, strength, and protecting our internal organs, and can prevent conditions like osteopenia and osteoporosis. They also contribute to an independent life in older age and a lower risk of falls and fractures.
Osteoporosis disproportionately affects women due to their declining estrogen levels during menopause. Estrogen is a hormone that plays an important role in bone formation and breakdown.
Studies have shown that one of the benefits of dong quai is its potential to build up and strengthen bone cells and bone mineral density. It should be noted that these benefits were observed in lab and animal studies.
May Lower the Risk of Diabetes
Dong quai health benefits may also extend to type 2 diabetes, a common metabolic disorder plaguing America and the rest of the world. Studies on rodents have found that supplementing with dong quai decreased blood sugar levels and insulin resistance.
Insulin is the hormone that transports blood sugar to cells, and when blood insulin levels remain high over long periods of time, you can become insulin resistant. This means that sugar stays in the blood and creates health problems, namely type 2 diabetes.
Some of the symptoms of high blood sugar include frequent urination, trouble concentrating, and unquenchable thirst.
May Benefit Heart Health
Heart health is another major health concern in America, with heart disease being the biggest killer in the country. Rodent studies have shown that dong quai can ease the burden on the heart by lowering total triglycerides, total cholesterol, and “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Hard, dense pieces of LDL cholesterol are the type that accumulate on arterial walls and impede blood flow, leading to high blood pressure and increased stress on the heart to pump blood.
May Lower Inflammation
Inflammation is your body’s natural response to health problems. It’s the first step in your immune system response to clean itself and snuff out pathogens or other invaders.
But when your immune system is constantly firing, it creates an unhealthy environment known as chronic inflammation. This type of inflammation is thought to be at the root of most major diseases, like heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes.
Both lab tests and animal tests have indicated that dong quai can reduce inflammatory markers, meaning it can potentially fight chronic inflammation.
Benefits of Dong Quai on Menopause
As mentioned, dong quai may help strengthen bones both during and after menopause, but it might have even more benefits for menopausal women. Numerous studies suggest that dong quai may help ease symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, hair loss, and night sweats.
German and Italian studies have shown impressive results of dong quai’s potential to regulate estrogen levels to reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes and other common symptoms.
Promotes Healthy Blood Circulation
There is research showing that dong quai extract may help improve circulation and relieve pain. Its benefits in this regard have been demonstrated through studies indicating it can decrease fatty tissue and cholesterol to ease blood flow.
Potential Benefits for Cancer Treatment
Some lab tests have shown that dong quai extracts are able to halt cell reproduction and kill cancerous cells. This effect on cancer cells, however, has conflicting results when a larger sample size of studies is reviewed.
May Aid Menstrual Cramping
Supplementing with dong quai may provide some relief to women with painful menstrual cramps. A 2004 study indicated that women taking two daily doses of concentrated dong quai experienced some pain relief.
Thirty-nine percent of participants reported enough improvement that they no longer needed painkillers, while 54% said that although pain was less severe, they still needed painkillers to perform daily tasks.
Dong Quai Side Effects
Like any supplement or medicine, dong quai has benefits and side effects. But because it is not regulated by the FDA, these effects aren’t easy to pinpoint. Dosages, types, and interactions with other substances aren’t entirely understood, although some side effects and potentially harmful interactions have been noted.
Dong quai can enhance blood-thinning medications like warfarin and natural blood thinners like ginger, ginko, and garlic. If you are taking any of these products, talk to your doctor about adjusting dosages, or avoid taking dong quai altogether.
Pregnant women, women who are planning to become pregnant, breastfeeding women, and those who are undergoing hormone therapy or taking birth control pills should also avoid dong quai.
Dang qui is part of the carrot family, so people with allergies to the following plants should also avoid it:
Other side effects may include:
- Trouble breathing
- Drop in blood pressure
- Higher risk of bleeding
- Low blood sugar
- Upset stomach
- Trouble sleeping
- Vision loss
How to Use Dong Quai
Like most medicinal Chinese herbs, dong quai can be found in multiple forms, including:
- Raw roots, twigs, leaves, and berries
- Granular form (can be mixed in boiled water)
- Pills, either alone or mixed with other ingredients
- Dried form (to be boiled and strained as tea or soup)
Dong quai is rarely taken on its own and is usually combined with other herbs to work together. Herbs are usually prescribed on an individual basis, so it’s best to visit a herbal practitioner to get the combination and dosages right for you.
Can Dong Quai Help You?
Donq quai’s benefits might help you maintain good health or ease the symptoms of certain conditions you may be experiencing, but it’s not recommended as a primary treatment. Work with a herbalist to see how, and if, it can help you. Also talk to your doctor to ensure you won’t be putting your current treatments at risk.
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