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 with greenish-white flowers. It is grown in Asia for medicinal purposes, but in the United States, it is more widely used as a food flavoring. The roots and leaves are the parts of the plant that are used medicinally.

Dong quai contains coumarins, which act as vasodilators and antispasmodic agents. One of these coumarins, osthol, stimulates the central nervous system. Other components of the root may have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Dong quai can induce photosensitivity in certain people.

Medically Valid Uses:

Currently, there are no rigorously established recommendations for the use of dong quai. 

Unsubstantiated Claims:

Please note that this section reports on claims that have NOT yet been substantiated through scientific studies.

Dong quai is claimed to be a carminative (stimulates the digestive system to work properly), anti-spasmodic, expectorant (stimulates removal of phlegm from the lungs), diuretic (increases the production and elimination of urine from the body) and diaphoretic (promotes sweating, which helps the skin eliminate waste from the body. Dong quai may help treat respiratory problems such as coughs, bronchitis and pleurisy.

Dong quai has been used in the treatment of female problems such as vaginal dryness, premenstrual syndrome, menopausal symptoms and hot flashes. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study is available that demonstrates that dong quai does not have an estrogenic effect and, therefore, probably little effect on post-menopausal symptoms. Otherwise, hard scientific literature is very sparse.

Dong quai is also claimed to ease rheumatic inflammation, act as a urinary antiseptic for cystitis, and increase the effects of ovarian and testicular hormones.

Dosing Format:

Dong quai is available as tablets and capsules, tincture, extract and essential oil. Follow packaging instructions for correct dose.

Side Effects, Toxicity and Interactions:

There is a slight possibility of developing phototoxicity because of the furocoumarins contained in dong quai. If skin rash, irritation, extreme sensitivity to the sun or sunburn develop, discontinue use of dong quai.

Because dong quai has a stimulant effect on the gastrointestinal tract, it should be avoided or used with caution if you have a chronic intestinal disease such as diverticulitis or irritable bowel.

Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should not use dong quai.

There are no significant food or drug interactions associated with dong quai.

Additional Information:

Click here for a list of reputable Web sites with general information on nutrition.

References:

  1. Harmala P, Vuorela H, Tornquist K, Hiltunen R. Choice of solvent in the extraction of Angelica archangelica roots with reference to calcium blocking activity. Planta Med. 1992;58(2):176-83.

  2. Salikhova RA, Poroshenko GG. [Antimutagenic properties of Angelica archangelica L]. Vestn Ross Akad Med Nauk. 1995;(1):58-61.

  3. Hirata JD, Swiersz LM, Zell B, Small R, Ettinger B. Does dong quai have estrogenic effects in postmenopausal women? A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Fertil Steril. 1997;68(6):981-6.

  4. Dekermendjian K, Ai J, Nielsen M, Sterner O, Shan R, Witt MR. Characterisation of the furanocoumarin phellopterin as a rat brain benzodiazepine receptor partial agonist in vitro. Neurosci Lett. 1996;219(3):151-4.

  5. Bergendorff O, Dekermendjian K, Nielsen M, et al. Furanocoumarins with affinity to brain benzodiazepine receptors in vitro. Phytochemistry. 1997;44(6):1121-4.

  6. Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C, eds. PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company; 1998.

  7. Blumenthal M, Gruenwald J, Hall T, Rister RS, eds. German Commission E Monographs. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council; 1997.

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