Dong quai (Angelica sinensis), also called Chinese angelica . This Oriental medicinal herb is sometimes called the empress of herbs, or female ginseng. Dong quai grows best in such damp places as moist meadows, river banks, and mountain ravines. The leaves of dong quai resemble those of carrot, celery, or parsley and emerge from dilated sheaths surrounding a bluish-colored stem that is branched at the top. Honey scented, greenish-white flowers grow in large compound flattopped clusters and bloom from May to August.
Dong quai is one of the most extensively researched Chinese medicinal herbs. It is well known as a female remedy thought to benefit women throughout the menstrual cycle and during the transition to menopause. A recent study indicates that dong quai is a popular herbal remedy among women being treated for ovarian cancer. Dong quai has been used in China for thousands of years to treat ailments of the female reproductive system and as a tonic herb to treat fatigue, mild anemia, high blood pressure and poor circulation in both men and women.
Research in the United States indicates that dong quai has no demonstrable estrogen-like effect on menopausal women when it is used alone. However, other research has shown that dong quai, when used in combination with other herbs, resulted in a reduction of the severity of hot flashes, vaginal dryness, insomnia, and mood changes. Dong quai should not be regarded as a replacement for natural estrogen. Its unique mechanism of action reportedly promotes the synthesis of natural progesterone, a hormone whose production declines during menopause. Dong quai’s ability to relieve menstrual problems has been attributed to its muscle relaxing properties and its ability to quiet spasms in the internal organs. Dong quai has a tonic effect on all female reproductive organs and increases blood flow to the uterus. It acts to increase vaginal secretions and to nourish vaginal tissue. Dong quai root’s analgesic properties help diminish uterine pain and have been found to be as much as 1.7 times as effective as aspirin.
Research in China indicates that dong quai stimulates production of the red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. Its sedative properties relieve emotional distress and irritability. It is used to treat mild anemia and as a liver tonic. The herb is beneficial to the endocrine and circulatory systems, promoting healthful blood circulation. Its laxative properties ease constipation, particularly in the elderly. This beneficial herb has also been proven effective against certain fungi, such as Candida albicans, the primary cause of vaginal yeast infection. Dong quai also helps to dissolve blood clots. Dong quai contains high amounts of vitamin E, iron, cobalt, and other vitamins and minerals important to women, including niacin, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and B12. The plant contains numerous
The medicinal part of the angelica plant is the root. Dong quai root can be prepared as an infusion or decoction, tincture, tablet, or capsule. It is also available dried, either whole, diced, or sliced. The herb is nontoxic, but recent findings suggest caution in using it over an extended period of time. The dried root may be chewed in quarter inch segments two to three times daily, up to three to four grams per day. Infusion or decoction: Research indicates that extracts of dong quai that retain the volatile constituents act to raise blood pressure and relax uterine muscles. An infusion of the root, steeped in hot water, retains the volatile constituents and is useful to treat dysmenorrhea and to quiet uterine spasm. For amenorrhea, where stimulation of the uterine muscles is sought, a decoction is the indicated.