Dong Quai
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

What is Dong Quai?

One of the major herbs used in traditional Chinese herbal medicine , Angelica sinensisis closely related to European Angelica archangelica, a common garden herb and the flavoring in Benedictine and Chartreuse liqueurs. The carrot-like roots of this fragrant plant are harvested in the fall after about 3 years of cultivation and stored in airtight containers prior to processing.

Traditionally, dong quai is said to be one of the most important herbs for strengthening the xue. The Chinese term xueis often translated as "blood," but it actually refers to a complex concept in traditional Chinese medicine , of which the Western notion of blood is only a part. In the late 1800s, an extract of dong quai known as Eumenol became popular in Europe as a "female tonic," and...

Dong quai is often recommended as a treatment for menstrual cramps , premenstrual syndrome (PMS) , and other problems related to menstruation, as well as hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms . However, the scientific evidence supporting these uses is very weak, consisting primarily of test tube and animal studies , as well as a few open studies of people. 1 2 3 4 Only double-blind, placebo-controlled studies can actually show a treatment effective, and a 24-week study that compared the effects of dong quai against a placebo in 71 postmenopausal women found no benefit. 5 (For more information on why double-blind studies are so important, see Why Does This Database Rely on Double-blind Studies? )

Safety Issues

Dong quai is generally believed to be nontoxic. According to Chinese studies, which may not have been up to current scientific standards, very large amounts have been given to rats without causing harm. 6 Side effects are rare and primarily consist of mild gastrointestinal distress and occasional allergic reactions (such as rash).

Contrary to popular belief, dong quai does not appear to have estrogen-like actions. 7 However, according to an article in the Singapore Medical Journal, a 35-year-old man who used a prepared herbal formula called Dong Quai pills developed enlargement of his breasts. 8 Such enlargement would typically result if a man used estrogen. The authors of the article blamed the dong quai itself. However, a more likely explanation is...