Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis)
Dong Quai, also known as Chinese Angelica, is one of the most popular herbs used today for treating female conditions, both in China and America. In traditional Chinese medicine, Dong Quai is often referred to as the "female ginseng." The Dong Quai plant is typically harvested after the plant is three years old. Dong quai has been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Native American medicine for centuries. The plant is related to both parsley and celery and is most commonly used to treat cramps and pain during menstruation as well as to ease some of the symptoms of menopause (hot flashes, night sweats). Dong quai is frequently referred to as “female ginseng” to suggest its “balancing” or adaptogenic effect on the menstrual period.
Rich in niacin and vitamin E, Don Quai is a good source of iron, cobalt and essential oils. Popular for regulating menstruation, Dong Quai is beneficial for promoting blood flow to the reproductive organs, relieving menstrual cramps, regulating uterine contractions, and alleviating some symptoms related to menopause. A large part of its actions with regard to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) may be related to its antispasmodic actions, particularly on smooth muscies. Other uses for Dong Quai are to increase the absorption of oxygen by the liver and purify the blood, therefore nourishing the brain, heart, and spleen. Dong Quai may also be used to boost metabolism, reduce cholesterol, aid digestion, and relieve pain caused by arthritis. Ligustilide, butylene phthalide and butyl phthalide are found in the volatile aromatic oil of this herb, while ferulic acid and various polysaccharides are found in the non-aromatic fractions. Dong Quai has an immediate and stimulating effect on the uterus, especially during pregnancy or delivery. It is a blood tonic, promoting its production and circulation. It is therefore used in treating anemia, boils, headache, venous problems, low immunity, and problems of peripheral blood flow.
Dong Quai is known as a tonic herb for women and is used by women in the treatment of female disorders such as premenstrual syndrome, menstrual cramps and to help them with menopause. Especially in combination with other herbs, dong quai is very effective for menopausal and menstrual difficulties. Chinese women have used this herb to regulate the menstrual cycle for centuries. Women who are going off birth control pills can use it to help re-establish regular menstrual cycles. It is given to women after birthing to help prevent postpartum bleeding and to build strength.
Researchers have identified several coumarin derivatives that are known to act as antispasmodics and vasodilators. Dong Quai's key ingredients include Ligustilide, butylene phthalide and butyl phthalide found in the aromatic oil. Ferulic acid and various polysaccharides are found in the non-aromatic fractions. Research suggests that both ferulic acid and ligustilide are responsible for preventing spasms, relaxing blood vessels and reducing blood clotting in peripheral vessels.
Contrary to some theories, Donq Quai is not, in itself, a replacement for estrogen, nor does it have any hormone-like effects on the body. Its ability to relieve menstrual difficulties is thought to stem from its power to quell spasms in the internal organs. Chinese researchers have also found that Dong Quai stimulates production of the red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body, thus increasing energy and combating fatigue. Some scientists even claim that the herb contains an immune-boosting compound that could help prevent arthritis and cancer, although its effectiveness for such problems remains unproven. A type of wild celery, Dong Quai should not be confused with its European cousin, Anglica archangelica, which is used primarily to relieve digestive problems. It is the Dong Quai root that's used medicinally. Look for moist specimens with a brown outer layer and a white cross section. Avoid dry roots and those with greenish-brown cross sections.