What Is Dong Quai?

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Dong quai, also known as Angelica sinensis or Chinese angelica, is a medicinally-active root native to China, Japan and Korea. All parts of the root are used for health purposes. The various parts are believed to have different healing or medicinal qualities, including: acting as an anticoagulant (the head of the root), acting as a tonic (the main part), and eliminating blood stagnation (the end). People have been using dong quai for thousands of years. It is used extensively in Chinese medicine, primarily to treat women's health issues, including conditions pertaining to the reproductive system.

History

Dong quai has been used for thousands of years by practitioners of Chinese medicine and others. Primarily as a balm against disorders and discomfort pertaining to women's reproductive issues, it has at times been known as the "female ginseng." Although conclusive studies have yet to show whether or not there really are hormonal properties in the root, dong quai is thought to provide relief for everything from the aggravating symptoms of menopause to the discomfort of premenstrual syndrome. An extract of dong quai became popular in Europe in the 1800s to provide relief for women's reproductive issues, and was known during that time period as Eumenol.

Uses

Dong quai has been used for discomfort associated with premenstrual syndrome, menopause, recovery after childbirth, migraines associated with menstruation, amenorrhea (lack of a period), rheumatoid arthritis and nerve damage. Dong quai translates as "return to order" and is thought to return the body to a balanced and harmonized state in conjunction with other herbs.

Effects

Dong quai has not been scientifically proven to be effective for use in any of the conditions it is used for. While there have been some animal studies done, extensive human studies have been inconclusive or not extensive enough to prove the beneficial effects of dong quai. In addition, since other herbs are so often used with dong quai when used in Chinese medicine, it has been difficult to prove whether or not dong quai is exclusively responsible for the beneficial results or whether it is the other herbs, or the combination of herbs.

Misconceptions

In using dong quai, it is important to note that there is no conclusive evidence as to its estrogen or estrogen-like properties. While many thousands of people for many thousands of years have touted the hormone-like benefits of the root, the factual scientific information is incomplete at best. Definitive scientific evidence would require further study and investigation in order to give a more complete picture of the medicinal properties of dong quai.

Warning

Dong quai may cause increased bleeding due to its anticoagulant properties. When taken with other anticoagulant medication, such as blood thinners or aspirin, the increase may be significant. Since the estrogen or estrogen-blocking effects of dong quai are still not completely understood, there may be a reduced effectiveness of hormonal birth control when using dong quai, and this is something to be aware of. Dong quai may potentially increase photosensitivity so it should be avoided in conjunction with other drugs that may increase photosensitivity, such as antibiotics, antipsychotics, retinol and others. It is a good idea to consult with your physician and discuss the possible effects of using your current medication with dong quai.

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