Dong Quai: Popular Ingredient For Many Herbal Remedies

Written by - Reviewed by Consumer Health Digest Team

Published: Oct 10, 2013 | Last Updated: Mar 13, 2019

What is Dong Quai?

Dong quai is an herb that is native to Korea, Japan and China. The root of this herb has medicinal properties and has been used to treat a variety of conditions. Dong quai is available in a wide range of forms, including the raw root, a liquid extract and as a capsule or tablet. Dong quai has been a core treatment ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. It has been used in combination with other herbs to treat a wide range of symptoms and diseases. It is also believed to have properties that give the body energy and restore the health of the blood. In this tradition, the unhealthy condition of the blood is responsible for a wide range of diseases from minor ones like fatigue, to chronic conditions. The blood thinning property of dong quai seems to be the main function that helps the blood to flow more smoothly.

How Effective is It?

Dong Quai

The effectiveness of dong quai as a treatment has not been scientifically and clinically proven. There have been a number of research studies that have tested the effectiveness of this herb on animals. And these seem to have yielded positive results on the effectiveness of dong quai in hormone related and blood related conditions. However, these results do not necessarily translate to humans. Other research studies that have run tests on dong quai on humans have used this herb in conjunction with a number of other herbs. Therefore, it is not possible to ascertain which of the herbs produced the reported results. Hence, it is not possible to make conclusive statements about the effectiveness of dong quai.

How Does Dong Quai Work?

Because of the small number of clinical studies on humans involving dong quai, researchers are not quite sure how this herb works. It is, however, believed to have blood thinning properties which help the blood flow easier in the body. There have been contradicting reports about the presence of estrogen-like components in dong quai, and how these work in the body.

Why People use Dong Quai?

Traditional Chinese medicine has been using dong quai for centuries to treat a variety of ailments. It is believed that the different sections of the dong quai root have distinct medicinal properties. The tip of the root is believed to eliminate blood stagnation. This is a problem where the blood does not flow smoothly, or as it should. According to traditional Chinese medicine, blood stagnation is a root cause of many diseases, including thrombosis, hemorrhage and tissue changes. The main part of the root is said to have tonic properties, this means that it gives energy or vigor. The head or top part of the root is believed to have anticoagulant activity, that means it slows down or inhibits the clotting of blood.

Who Should not Take Dong Quai?

Women who are pregnant should not take dong quai because it may contract the uterus. This can possibly lead to a miscarriage. Furthermore, this herb should not be used by nursing mothers as this may be passed on to the nursing baby. The safely of dong quai in children has not been established. If you suffer from chronic diarrhea or have a problem with abdominal bloating, you should avoid using dong quai. It is advised that people with a high risk of hormone-related cancers should avoid dong quai because the effects of the estrogen in dong quai has not been identified.

People who have known allergies or sensitivities to dong quai, or who have allergies or sensitivities to any other plant in the same family (that is Umbelliferae or Apiaceae) should avoid taking dong quai. Plants in the same family as dong quai include carrots, parsley, dill, anise and celery.

How should I take Dong Quai?

The recommended dosage will usually depend on the form of dong quai being used. If you are using the dried herb, it can either be boiled in water or soaked in wine before taking the water or the wine orally. Dong quai can also be taken as a capsule (powdered dong quai) or a tablet. This is usually about 500mg, and patients can take it up to six times a day. The herb is also available in liquid form. In Japan and China, this can be administered using an injection in a hospital. The injection option should not be used at home. Another liquid form, tincture, can be taken orally. Dong quai is also available as a cream for application on the skin.

Dong Quai Effect On Menopausal Symptoms

In traditional Chinese medicine, dong quai has been used for centuries to treat menopausal symptoms and other female conditions like menstrual cramps and irregular bleeding. The herb has usually been used in combination with a variety of other herbs for a comprehensive treatment regime. Unfortunately, there has been no research evidence that supports the effectiveness of dong quai in alleviating menopausal symptoms. There has been one clinical study that investigated the effect of dong quai alone (without the use of other herbs) in the treatment of menopausal symptoms. The result of this study was that dong quai did not have any effect in treating these symptoms. Larger, well-designed studies are necessary in order to prove the efficacy of dong quai in treating menopausal symptoms.

Does Dong Quai have any Side Effects and Safety Concerns?

If taken in large quantities, Dong Quai can make your skin more sensitive to exposure to the sun. As a result, it may cause rashes and inflammation on the skin. Make sure to use sunscreen or stay out of the sun when taking this herb. Furthermore, if you have any allergies listed earlier in this article, avoid using dong quai. Reported allergic reactions to dong quai have included skin rashes and an asthma attack after inhaling the powdered form of dong quai.

Medicinal Uses and Indications

Although it is used primarily in conjunction with other herbal remedies, dong quai is a popular option for female related problems. It is known as “female ginseng” because of its association with female-related conditions. Some of the medicinal uses of dong quai include menstrual cramps, pelvic pain associated with gynecological disorders, recovery of a mother after childbirth, very low or absent menstrual flow and menopausal symptoms.

Dong Quai Precautions and Warnings

Dong quai has sometimes been used to thin the blood and counter conditions like high blood pressure. As a result, it may interact with medications and herbs that have the same effect. While taking dong quai, ensure that you are not taking blood thinner medications like aspirin, as this will raise your risk of bleeding.

Furthermore, because dong quai has estrogen-like properties, it may interact with hormone medications. These medications include hormone replacement therapy, birth control pills or tamoxifen.

As is the case with most Chinese herbs, there are different levels of quality of dong quai. If the dong quai purchased is of a low quality, it may be contaminated with a variety of substances, including prescription drugs and heavy metals, which could have detrimental and unexpected side effects. This is caused by the dangerous effect of mixing herbs, the existence of heavy metals or mixing an herb with prescription medication. Liquid variations of dong quai can also be contaminated with alcohol.

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