This herb is often referred to as Chinese angelica or dong quai, pronounced ‘dong kwy’, its other common names include dang gui and tang kuei. As the Latin name ( Angelica sinensis) suggests, this herb is related to the Angelica species which are all members of the carrot family.
In its native country, China, dong quai is the next best selling herb to licorice, where millions of women are reputed to take it every day as an invigorating and blood purifying tonic. The term ‘female ginseng’ is often used by herbalists when referring to dong quai and its tonifying properties.
What is a tonic?
Dong quai – great for PMT (PMS) and menopause
In many traditional systems of healing, such as, Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), herbal tonics are considered the ‘creme de la creme’ of remedies and are highly sought-after.
Herbal tonics nourish cells, tissues, organs, in fact they feed and nourish the whole body. Being safe for long term use, herbal tonics focus on the vitality of an individual and are often used for supporting the nervous system, hormonal system and the immune system.
Christopher Hobbs, a well respected Herbalist, writes very highly of herbal tonics; “Tonics are very gentle and slow stimulants, and they provide nutrients that the body can use, such as vitamins, minerals and many other constituents like plant pigments, eg anthocyanins or flavonoids. Large quantities can be given without harm of over-stressing cells, tissues, organs or body systems. Christopher Hobbs tonic article
Uses of dong quai
I have already mentioned the tonifying effects of dong quai, this is especially true for it’s actions on the female reproductive system. It’s ability to regulate and normalise hormonal imbalances means that this herb can be extremely valuable in alleviating symptoms associated with PMT, infertility and the menopause.
Some of the chemical components of dong quai include vitamin B (nictonic acid, folic acid, vitamin B12), and vitamin A.
For menstruating women, dong quai can help:
- PMT (Pre-menstrual tension, or pre-menstrual syndrome)
- Menorrhoea (lack of menstrual flow)
- Dysmenorrhoea (painful menstruation)
- Anaemia (blood iron deficiency)
Menopause – dong quai can improve;
- Hot flushes (flashes)
- Blurred vision
- Menopause cramps
- Nerve debility (panic attacks, general nervousness)
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, dong quai is, foremost, a blood tonic used to nourish the blood and invigorate the blood circulation. The associated acupuncture meridians are the liver, heart and spleen.
Dosage of dong quai
Dried Root – one heaped teaspoon dong quai in a cup of water, gently simmered for 20 minutes, dose: half cup 3 x daily.
Fluid Extract – 10-20 drops dong quai fluid extract, 3 x daily.
Tincture – 30-60 drops (roughly 1 – 1.5 teaspoons), 3 x daily.
Raw herb (powdered whole dong quai root) 1-5 capsules, 3 x daily.
Or follow the instructions on any proprietary pack of a dong quai product being used.
Some women can feel the benefits from using dong quai almost immediately, but for others it may take much longer – as long as 4-8 weeks. This is at least the length of time that you should consider taking dong quai before giving up if symptoms do not improve. Unless, of course, symptoms worsen or a reaction to the herb is noted, in which case, you should stop taking dong quai until the reaction or symptoms have calmed and re-introduce at a much lower dose. If symptoms worsen or the reaction re-appears, stop taking the herb and consider an alternative product.
If you do benefit from dong quai, continue using it for 3-6 months, then reduce the dose by half for a few weeks. If the improvements are maintained, leave off altogether. If symptoms persist, return to the previous dosage, and continue for a further 2-3 months and try to reduce again. If symptoms keep returning, seek the help of a qualified practitioner in alternative therapy as it appears that a fundamental imbalance is not being addressed.
You may also see dong quai with other herbs in combination products. Sometimes a combination of herbs will be more effective than a single herb. There are a number of proprietary examples of formulations for women which include dong quai. You may also find dong quai combined with other traditional Chinese herbs. Find a product which works for you – either the single herb or a combination of herbs – and then continue with it for a full course of treatment.
Do not take dong quai during pregnancy; and it would be wise to avoid it when taking any other product or drug which affects the female hormone system – such as HRT or the contraceptive pill.
Dong quai can stimulate menstrual flow, therefore it is considered best to avoid its use with heavy menstrual flow or flooding.
Keeping a record of your health
As always where your health is concerned – keep a record of how you are feeling when taking a supplement such as dong quai or a dong quai combination. This will help you to monitor the success or otherwise of the supplement.
Dong quai is certainly one of the the major herbs for women. We will be covering other herbs for women in future issues.