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Home :: Dong Quai

Dong Quai Herb Benefits and Information

Scientific Name(S): Angelica sinensis (Oliv.) Diels, synonymous with A. polymorpha var. sinensis Oliv. Family: Apiaceae (carrot family)

Common Name(S): Dong quai, danggui, tang-kuei, Chinese angelica

The term "dong quai" (a Chinese name that is sometimes transliterated tang-kuei or dang-gui) refers to a plant known either as A. polymorpha var. sinensis or simply as A. sinensis . As the name suggests, this member of the celery family comes out of the traditional Chinese pharmacopoeia.

Botany: Three species of Angelica are monographed separately in the Chinese pharmacopeia: Dong quai, the root of Angelica sinensis; Bai zi, the root of Angelica dahurica (Fisch.) Benth. et. Hook. f. or A. dahurica var. formosana (Boiss.) Shan et Yuan; and Du huo, the root of A. pubescens Maxim. f. biserrata Shan et Yuan. In Korea, A. gigas Nakai is used medicinally, while in Japan, A. acutiloba Kitagawa is used. The European A. arch­angelic L. is used to flavor liqueurs and confections. While botanically related, do not confuse the various species of Angelica, which differ in chemistry, pharmacology, and toxicology. A molecular biology study of A. acutiloba may lead to efficient methods for distinguishing raw materials.

History: Dong quai is widely used in traditional Chinese medicine and continues to be popular in China and elsewhere. It is used to treat menstrual disorders, as an analgesic in rheumatism, and used in suppressing allergy symptoms. It is promoted for similar uses in the American herb market.

Dong quai has a mildly laxative effect.

At least one of the constituents can stimulate the brain, improving alertness.

Some sources recommend dong quai for the treatment of menopausal symptoms, and women anxious to relieve hot flashes without prescription medications have turned to dong quai as one of the herbal medicines that might help.

Uses of Dong Quai

Traditionally used as an analgesic for rheumatism, an allergy suppressant, and in the treatment of menstrual disorders, dong quai has been shown to possess antiasthmatic, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, and anticoagulant properties. It has also been used to flavor liqueurs and confections.

Side Effects of Dong Quai

No reported side effects have occurred with authentic dong quai, but with A. gigas, A. dahurica, and A. pubescens, there is a very reasonable risk of phototoxicity. Angelica archangelica L. is reported to be an abortifacient and to affect the menstrual cycle. A. sinensis has uterine stimulant activity.

Dosage Information

Dong quai as a root is often ground into powder and taken in capsule or tablet form. Women usually take 3 to 4 grams per day. Strengths of commercial preparations may vary, so make sure to follow the manufacturer's directions on the label.

Interactions: The possibility of herb-drug interactions between Angelica coumarins and warfarin has been postulated and is supported by one case report, a patient stabilized on warfarin therapy experienced more than a 2-fold increase in prothrombin time and international normalized ratio 4 weeks after starting dong quai. The values returned to the therapeutic range 4 weeks after discontinuing dong quai. Monitor patients receiving warfarin.

Drug Interactions of Dong Quai :

The possibility of dong quai interactions with warfarin has been postulated and is supported by at least one report. Possible synergism with calcium channel blockers may occur.

Important Points About Dong Quai

  • Dong quai should not be used during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. It should also not be used during breast-feeding.
  • Dong quai can cause photosensitivity, so people should limit sun exposure and wear sunblock.

Toxicology: Coumarins are the focus of toxicology in Angelica. Furanocoumarins such as bergapten and psoralen have been widely studied for their photoactivated toxicity; however, only A. gigas (Korean angelica) has been demonstrated to cause photodermatitis. Clearly the risk of phototoxicity should be correlated with the content of specific toxic furocoumarins. In the case of A. sinensis, there appears to be little risk, but with A. gigas, A. dahurica, and A. pubescens, there is a very reasonable cause for caution. Possible synergism with calcium channel blockers may occur. Angelica archangelica L. is reported to be an abortifacient and to affect the menstrual cycle. A. sinensis has uterine stimulant activity.

Summary: Dong quai is monographed in the Chinese Pharmacopeia, the British Herbal Pharmacopeia (vol. 2), and by WHO (vol. 2). An American Herbal Pharmacopeia monograph is in progress.

Dong quai is a Chinese medicine used widely to treat menopause symptoms; however, convincing proof of efficacy in humans is lacking. Animal studies support anti-inflammatory, antiasthmatic, and antiallergy effects, but these observations require clinical study. Monitor the potential interaction with warfarin and other anticoagulants. Phototoxicity appears to be a problem with related species of Angelica, but not with authentic dong quai.

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