What is it?
Dong quai is used for menstrual cramps, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and menopausal symptoms. It is also used orally as a "blood purifier"; to manage hypertension, infertility, joint pain, ulcers, "tired blood" (anemia), and constipation; and in the prevention and treatment of allergic attacks. Dong quai is also used orally for the treatment of loss of skin color (depigmentation) and psoriasis.
Some men apply dong quai to the skin of the penis as part of a multi-ingredient preparation for treating premature ejaculation.
In Southeast Asia, other Angelica species are sometimes substituted for dong quai (Angelica sinensis). Most often these include Angelica acutiloba, which is predominantly found in Japan; and Angelica gigas, which is mainly found in Korea. Although these three species are similar, the chemicals they contain are different. Don't think of these species as interchangeable.
How effective is it?
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
The effectiveness ratings for DONG QUAI are as follows:
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...
- Heart disease. Early research suggests that injecting a specific product containing dong quai, ginseng, and astragalus (Yi-qi Huo-xue Injection) intravenously (by IV) reduces chest pain, improves heart function, and increases exercise tolerance in people with heart disease.
- Stroke. Early research suggests that injecting 200 mL of solution containing dong quai intravenously (by IV) for 20 days does not improve brain function in people who had a stroke due to a blocked blood flow to the brain.
- Menopausal symptoms. The effect of dong quai on menopausal symptoms is unclear. In a study evaluating dong quai, it was found to have no beneficial effect on menopausal symptoms. However, in some studies evaluating products containing dong quai and other ingredients hot flashes were decreased.
- Migraine. Early research suggests that taking a combination of soy, dong quai, and black cohosh for 24 weeks reduces migraines associated with menstruation.
- Problems during pregnancy. Early research suggests that taking a combination of dong quai, motherwort, white peony, Banks' rose, and Ligustica during pregnancy reduces the risk of having a miscarriage in pregnant women with maternal-fetal blood group incompatibility.
- High blood pressure arteries carrying blood from the heart to the lungs (pulmonary hypertension). Early research suggests that injecting 250 mL of a dong quai solution intravenously (by IV) for up to 10 days reduces pressure and improves blood flow in people with pulmonary hypertension.
- Premature ejaculation. Early research shows that applying a cream contain dong quai and other herbs might improve premature ejaculation. The other herbs included in the cream are Panax ginseng root, Cistanches deserticola, Zanthoxyl species, Torlidis seed, clove flower, Asiasari root, cinnamon bark, and toad venom (SS Cream).
- Painful menstrual periods (dysmenorrhea).
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
- High blood pressure.
- Joint aches and pains.
- Skin discoloration and psoriasis.
- Other conditions.
How does it work?
Are there safety concerns?
Dong quai can cause skin to become extra-sensitive to the sun. This might put you at greater risk for skin cancer. Wear sun block outside, especially if you are light-skinned.
Taking dong quai in large amounts for a long period of time is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. Dong quai contains chemicals that are considered to be cancer-causing (carcinogens).
Special precautions & warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Taking dong quai by mouth during pregnancy is POSSIBLY UNSAFE for the baby. Dong quai seems to affect the muscles of the uterus. There is also one report linking an herbal combination that contained dong quai with birth defects in a baby whose mother took the combination during the first three months of pregnancy. Don't use dong quai if you are pregnant.
There isn't enough information about the safety of using dong quai during breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and don't use it.
Bleeding disorders. Dong quai might slow blood clotting. In theory, dong quai might increase the risk of bruising and bleeding in people with bleeding disorders.
Hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids: Dong quai might act like estrogen. If you have any condition that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, don't use dong quai.
Protein S deficiency: People with protein S deficiency have an increased risk of forming blood clots. There is some concern that dong quai might increase the risk of clot formation in these people because it has some of the effects of estrogen. Don't use dong quai if you have protein S deficiency.
Surgery: Dong quai can slow blood clotting. It might increase the risk of bleeding during and after surgery. Stop taking dong quai at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Are there interactions with medications?
- Warfarin (Coumadin)
- Warfarin (Coumadin) is used to slow blood clotting. Dong quai can also slow blood clotting. Taking dong quai along with warfarin (Coumadin) can increase the chances of bruising and bleeding. Be sure to have your blood checked regularly. The dose of your warfarin (Coumadin) might need to be changed.
- Dong quai might act like the hormone estrogen. When taken together, dong quai might increase the risk for side effects.
- Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs)
- Dong quai might slow blood clotting. Taking dong quai along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.
Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.
Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?
- Black Pepper
- Taking black pepper with dong quai might increase the absorption of some of the chemicals contain in dong quai such as ferulic acid.
- Herbs and supplements that might slow blood clotting
- Dong quai might slow blood clotting. Using dong quai along with other herbs that slow blood clotting might increase the risk of bleeding and bruising in some people. These herbs include angelica, clove, danshen, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, panax ginseng, poplar, red clover, willow, and others.
Are there interactions with foods?
- There are no known interactions with foods.
What dose is used?
- For menopausal symptoms: 15 chewable tablets of a specific combination product containing dong quai and chamomile (Climex) daily for 12 weeks. A combination formula containing American ginseng, black cohosh, dong quai, milk thistle, red clover, and vitex agnus-castus (Phyto-Female Complex) twice daily for 3 months. 500 mg of an herbal combination product containing burdock root, licorice root, motherwort, dong quai, and Mexican wild yam root three times daily for 3 months.
- For early orgasm in men (premature ejaculation): a multi-ingredient cream preparation containing Panax ginseng root, dong quai, Cistanches deserticola, Zanthoxyl species, Torlidis seed, clove flower, Asiasari root, cinnamon bark, and toad venom (SS Cream) was applied to the glans penis 1 hour before sex and washed off immediately before sex.
To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.
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