Female Sexual Health
This potent women's herb has the ability to regulate oestrogen levels - whether they're too high or too low - strengthening the uterus, improving uterine tone and regulating the menstrual cycle.
Dong Quai is also a blood tonic in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and has been shown to improve red blood cell counts which is helpful after menstruation has ended as the blood is replenished more rapidly. It increases blood flow to the reproductive system, reducing congestion and pain; it is traditionally used for situations of stagnation such as PCOS, endometriosis, ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids.
Dong Quai is usually prescribed in conjunction with other herbs in TCM to treat symptoms of the menopause. A recent randomised, placebo controlled study examining the effects of Dong Quai combined with Chamomile, found a significant difference in the relief of hot flashes, insomnia and fatigue between the treatment and placebo groups. The researchers concluded that treatment of menopausal symptoms was effective and without any side effects.
Especially affecting menopausal and post-menopausal women, osteoporosis can be due in part to the stark drop in oestrogen levels that accompanies the menopause. Research suggests that Dong Quai helps to strengthen bones by stimulating bone cells to form bones. In an in vitro study published in 2002, Dong Quai was found to exert a bone reformation effect on human bone cells. Using Dong Quai extract on osteoblast precursor cells (an essential component involved in bone formation), the herb stimulated bone remodelling by enhancing protein secretion and collagen synthesis of bone tissue.
This versatile herb has also been found to have a gastroprotective effect, protecting the layer of mucous that covers the digestive tract from an overproduction of stomach acid. When this layer is diminished by excess stomach acid it can lead to chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. If left untreated, small tears in the stomach and small intestine will develop. These are more commonly known as peptic ulcers.
Dong Quai is a potent anti-inflammatory which can prevent these lesions from forming in the first place. Studies show that it can also prevent damage to the mucous layer in the digestive tract for up to 12 hours after ingestion.
The way Dong Quai can contribute to heart health is twofold. Firstly it contains active compounds that increase the cardiac rest period between heartbeats and relax blood pressure inside the arteries which in turn helps to increase blood flow. Research indicates that Dong Quai reduces the formation of plaque in the blood vessel walls, potentially working as a preventive agent against atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction (heart attack) and hypertension.
Secondly, Dong Quai has been found to reduce dangerous cholesterol levels and triglycerides. Decreasing cholesterol levels is an effective way to reduce the risk of heart disease and support better heart health.
Folklore and history
In traditional Chinese medicine, only Ginseng is more esteemed. It is said that in Chinese, Dong Quai means, "The husband returns back to his wife", hinting at its beneficial effect on sexual health.
As a medicinal herb, Dong Quai is known in many traditional healing systems, including Native American, Chinese, Ayurveda and Kampo medicine. It is traditionally used to treat high blood pressure, anemia, high blood sugar, poor circulation and heart disease.
Also known as “female ginseng” in the Orient, Dong Quai is often referred to as the “Empress of Herbs”. As such, it has been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat a wide range of female complaints including; amenorrhoea (absent periods), cramps and dysmenorrhoea (painful periods), menopausal symptoms, infertility, osteoporosis and anaemia.
Courmarin, Ligustilide, Ferulic acid, Z-ligustilide, Butylidenephthalide and various polysaccharides
Dong Quai contains coumarin, one of the main ingredients in blood-thinning medications like Warfarin. If you are taking Warfarin or another blood thinner, taking dong quai may increase your risk of bleeding.
For those who are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant, taking Dong Quai is not advisable and may increase the risk of miscarriage. It should also not be taken by those who are breastfeeding, taking oral birth control pills or using hormone replacement therapy.
Side effects of Dong Quai are rare, but may include difficulty breathing, bloating, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting or weakness. If you experience these or any other symptoms, you should discontinue use immediately and contact you Health Care Practitioner.