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Dong Quai

Dong Quai

Dong Quai Angelica sinensis

Dong quai is a member of the Umbelliferae family, a botanical group that also includes carrots, parsley, dill and celery. The plant features delicate, clustered heads of small, fragrant flowers and stringy, brownish roots with a pungent taste. Dong quai is native to the northwestern Chinese province of Gansu and it also grows wild in mountainous areas of China, Korea and Japan.

Dong quai has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 2000 years. Traditionally, dong quai was used for anaemia and is recommended to reinforce the ‘qi’ (or vital energy) and ‘nourish blood’ (improve body circulation.) The herb is sometimes called “female ginseng” and used as a tonic for those with low vitality, fatigue, pelvic pain and irregular menstrual cycles. Ayurvedic doctors also prescribe it for gynaecological conditions, arthritis and abdominal pain as well as for colds and flu. The European angelica (archangelica) has a long and magical history to cure headache, promote relaxation and longevity and curiously, to protect against poisons and witch’s spells. This variety is now commonly used for digestive disorders.

Dong quai (sinensis) is used effectivley in modern herbalism to treat all manner of female health concerns as it promotes uterine health and regulates the menstrual cycle. It is an important tonic for mentrual difficulty and premenstrual symptoms such as breast swelling, tenderness, mood swings, bloating and headache as well as various menopausal  symptoms such as hot flushes. To help with menopausal difficulty, dong quai is best used in synergy with other herbs such as chaste tree berry, red clover, wild yam and black cohosh. In this way, night sweats and insomnia for women undergoing natural menopausal changes can be effectively addressed. Researchers in clinical trials studied the consumption of dong quai with chamomile to help with hot flushes during menopause. Results showed the study group had a reduction in the number and intensity of hot flushes and they experienced better sleep and less fatigue.

Some researchers contend that active ingredients called coumarins are responsible for its effectiveness. Coumarins dilate blood vessels, stimulating the central nervous system and increasing blood flow throughout the body. Dong quai is also used to support other conditions such as male sexual health, heart health, digestive health and bone health, among others. Dong quai is believed to have a gastro-protective effect that helps the body protect the gut from the overproduction of stomach secretions. When stomach acid erodes the digestive tract, it can lead to chronic inflammation and the development of peptic ulcers. Dong quai can help the body maintain natural balance of the mucous lining in the digestive tract.

Research demonstrates that dong quai can play a nutritional role in the stimulation of bone cells, which contributes to overall bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis that is common in postmenopausal women. Dong quai is believed to possess nutritional properties that are beneficial in protecting healthy nerve cells against daily damage.

Modern science has confirmed that dong quai does have a beneficial effect on inflammation, as well as pain-relieving and muscle-relaxant effects. The Chinese have also found that dong quai improves liver function in people with cirrhosis or chronic hepatitis.

Dong quai has been widely used for its ability to help people lose weight. The vitamins E and B12 can be found in dong quai, which are both beneficial in their individual regards. Vitamin B12 helps the body digest fats, carbohydrates and fats. The herb is also mildly laxative.

Pregnant women should avoid dong quai because it may cause uterine contractions and raise the risk of miscarriage. Women with hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids should take note that Dong quai might act like estrogen to exacerbate the condition. Dong quai may increase photosensitivity in some people.

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