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Dong Quai

Botanical name(s):

Angelica archangelica. Family: Umbelliferae

Other name(s):

angelica, Chinese angelica, Japanese angelica

General description

Dong quai is a fragrant perennial or biennial plant with greenish-white flowers. It is grown in Asia for medicinal purposes, but in the United States, it is more widely used as a food flavoring. The roots and leaves are the parts of the plant that are used medicinally.

Dong quai contains coumarins, which act as vasodilators and antispasmodic agents. One of these coumarins, osthol, stimulates the central nervous system. Other components of the root may have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Dong quai can induce photosensitivity in certain people.

Medically valid uses

Currently, there are no rigorously established recommendations for the use of dong quai. 

Unsubstantiated claims

Please note that this section reports on claims that have NOT yet been substantiated through scientific studies.

Dong quai has been used in the treatment of female problems such as vaginal dryness, premenstrual syndrome, menopausal symptoms, and hot flashes. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study is available that demonstrates that dong quai does not have an estrogenic effect and, therefore, probably little effect on post-menopausal symptoms. Otherwise, hard scientific literature is very sparse.

Dosing format

Dong quai is available as tablets and capsules, tincture, extract, and essential oil. Follow packaging instructions for correct dose.

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

There is a slight possibility of developing phototoxicity because of the furocoumarins contained in dong quai. If skin rash, irritation, extreme sensitivity to the sun or sunburn develop, discontinue use of dong quai.

Because dong quai has a stimulant effect on the gastrointestinal tract, it should be avoided or used with caution if you have a chronic intestinal disease such as diverticulitis or irritable bowel.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use dong quai.

People taking the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin) should not use dong quai because it may increase the risk of bleeding.

Additional information

Click here for a list of reputable websites with general information on nutrition.