The Health Benefits of Dong Quai

This mainstay of Eastern herbal medicine may ease menopausal symptoms

Dong quai in dish
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In This Article

Dong quai (Angelica sinensis) is an herb native to China, Japan, and Korea. A member of the celery family, it's long been used in traditional Chinese medicine. Since dong quai (specifically, the root) is rich in compounds with anti-inflammatory and immune-stimulating effects, among other healthful substances, it is said to aid in treating a host of issues from allergies to constipation, high blood pressure to premature ejaculation, and more.

However, the National Institutes of Health notes there is insufficient scientific evidence to support these and several other claims.

Also Known As

Since it's thought to have a balancing effect on the female hormonal system, dong quai is sometimes referred to as "female ginseng."

Health Benefits

In addition to the issues mentioned above, dong quai is often touted as a treatment for headache, premenstrual syndrome, menstrual cramps, fibroids, nasal and/or sinus congestion, and rheumatoid arthritis. Unfortunately, there just isn't enough solid science to back up the use of dong quai for these purposes.

Although research on dong quai's health effects is limited, some studies suggest that the herb might be helpful for hot flashes and arthritis. More research is needed.

Hot Flashes

Some older studies suggested that taking dong quai in combination with other herbs may help soothe hot flashes in women going through menopause.

However, a more recent review looking at single-ingredient studies comparing alternative treatments to either placebo or active treatment concluded that alternative therapies, including dong quai, don't show consistent, beneficial effects against menopausal hot flashes.

Additionally, a small pilot study on male hot flashes associated with androgen deprivation therapy showed no significant differences between the herb and placebo when it came to flash frequency or duration.

Arthritis

Dong quai shows potential in the treatment of osteoarthritis, according to some preliminary research.

In a 2014 study on cells taken from both human cartilage and rats, scientists observed that compounds extracted from dong quai might inhibit the osteoarthritis-related breakdown of cartilage.

A study published in 2018 showed that a polysaccharide from the dong quai root appeared to reverse the oxidative stress associated with osteoarthritis in human cells.

While these results are promising, placebo-controlled human trials have not been performed.

Possible Side Effects

Dong quai side effects include:

  • Bloating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased sensitivity to sunlight and UV light
  • Increased breast size in men
  • Fever
  • High blood pressure
  • Excessive bleeding

Stop using dong quai and call your healthcare provider at once if you have severe burning, redness, pain, or swelling after use on the skin.

Interactions and Precautions

Since dong quai may have anticoagulant and estrogen-like effects, it should not be used by:

  • People with bleeding disorders
  • Women who tend to experience excessive menstrual bleeding
  • Pregnant or nursing women
  • People with estrogen-related conditions
  • Those about to have surgery

Dong quai may also be harmful to individuals taking blood-thinning medications and should not be taken with:

  • Coumadin (warfarin)
  • Aspirin
  • Plavix (clopidogrel)
  • Voltaren or Cataflam (diclofenac)
  • Advil or Motrin (ibuprofen)
  • Aleve (naproxen)
  • Fragmin (dalteparin)
  • Lovenox (enoxaparin)
  • Heparin
  • Eliquis (apixaban)
  • Xarelto (rivaroxaban)

Due to its estrogen-like effects, it should also be avoided by people with hormone-sensitive conditions such as:

  • Endometriosis
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Cancers of the breast, uterus, or ovaries

Some research indicates that dong quai may be harmful to women with breast cancer or at high risk for the disease. Early research suggested that it may promote the growth of breast cancer cells. A 2019 study that tested the herb on human and mouse breast-cancer cells suggested that dong quai doesn't stimulate breast cancer growth; however, researchers still urge caution for people with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer.

Dosage and Preparation

Dong quai is available as an oral supplement in tablets, capsules, tinctures, and tea. It's also used in some topical creams or powders.

Research has not yet determined a safe or recommended dose. Talk to your doctor about the dosage you should use or follow the instructions on the product label.

What to Look For

When purchasing dong quai, look for a high-quality product from a familiar, reputable company. Dong quai supplements are sold in many natural foods stores and stores specializing in herbal products, as well as online.

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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading
  • MedlinePlus, National Institutes of Health U.S. National Library of Medicine. Dong Quai. Reviewed July 24, 2019.