Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis): Multi-Faceted General Women’s Health Herb
DISCLAIMER: CONSULT WITH A DOCTOR BEFORE DECIDING ON A TREATMENT PLAN FOR ANY DISEASE OR INJURY.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Dong Quai is a uterine stimulant, and therefore should not be used during pregnancy as it can cause spontaneous abortion. Women with a history of miscarriage should also avoid Dong Quai unless advised and supervised by a professional.
Dong Quai is a Traditional Chinese Medicine herb sometimes referred to as “female ginseng”. It is one of the most important herbs for promoting female fertility and supporting general female reproductive and sexual health. It can be used for:
- Irregular menstruation
- Amenorrhea (absence of menstruation or delayed period)
- Oligomenorrhea (irregular menstruation)
- Uterine cramps
- Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
- Scanty or slow-starting menstrual flow
- Excessively short periods
- Reproductive or sexual health problems related to stopping use of hormonal contraceptives (Dong Quai can help restore hormonal balance to the body after use of a hormonal contraceptive)
- Menopausal symptoms
- Strengthening the uterus
- Anemia (postmenstrual weakness may be cause by mild anemia; Dong Quai can help increase red blood cell counts, which may help relieve anemia and feelings of fatigue or weakness following menstruation)
- Uterine cysts and fibroids
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Endometriosis (in Traditional Chinese Medicine, blood stasis and endometriosis share extremely similar traits; Dong Quai has been used to treat blood stasis in women/endometriosis for thousands of years)
- Uterine and/or general reproductive organ congestion and stagnation
Dong Quai is a vasodilator and encourages blood flow and circulation throughout the entire body, including in the pelvic area. Because of this effect, conditions caused by lack of blood flow or circulation to the female reproductive organs may be relieved through using Dong Quai. The herb’s ability to restore regular menstruation is also valuable for treating female infertility, since a regular, healthy menstrual cycle is essential for conception to occur. In addition, Dong Quai can help build the uterine lining more effectively, which can make the uterus a more hospitable place for conception to actually occur when the time comes.
Some sources claim that Dong Quai’s fertility-enhancing effects is due to its balancing effects on estrogen. When estrogen levels are high, ovulation may be delayed or even missed entirely, making conception significantly more difficult (if not impossible, in cases where a woman doesn’t ovulate at all). The phytoestrogens present in Dong Quai can help restart ovulation, especially in women with unusually heavy or light menstruation (or in cases where menstruation is irregular or totally absent).
This herb is a source of some absolutely essential nutrients for female reproductive health as well, including vitamin B9 (folate/folic acid), iron, vitamin B12, and choline. The first three of these nutrients are all essential for not only conception, but also for blood building, which may explain part of the reason why Dong Quai is so effective in the treatment of anemia. The presence of some vitamin C in Dong Quai would enhance the absorption of iron and make it more bioavailable. Deficiencies in these nutrients in particular can also lead to a plethora of hormonal problems and menstrual irregularities in women. They are also vital during pregnancy itself, as is choline.
Women with blockages in the fallopian tubes (thus leading to infertility) may particularly benefit from the use of Dong Quai when it’s administered in the form of a douche (though of course the herb can be taken orally as well). One study on women with infertility caused by tubal occlusion had the women administer a douche with Dong Quai once daily for up to 9 months. At the end of the study, 80% of the women had regained tubal patency (meaning that the blockages had cleared in the fallopian tubes), while 53% of the women had become pregnant.
Dong Quai may be taken as a tincture, tea (either from fresh or dried herb), or in a capsulized form. Follow the dosing guidelines below to use Angelica sinensis to promote fertility:
- Tincture – Take 30 drops in a glass of water, two times daily
- Capsules – Take 500mg up to 6 times daily (this dose was used in a study that observed Dong Quai’s efficacy in the treatment of menopause symptoms)
- Dried Herb – Boil or soak in wine before consuming
- Teabags – Steep 1 teabag in one cup of hot water for five minutes. Remove the teabag, let cool until drinkable. Drink 2 cups of this daily for 2 weeks for the treatment of female infertility (ideally, drink the tea at the beginning of the menstrual cycle just after the menstrual period has ended).
- Powdered Herb – Take 1-2 grams / 1-2 teaspoons up to 3 times daily
For the treatment of dysmenorrhea (irregular or painful menstruation), Dong Quai works well with white peony, Corydalis, and/or Lingusticum.
This herb should not be taken during the actual bleeding phase of menstruation as it may increase blood flow. However, women who already have an especially light flow may continue to benefit from Dong Quai even during this phase of their menstrual cycle. It should be stopped when bleeding starts, and then can be resumed after bleeding has stopped. Women who have a particularly heavy menstrual flow should use Dong Quai with caution, and should consider seeking the advice of a qualified herbalist before trying this herb.
Individuals with hemorrhagic disease, diarrhea, or who are on a blood-thinning pharmaceutical drug like warfarin should not use Dong Quai. Use of the herb should also be discontinued within 2 weeks of surgery since it’s a blood thinner. Individuals who are particularly sensitive to the sun should also be aware that Dong Quai can increase photosensitivity. People with an allergy to plants in the celery family (anise, caraway, dill, parsley, carrots, etc.) should avoid Dong Quai, since these plants are all related and people with an allergy to them may react badly to Dong Quai.
St. Luke’s Hospital (n.d). Dong quai. Retrieved October 12, 2022 from: https://www.stlukes-stl.com/health-content/medicine/33/000238.htm
Rodriguez, Hethir (2021). Dong Quai: Uterine Tonic and Fertility Herb… Retrieved October 12, 2022 from: https://natural-fertility-info.com/dong-quai-fertility-herb.html
N.A. (n.d). Dong Quai. Retrieved October 12, 2022 from: https://www.naturalremediesandcures.co.uk/124,remedies,Herbal_Remedies,dong_quai_herbal_remedy_for_anemia_female_fertility_male_fertility_fibromyalgia_menopause_and_vaginal_discharge_anaemia.html
N.A. (n.d). Angelica sinensis. Retrieved October 12, 2022 from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/pharmacology-toxicology-and-pharmaceutical-science/angelica-sinensis
Mayo, Joseph L. (1997). A Healthy Menstrual Cycle. Retrieved October 12, 2022 from: https://acudoc.com/Healthy%20Cycle.PDF