Dong quai can improve bone health, lower blood sugar levels, and ease symptoms of menopause. We show you everything you need to know about this plant native to China, Japan and Korea.
Angelica sinensis, better known as dong quai, dang gui and female ginseng, is a plant native to China, Japan and Korea that belongs to the celery and carrot family.
Although it has a cluster of small white flowers that captivates with its fragrance, the protagonist is its root, used for more than 2000 years in the traditional medicines of the countries from which it originates. Its main use is pain relief.
But what does science say about it? We show you what are the benefits and side effects of dong quai, as well as the presentations in which you can find it.
Possible benefits of dong quai
Traditional Chinese medicine suggests that each part of the dong quai root has a different effect on the body. For example, the whole root could improve circulation, while the head of the root, in addition to promoting blood flow, would be able to stop bleeding.
1. Promotes bone health
Osteoporosis is a disease that increases the risk of fractures. While it is true that it can affect anyone, menopausal women are more susceptible, since in this period the production of estrogen, a hormone linked to bone formation and breakdown, decreases.
According to research published in Clinica Chimica Acta, dong quai extract can prevent osteoporosis by being able to increase bone cell formation. Similarly, a study in rodents showed that female ginseng helps preserve bone density.
2. It is a natural anti-inflammatory
Although inflammation is a normal and expected response, when it becomes chronic it can be the cause of a number of diseases. For its part, dong quai is known to have anti-inflammatory properties.
According to a study published in Inflammation, dang gui extract was able to lower the levels of several inflammatory markers. Likewise, an investigation in rats found that dong quai significantly reduced the inflammation caused by a spinal cord injury. However, more studies are still required to certify these effects in humans.
3. Could lower blood sugar levels
When blood sugar levels are high, symptoms such as increased thirst, frequent urination, nausea and vomiting, weight loss and difficulty concentrating, among others, appear.
A study in mice, given dong quai for 4 weeks, showed that it can reduce glucose levels and insulin resistance. Another study in rats, this time on a high-fat diet, found that the extract is capable of lowering blood glucose levels. However, conclusive results in humans are still needed.
4. Could improve heart health
According to a study published in Food & Function, treating mice with dong quai for 4 weeks reduces total cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Likewise, research published in the Chinese Medical Journal found that combining dong quai with huang qi, another medicinal herb, lowered total cholesterol, bad cholesterol (LDL), and triglycerides in rats.
For its part, a study published in the Chinese Journal of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine suggested that Angelica sinensis may help people with high blood pressure, which is a cardiovascular risk factor.
5. Relieves and prevents the symptoms of menopause
There is scientific evidence that dong quai has an estrogenic effect capable of regulating the levels of this hormone and alleviating the symptoms and signs of menopause, without having to resort to medications.
Similarly, a study published in Clinical and Experimental Obstetrics & Gynecology showed that mixing dong quai with German chamomile can reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes by 96%.
6. Other potential benefits of dong quai
Female ginseng is also believed to have the following benefits:
Reduce the risk of tumors: A study published in Chinese Medicine found that dong quai can kill cancer cells from brain tumors, leukemia and color. However, there is no favorable evidence in humans, so it cannot constitute an oncological treatment.
Slow down osteoarthritis: After taking a sample of human and rodent cartilage, experts found that compounds in dong quai can inhibit cartilage breakdown caused by osteoarthritis.
Natural antidepressant: An animal study found that a herbal preparation containing female ginseng had antidepressant properties. Again, this is research that cannot be directly extrapolated to humans.
Possible side effects
Although there is no scientific evidence on the side effects of dong quai, there is anecdotal evidence, given that traditional medicine has been using it for more than 2000 years.
These are your possible adverse reactions:
Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia.
Drop in blood pressure or hypotension.
On the other hand, people allergic to plants in the carrot family should avoid dong quai. Care should also be taken when combining with birth control pills, ibuprofen, lorazepam, naproxen, and blood thinners.
Dong quai presentations and recommendations for use
This herb can be found in different forms. The most common are the following:
Raw: roots, branches, leaves and berries.
Injection: especially in China and Japan.
Pills: mixed with other medicinal herbs or alone.
Keep in mind that dong quai is not usually taken alone. Traditional Chinese medicine starts from the idea that herbs should be taken together, as they counteract side effects. To know which is the best combination it is recommended to buy from a trusted herbalist.
Also, the herb most commonly used with dong quai is black cohosh, known to decrease menopausal symptoms. Now, a specialist in the subject is the most indicated to determine whether or not you should do the combination.
Dong quai, an ally of women’s well-being
Originally from China, Japan and Korea, dong quai is a plant that stands out for the composition of its root, which gives it a series of benefits used for 2000 years.
Traditional medicine in the countries where this plant originates has used it to relieve pain, and treat a series of problems that affect women’s health, such as premenstrual syndrome and menopause. Other possible benefits of this herb include bone and heart health.
Of course, people allergic to plants of the carrot family should avoid it. Similarly, those who are taking certain prescription drugs.