Medicinal uses

Dong Quai is particularly useful in helping to end hot flashes and menstrual cramps. It is also used as a liver tonic and in treating sciatica and shingles. It is one of the most widely consumed herbs in China, used as frequently as ginseng and licorice. Dong quai has been used by the Chinese for more than two thousand years, as a strengthener of the heart, lung, spleen, liver and kidney meridians and as a tonic for the blood. It is traditionally characterized as a warm atmospheric energy that promotes blood circulation.

The root has earned a reputation as the "ultimate herb" for women. It is widely used among Chinese women as a fortifying daily tonic, much as Chinese men rely on ginseng. Women in other parts of the world have also discovered this 5,000 year old tradition that naturally provides balancing and normalizing support for women's unique rhythms, cycles and body systems. It is not recommended during pregnancy or menstruation or for people taking blood thinning agents. Reports indicate that dong quai may lower blood pressure in some individuals.

Research

Dong quai contains compounds that, in laboratory tests, have demonstrated activities that may translate into reduction of pain, dilation of blood vessels and stimulation as well as relaxation of uterine muscles. Animal studies suggest that dong quai may treat abnormal heart rhythm, prevent accumulation of platelets in blood vessels (contributing to plaque formation or atherosclerosis), protect the liver, promote urination, act as a mild laxative, promote sleep, fight infection and soothe ulcers. The data consists primarily of laboratory and animal studies with a few preliminary studies in people. More studies are needed to determine the herb's safety and effectiveness in humans.

Other studies suggest that dong quai offers some value when used in conjunction with other Chinese herbs, particularly black cohosh, to treat PMS. When used in combination with ginseng (Asian ginseng) and astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), dong quai decreased symptoms of chest pain and improved exercise tolerance in a small group of people with heart disease. A series of reports published in China indicate that the use of dong quai just following a stroke demonstrated a decrease in the amount of brain damage.

It has also been indicated for constipation, migraines, pain and liver disorders though studies are still lacking.