Dong Quai, The Angel Plant

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Dong Quai is a plant derived from the continent of Asia. Despite being known by a number of names its Latin title is favoured. Its Latin title being the Angelica Sinensis. However, it is also known as “Female ginseng” despite having no to biological similarities to the Ginseng family [1].

What is Dong Quai?

Dong Quai is plant native to countries within Asia, including China, Korea and Japan. However, some close relatives of the Angelica Sinensis have also been cultivated and grown in Europe. It has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine, and in their language it literally translates as “state of return” which refers to its health benefits. According to Chinese folklore the Latin name ‘Angelica” comes from a 17th century story. It goes that a monk was deep in prayer, begging for there to be a cure for the bubonic plague. It was at this point an angel appeared and told him that this plant was able to cure the plague. Hence, why it is now referred to as “Angelica Sinensis”[2].

The plant has two forms, one is a slow growing form that is present all year round and the other grows periodically, on average twice a year. It is a short plant, reaching heights of only one metre. The plant produces long, brown and tubular roots, fanned green leaves, and tiny bouquets of delicate white flowers. For optimal growth it must be planted in moist soils and areas that have little to no shade. For these conditions its typically found in woodland and shaded gardens. It is a reasonably hardy plant, that is highly adaptable to changing weather, shade, temperature and moisture conditions[3].

Aside from medicinal properties Dong Quai is also favoured because of its scent. It has a distinctive aniseed/licorice smell that is popular in potpourris, incense, bath products, perfumes soaps and candles[4].

How does it work?

One of the main properties of Dong Quai is ability to increase blood flow, through this it induces numerous health benefits. It promotes health of the blood by contributing to haemoglobin production. It also promotes efficacy, increasing its ability to carry oxygen contribute to flow. This allows for increased delivery of nutrients to areas that require them.

What are its Health Benefits?

Dong Quai is rich in a number of nutrients including Vitamin A, B3, C, E, Cobalt, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, essential oils and Polyphenols. The list of Dong Quai’s proposed health benefits is endless. Here are a few:

Female Health.

Female Health is complicated, with fluctuating hormones and ever-changing biological stressors. Dong Quai has been shown to reduce symptoms of the menstrual cycle including PMS and abdominal cramping. One study conducted in 2004 found that 39% of women reported that taking Dong Quai twice-a-day reduced their abdominal cramps during their menstrual cycle, so much so they needed no other pain medication. Moreover, 54% stated that it significantly decreased their cramps, but still required lower doses of pain medication. Additionally, it’s thought that Dong Quai can help symptoms of Menopause. Some studies have shown that Dong Quai reduced night sweats, hot flashes and low mood. However, more studies and information are needed for this to be an approved claim. The reason for this is that Dong Quai actively targets the hormone Oestrogen, controlling it and preventing large fluctuations that create irritating and often painful symptoms in women[5].

Blood and Circulatory Health.

Dong Quai is rich in the nutrient Cobalt, this is thought to promote the production of hemoglobin, which is used to carry oxygen around the body to essential organs and muscles. Dong Quai is colloquially known as the “blood mover” or “blood tonic” simply because it contains a small amount of nutrients that are essential for blood cell production, ie. Iron, Folic Acid, Nicotonic acid, Biotin, and Vitamin B12 [6].

Reduction in Oxidative stress.

Dong Quai contains numerous polyphenols, and antioxidants that prevent damage. Oxidation is destructive to biological tissues. It is caused by free radicals which are reactive species that steal electrons from proteins, lipids and DNA, reducing their structural integrity and potentially causing disease.

Male and Female Fertility.

Male fertility is affected by the Ferulic acid within the Dong Quai. Clinically speaking Ferulic acid is an antioxidant that is said to improve the quality of sperm. Also, Dong Quai targets and promotes the female hormones associated with fertility and conception [6].

How to take Dong Quai?

At Oxford Vitality we recommend no more than 2000mg is taken per day. The easiest way to take this is via tablet or powder form. If you are pregnant of below the ages of 18 you are advised not to consume this product.

Much like any supplement or medication there are rare side effects. This reaction may be different in every person and majority of people will have no side effects. The side effects of taking excessive amounts include:

  • Heavy breathing
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia [5].

If you do encounter any of these side effects you are advised to stop taking them immediately.

  1. Botanical Online. (2016). Properties of Dong Quai. Available: http://www.botanical-online.com/english/dongquai.htm.
  2. MD. (2015). History and Archeology of Angelica Spectrum.. Available: https://www.mdidea.com/products/herbextract/angelica/data0102.html
  3. PFAF. (2009). Angelica Sinesis. Available: http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Angelica+sinensis.
  4. Healthy Beginnings . (2013). The Herb of the Angel. Available: http://hbmag.com/the-herb-of-the-angel/.
  5. Heitz.D, Nail.R. (2016). Why Is Dong Quai Called the ‘Female Ginseng’?. Available: http://www.healthline.com/health/dong-quai-ancient-mystery#Inwomen3.
  6. BE. (2015). The 9 Benefits of Dong Quai Almost No One is Aware Of.Available: http://bodyecology.com/articles/nine_benefits_of_dong_quai.php

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