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Dong Quai (tang kuei)

What is dong quai?

Like fennel, dong quai (also known as tang keui or Chinese angelica) is a member of the celery family. A small, perennial herb found in Japan and the western regions of China, dong quai typically grows in ravines, river banks and coastal areas.

The root of dong quai is considered one of the most honored and respected herbs in China. Experts believe it has been used in Asia for a minimum of 2,000 years to treat everything from circulatory problems to liver and respiratory conditions.

Why do we need dong quai? What is it used for?

Dong quai is traditionally believed to have a balancing effect on the female hormonal system; however, studies have yet to prove that it has any hormone-like actions. Recent studies show that dong quai dilates blood vessels, which can reduce blood pressure. It has also shown to improve oxygen utilization in the liver, and increases the metabolism of glutamic acid and cysteine.

Limited studies have employed dong quai as a means to promote formation of red blood cells, especially in patients with kidney problems. However, further studies need to be performed to confirm these findings.

How much dong quai should I take?

Three to four grams a day of dong quai are recommended for women.

What forms of dong quai are available?

Powdered dong quai root is available in several forms, including capsules, tablets, tinctures and extracts. It can also be used as a tea.

What can happen if I take too much dong quai? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Dong quai is considered to be of extremely low toxicity. Nevertheless, some side-effects have been reported. Persons taking the herb may become more sensitive to sunlight if they are fair-skinned.

Dong quai may also interact with certain medications, including anti-inflammatories, diuretics and some lithium-based drugs. People with diabetes or menorrhagia, or women who are pregnant or lactating, should not take dong quai.

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  • Bradley RR, Cunniff PJ, Pereira BJG, Jaber BL. Hematopoietic effect of radix angelicae sinensis in a hemodialysis patient. Am J Kidney Dis 1999;34:349—54.
  • Foster S, Chongxi Y. Herbal Emissaries. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1992, pp. 65-72.
  • Hirata JD et al. Does dong quai have estrogenic effects in postmenopausal women? A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Fertil Steril 1997;68:981—6.
  • Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press, 1996, pp. 28—9.
  • Qi-bing M, Jing-yi T, Bo C. Advance in the pharmacological studies of radix angelica sinensis (oliv) diels (Chinese danggui). Chin Med J 1991;104:776-81.


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