- Alternative & Natural Medicine
Dong Quai for Health
The Dong Quai plant
What does Dong Quai do and how?
Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis, also known as Chinese angelica) is useful for purposes as varied as regulation of female reproductive hormones, cardiovascular problems, stimulation of the immune system and intestinal problems. It is best known as a herb for women, but men can also find it effective for some problems.
The great variety of problems it can help is due to the fact that Dong Quai has effects on many of the body’s systems; the effect on the female hormones is the best known, but it also has effects on the circulation and in modulating the immune system. Dong Quai also helps with gastrointestinal problems.
Among its other properties, Dong Quai contains compounds that are phyto-oestrogens. This rather formidable bit of jargon indicates that Dong Quai components mimic the effect of oestrogen on the body. As is typical with phyto-oestrogens, this effect is weaker than the effect of real oestrogens – but it is there. The fact that these compounds mimic oestrogen, but not very powerfully, leads to a modulating effect on oestrogen levels.
In other words, if oestrogen levels are too low then Dong Quai makes up some of the difference; if they are too high, or unstable, then Dong Quai helps blunt the impact of high oestrogen levels on the body. This is because the effect of any oestrogen (whether the real stuff or some analogue such as Dong Quai) is on specific receptors on the surface of the body’s cells. These receptors exist in limited numbers, so if a weak oestrogen such as Dong Quai is attached to them this prevents the stronger effect of the real hormones because the latter can’t attach to the cells.
Many specifically female problems are associated with either high or low oestrogen levels, many such problems can be helped by Dong Quai. This applies specifically to problems associated with the menopause, but can also apply to such problems as irregular menstruation.
Smooth Muscle Relaxant
Compounds in Dong Quai have relaxing effects on smooth muscles, which are the muscles in the body not subject to conscious control except for people who have spent many years training for such control; the classic examples of this training are among monks of Oriental religions. Smooth muscle is found in the arterial walls and also in the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems and in the bladder; in women the uterine wall is also made of smooth muscle.
The relaxant effect of Dong Quai means that it can help with various cardiovascular problems (including hypertension) and also with uterine cramps and bronchospasm.
Studies have shown that Dong Quai has between 4 and 7 times the pain-relieving effect of aspirin, without aspirin’s well-known effect on the stomach wall. This complements its muscle-relaxing effect in such problems as uterine cramps, and also means that Dong Quai can help with headaches and the pain of arthritis.
Dong Quai is traditionally used in the Far East for relief of allergies to a wide range of substances, including specific foods, pollen, animal dander and dust. It appears to inhibit the production of allergic antibodies (IgE) in a selective manner. In patients with allergic conditions, levels are 3-10 times normal, so reduction of these levels is obviously of benefit.
Immune System Help
Dong Quai contains a group of compounds called coumarins; these compounds stimulate the activity of white blood cells responsible for attacking and destroying foreign bodies such as invading bacteria.
Dong Quai can help:
- PMS; irritability, nervous tension, fatigue, depression, cramps, aches and pains.
- Menopause; hot flushes, depression, and the symptoms noted under PMS.
- Allergy; could be very useful for all types of allergy, including those of the respiratory system.
- Immune System
Dong Quai should be used only under professional supervision if you have breast cancer, are considered recovered from breast cancer but are taking anti-oestrogens such as tamoxifen to prevent recurrence, or if you have prostate cancer. As with just about all other herbs and nutritional supplements, Dong Quai may also interfere with warfarin with unpredictable results.