Dong Quai: The Menopause Herb

April 20, 2010

A perennial plant whose healing properties have been treasured for thousands of years, Dong Quai (Angelica Sinensis) can be found growing in the mountains of China, Japan, and Korea.  The most common use of Dong quai is for the treatment of gynecological problems. Often referred to as the "female herb" or the "menopause herb," Dong quai is a staple of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for easing the symptoms of menopause and menstruation.

Female Ginseng

Dong quai, also known as Chinese angelica, tanggwi, toki, tang kuei, and dang gui, is a member of the celery family and is sometimes called "female ginseng" due to its ability to restore gynecological health. The root contains plant estrogens or phytoestrogens which serve to balance and stabilize hormone levels.

Menopause causes estrogen levels to dip. Estrogen is a female hormone that has an intimate involvement with numerous body functions. Dong quai can be used as a plant-based substitute for this natural human hormone since its large quantities of phytoestrogens have a chemical composition that is quite similar to estrogen.

Curative Properties

Dong quai has a number of curative properties and here are a few that are all very relevant for women going through menopause:

*Phytoestrogens—Dong quai balances the hormone levels in two ways: it bolsters estrogen when levels dip, and competes against estrogen when levels rise too high. This is the plant's main gynecological quality.

*Metabolic action—the root helps rev up the metabolism and is believed to contain vitamins B12 and folic acid.

*Dong quai works its magic through the blood where it acts as a tonic to nourish cells, tissue, and organs but with a heavy focus on the immune and hormonal systems. *Because it is a source of coumarin, a chemical that acts as a blood thinner, Dong quai can prevent blood clots and act against inflammation.

Renewed Attention

While the herb has been used for thousands of years in TCM, it has been receiving some renewed attention because of its gynecological properties. Women may take Dong quai to regulate their menstrual cycles postpartum or after going off the pill. The herb will also restore hormonal balance after menopause, easing many of the symptoms that come with this stage of life.

You can find Dong quai in various forms including powder, dried leaf or root slices, liquid, tea, tinctures, topical formulations, or pills. Dong quai contains blood-thinning coumarin, so a physician should be consulted before you embark on any treatment plan including the herb. Also, since Dong quai increases your sensitivity to the sun, stay out of the sun while using the herb, or take precautions to cover up and use sunscreen.

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