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Dong Quai

Dong Quai

Dong quai (Angelica sinensis) is one of the popular herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is referred to as female ginseng. It has been used for thousands of years as a sacred herbal remedy. Its moniker female ginseng does not mean exclusive use for women alone since the herb offers benefits for both genders. Dong quai, or dang gui, is commercially available as a dietary food supplement in many forms. It is available globally as a capsule, tablet, tincture, and injection. It is also mixed with other herbs and vitamins.

Dong Quai is an honored contemporary medicine in China, Japan, and Korea for about two thousand years. The Chinese were the first to use it as a tonic and spice. It was first mentioned in Chinese medical texts in 400 BCE. In the late 19th century, dong quai’s popularity as a medicine in Europe was established when it was utilized as a treatment for gynecological disorders.

Where Dong Quai Is Found

Dong Quai is a perennial plant native to the high-altitude mountains of East Asia. They are especially abundant in Gansu and Shanxi provinces in China. It thrives in tropical climates and grows in damp mountains, forested terrains, and riverbanks. Dong Quai is also found in some regions in Europe like the United Kingdom, Iceland, and Lapland.

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How To Identify Dong Quai

The female ginseng came from the Apiaceae family which is the same family as carrots, celery, and parsley. And like its relative, the root is also the most valued part of the plant. This aromatic perennial has a bitter-sweet root that resembles carved ivory. It also bears pretty flowers that make a beautiful addition to a flower garden.

  • Leaves. Angelica has lower and upper leaves of variable sizes. For the first year of its life, it will grow rosette leaves.

Dong Quai - IdentificationIn the second year, dong Quai will grow a stalk with upper, three-sectioned leaves that are pinnate and arranged in opposite rows.

  • Flowers. From August to September, the honey-scented flowers of the dong Quai will bloom. They are greenish-white in color and they grow in large, umbrella-shaped clusters.
  • Fruits and Seeds. Dong Quai also bears tiny thin-winged fruits about 3 to 4 mm in size and are shaped like an ellipsoid. After the blooms are all spent, each spoke of the flowers will be left with the tiny dong quai seeds.
  • Roots. Dong Quai grows thick, yellow-brown roots that are harvested for its medicinal properties.

Dong Quai - HarvestThe roots are cylindrical and branched with many rootlets, resembling a pale carrot. The main roots are about 1 to 4 cm in diameter, while the branching roots are up to 1 cm. Its upper portion is often thick and tapers into a twisted lower portion.

  • Stem. Dong Quai has hollow stalks that are glabrous or hairless and with light linear striations. The stem of the dong quai can reach up to 1 meter tall.

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Angelica Sinensis, also known as the Chinese Angelica, is the true version of dong quai from about 50 species of the angelica genus. It has two closely related species that are found on two different continents. These species have a similar structure to dong quai, but are less aromatic and less potent.

  • Angelica atropurpurea or American angelica
  • Angelica archangelica or European angelica

How To Grow Dong Quai

Angelica is not commonly cultivated in the garden as ornamentals, but mainly for its medicinal use. However, its gorgeous bloom also makes a good addition to any garden. The herb spreads through its underground rhizomes. Thus, it needs ample space for growing. They are hardy at USDA zones 5 to 9.

Growing Dong QuaiDong quai favors high ground with a cool and damp environment. But, these hardy plants can also thrive anywhere with the right conditions. It will flower after two years. After which, the plant may either wither and die or stay for another year.

You can grow the plants from seeds and propagate them through root division after the plant has already established itself. Since the plant is an annual, you can grow a new one annually to have an ample supply of the herb.

You can buy dong quai seeds for planting from most online stores. But if you are sowing seeds that come from your existing dong quai plant, sow them as soon as they are ripe. The dong quai seeds have short viability. That is why you have to plant them sooner after harvest for higher germination possibilities.

Propagation by Seeds

Sow dong quai seeds in fertile, moist, and rich soil in early spring. Plant them about ¼ inch deep and tamp the soil lightly. Water the seeds regularly just to moisten the soil since dog quai is not drought tolerant. Place it in a semi-shade area and provide sun protection in summer until the seedlings emerge.

Transplant the plant before it reaches 10 cm (4 inches). Waiting too long to transplant them can get difficult because of their long and large taproots. If sowing them directly into the ground, consider the place with enough room for dong quai to spread.

Propagating by Root Cutting

Dong quai root division is best started in spring. Cut back the angelica stem, dig them up from the ground and divide the roots using a sharp knife. Replant them directly into the soil and mulch them with well-rotted manure.

Related: 10 Plants That You Should Never Plant Together (Video)

Plant Care and Maintenance

Dong Quai - Plant Care

Dong quai can survive even harsh climatic change. Here are a few growing guidelines to meet its growth requirement and help it thrive abundantly. Dong quai will bloom and promote better flowering if you cut its stalks in the first year.

  • Partial shade or full sun
  • Fertile soil rich in organic materials
  • Regular watering
  • Moist and slightly acidic soil
  • Insecticidal soap in aphids, leaf miner, and spider mites’ infection

How To Harvest Dong Quai

Harvest Dong QuaiDong quai roots are ready for harvesting after three years of the plant’s life. Harvest the root in autumn or early winter and dry the rhizomes for later use.

Make sure to clean the roots and dry them thoroughly before storing them. Keep dried dong quai in airtight containers in a cool and dry place to prevent mildews and worms.

In favorable conditions, the roots are potent up to three years of storing.

What Dong Quai Is Good For And Natural Remedies Made From It

Dong quai is one of the pillars of complementary medicine due to its potency in treating many ailments. Its most promising ability is in the treatment of various female reproductive health issues. For a long time, dong quai has been used in treating premenstrual syndrome, menstrual pain, menopausal symptoms, and ovarian cysts. Women who experience prolonged labor or placenta retention after childbirth are treated with dong quai. It is also effective for those who have infrequent periods.

This female ginseng is also an aphrodisiac that improves the sex drive in both men and women. Men who suffer from infertility, premature ejaculation, and impotency may also find a cure in dong quai. However, dong quai is also capable of breast enlargement for both genders since it improves glandular activity. Thus, men should be wary of taking dong quai as a food supplement.

Extensive modern research shows the effectiveness of dong quai in reproductive conditions. It also shows that the herb contains antioxidants and antithrombotic properties, which can lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases. It regulates blood pressure and improves blood circulation to reduce the risk of stroke as well.

Dong quai is also an effective nervine that supports the nervous system. It has a sedative effect for calming the nerves to induce deep sleep and relieve stress.

With its ability to improve circulation, boost estrogen, and detoxify the body, angelica can also improve the skin’s complexion.

The Chinese angelica’s analgesic property is useful for alleviating all kinds of pain and traumatic injuries. It relieves muscle pain and arthritis while helping the body achieve balance and proper function.

Using dong quai as an herbal supplement provides great benefit for the following health problems:

  • All kinds of female gynecological conditionsDong Quai - Natural Remedies
  • Male reproductive issues (infertility, impotence, premature ejaculation)
  • Disrupted sex drive
  • Various kinds of pain
  • Cardiovascular problems, atherosclerosis
  • High blood pressure
  • Asthma and other respiratory issues
  • Digestive problems (bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, etc.)
  • Anxiety, stress, and sleeping problems
  • Kidney problems
  • Anemia
  • Bacterial infection
  • Spleen and liver problems
  • Recovery after injury and surgery
  • Metabolism problem, anorexia
  • Sciatica
  • Shingles
  • Weakness and fatigue

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What Parts Of Dong Quai Is Used For Remedies

Dong quai roots, both in dried and powdered form, are sold globally and exported extensively. It contains a volatile oil that is extracted and used as an herbal remedy.

In China, dong quai is available in the form of injectable liquid and administered in hospitals. But in other countries, they are available mostly as powder, capsule and tincture. These forms are safer for home use.

In its natural form, dong quai roots are dried and desiccated for use in teas and infusions. Raw dong quai roots are also used as vegetables added to some stews and soups.

Comforting Dong Quai and Red Date Decoction

Ingredients:
  • 3 slices dong quai roots
  • 8 pitted dried red dates
  • 1 tbsp dried goji berries
  • 2 ½ cups of water
Steps:
  1. Rinse each ingredient very briefly in cool water to preserve its nutrients.Comforting Dong Quai and Red Date Decoction - Step 1
  2. Put all the ingredients into the pot with the water. If you have a clay or stone pot, it is best to use them since the metal may sometimes react to herbs.Comforting Dong Quai and Red Date Decoction - Step 2
  3. Cover the pot and allow it to boil for about 10 minutes on medium heat. Reduce the heat on low and simmer for another 20 minutes or until the water is halved.Comforting Dong Quai and Red Date Decoction - Step 3
  4. Serve the dong quai decoction while hot.

How to use this remedy:

This decoction is an excellent elixir for toning down menstrual discomfort or re-energize after the monthly cycle. You can take one cup of dong quai infusion, one to three times a day.Comforting Dong Quai and Red Date Decoction - Step 4

You should avoid using female ginseng for a long time to avoid adverse effects.

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The dosage of dong quai varies depending on its form. But its precise recommended dosage is not yet established due to a lack of supporting data. The maximum limit for taking the plant in its different form are as follows:

  • Dried root: 3-15 g daily by decoction
  • Powdered root: 1-2g 3 x/day
  • Tea: 1 cup 1-3 x/day (1 g/cup)
  • Tincture (1:2): 4-8 mL (1-2 tsp)/day

What Plants Resemble Dong Quai

FeatureDong Quai
(Angelica sinensis)
Giant Cow Parsley
(Heracleum mantegazzianum)
Hemlock
(Conium maculatum)
Don QuaiGiant Cow ParsleyHemlock
Size0.4 to 1 m tall2 to 5 m tall1.5 to 2.5 m tall
LeavesRosette lower leaves to smaller upper leaves; opposite; two to three leafletsAlternate; three-part; large lower leavesLarge lower leaves; fern-like upper leaves;  opposite
FlowersGreenish-white; umbrella-like clustersGreenish-white; umbrella-like clustersWhite; small; white petal; flat-topped umbrella clusters
StemHollow; bluish to purple; with linear striation; smoothGreen; dark- reddish to purple splotches; coarse white hairsStout; erect; branched; smooth; hollow; with linear striation
Fruit/ seedsThin-winged; ellipticDry; elliptic; with brown resin canalGreen to brown; short-lived seeds; elliptic
ScentSweet, pungentStrong resinous smellMouse-odor

Warnings And Cautions

Dong quai can induce menstruation and may cause miscarriage. Thus, it is not suitable for pregnant women. Breastfeeding women and children are not also recommended to use this herbal supplement. Women who are experiencing unusually heavy bleeding should refrain from using female ginseng as it can disrupt blood coagulation.

Chinese angelica should be avoided by people with any type of cancer.

Men should use this supplement in moderation to avoid developing inordinately large breasts.

Dong quai can potentiate the effect of anticoagulant drugs, medications, and other herbal supplements. Avoid taking this herb if you are also taking:

  • Blood thinners like warfarin, aspirin, and clopidogrel
  • Hormone medication and birth control pills
  • St. John’s wort
  • Other herbs (feverfew, fish oil, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, ginseng, licorice, Chinese skullcap, turmeric)

When taking dong quai supplement, minimize exposure to the sun or use sunscreen. Dong quai supplements increase photosensitivity, although this was not observed in using whole herbs. For this reason, supplements and tinctures should be avoided by people undergoing radiation therapy.

Before taking dong quai and other herbal supplements, initiate a discussion with a qualified health professional. They will validate the benefits, potential side effects, and dosage of the supplement to ensure your safety.

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9 Comments

  • Lisa Posted April 22, 2022 11:16 AM

    I am new to all of this, so I am sorry if this seems like a dumb question but if the plant is an annual then how does it get to be 3 years old before harvesting? I thought a perennial came back year to year….

    • Bonnie Posted May 7, 2022 6:58 PM

      Most of the time with herbs it’s according to the zone you grow it in. For example, a sugar cane plant can be grown for years in tropical climates yet where I live it usually dies in the winter so you have to replant every year unless you use pots & bring them in when it becomes too cold.

  • alvindw@yahoo.com (Rooster) Posted April 22, 2022 11:31 AM

    Where do I get seeds?

  • Tom Cool Posted April 22, 2022 11:57 AM

    I have read that Dong Quai from the Orient often has high levels of lead.

  • Carol L Posted April 22, 2022 12:38 PM

    Why red dates? What are they and where can they be purchased. I’ve never seen red dates in stores, only medjool.
    Also, why can’t you take dong quai with those herbs listed? and ONLY those or are there other herbs that should not be combined with DQ?

    • The Lost Herbs Posted April 22, 2022 12:54 PM

      Hi Carol L,

      Chinese red dates (the edible fruits of Ziziphus jujuba, also commonly known as jujubes) are one of the most popular foods consumed for their health benefits in China.

      Most species of jujube are native to China. Nowadays, red dates are also grown and enjoyed around the world, including Russia, southern Asia, southern Europe, southwestern United States, and Australia. And they can be found in grocery stores (Walmart, Trader Joe’s, Target, Whole Foods Market) or online on Amazon, Etsy and many Specialized Online Health Stores.

      Both types of dates have many nutrients and minerals. Red dates are higher in iron, vitamin C and protein compared to the Medjool date.

      Regarding the interaction of Don Quai with other herbs and supplements, Dong Quai may raise the risk of bleeding, especially if you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin. The same is true of using Dong Quai with many herbs and supplements. The herbs mentioned in the article are the herbs that may act as a blood thinner.

      There is not much research on using dong Quai with hormone medications, such as estrogens, progesterone, birth control pills, tamoxifen, or raloxifene. But, because Dong Quai may act like estrogen in the body, you should not take it with hormone medications except under your doctor’s supervision.

      Both Dong Quai and St. John’s wort can make you more sensitive to sunlight.

      It is best to talk to your doctor before taking dong Quai.

      Many blessings and good health!

  • Jim Stewart Posted April 22, 2022 4:54 PM

    I purchased the book & the package / the money has been paid as my bank statement shows but no book has been sent

    • The Lost Herbs Posted April 25, 2022 8:46 AM

      Hi Jim,

      Thank you for your interest in our work.
      Please check your personal email for a message regarding your order.

      Many blessings and good health!

  • Carol L Posted April 22, 2022 8:26 PM

    Thank you for such a thorough answer, I appreciate it. Chinese red dates: I’ll really have to look these up!

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