Dong quai is an herb that is also known in China as dang gui or tang kuei. It is native to China, but it can be found even at high altitudes in the cold and damp mountains in Japan and Korea. It goes by the English names female ginseng or the Chinese angelica root and its scientific name is Angelica sinensis. It belongs to the family Apiaceae along with carrots and celeries. The dong quai herb has small, white flowers that have a fragrant odour and grow in clusters shaped like umbrellas. It has smooth, purple stems and its fruits ripen from the months of July to August. In traditional Chinese herbal medicine, the roots of the dong quai plant are used as a spice, tonic, and medicine, owing to its versatility. It can even be made into dong quai tea for its soothing properties.
The dong quai plant is known as the female ginseng because it is used to alleviate the pain from menstrual cramps, premenstrual syndrome or PMS, and menopausal symptoms. Menstrual cramps are caused by the muscles of the uterus tightening before or during the menstrual period, while premenstrual syndrome includes emotional symptoms like mood swings, food cravings, and depression. Menopausal symptoms, on the other hand, include hot flashes and night sweats. This is because dong quai contains compounds that are known to be able to relax and stimulate the muscle of the uterus. The plant can also open and widen the blood vessels.
Dong quai herb is also used for other conditions like amenorrhea, which is the absence of menstruation. When used in combination with Asian ginseng and astralagus, dong quai can reduce the chest pain caused by heart diseases. It is recommended for people with high blood pressure. Dong quai is also used for treating allergy attacks and for curing depigmentation, which loss of the color of the skin. Men even apply dong quai to their reproductive organ to treat premature ejaculation.
When taken in high doses, dong quai can cause sensitivity to sunlight, skin inflammation and rashes. People with chronic diarrhea should consult their doctors before taking dong quai.