Health

Dong quai: the magic herb?

BY PENDA HONEYGHAN

Monday, July 10, 2017

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ANGELICA sinensis, also known as dong quai, which means “return of state”, is a traditional herb revered in Chinese medicine and commonly used in tonics primarily to restore the body to its naturally healthy state. Dietician and nutritionist Jenelle Solomon says that this herb, which is commonly referred to as female ginseng, earned the name from herbalists who have identified that its many benefits include treating female ailments.

“For more than 2,000 years, herbalists in China, Korea and Japan have been using dong quai — a fragrant, perennial plant with purple stalks and clusters of little white flowers — in many of their tonics to build blood health, to ease pain associated with menstruation and menopause, balancing oestrogen levels, treating anaemia, as well as sustaining the body after birth,” Solomon said.

But the benefits of dong quai spill over into the treatment of many other ailments.

Among the other established benefits of the herb are that it serves as a muscle relaxant and an anti-inflammatory; treats poor blood circulation; regulates hypertension and heart-related conditions; reduces joint pain, ulcers, constipation; prevents and treats allergy attacks; boosts fertility in men; and contributes to the treatment of premature ejaculation. It is also said to help skin conditions such as psoriasis and to give the skin a natural glow.

But while the list of benefits of dong quai may be extensive, Solomon argues that there is very little data on many of these established claims. She also says the plant, the roots of which are often used in combination with a number of other drugs as a tonic, has a number of drawbacks. Her claim is supported by a report published by the University of Maryland Medical Centre on its website. Precautions for using dong quai include the following:

• Never drink the essential oil of dong quai because it has a small amount of cancer-causing substances.

• People who have chronic diarrhoea or abdominal bloating should not use dong quai.

• People who are at risk of hormone-related cancers, including breast, ovarian and uterine cancers should not take dong quai, because researchers are not sure if it acts like oestrogen in the body.

• Dong quai should never be given to children.

•Do not use dong quai during pregnancy. However, some other research studies suggest that the herb could boost fertility since it is thought to increase circulation to the uterus, Fallopian tubes and ovaries.

• Nursing mothers should not take dong quai since there is no data on how this affects the mother when breastfeeding.

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