The Ancient Chinese Remedy Dong Quai

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Dong quai (Angelica sinensis ), or Chinese angelica, is a member of a plant family that includes parsley, carrots, and poison hemlock. Asian women have traditionally used its bittersweet root to relieve menstrual cramps and regulate periods. In this country it often shows up as the principal ingredient in “women’s supplements,” commercial mixtures of herbs that promise to treat everything from a sagging libido to the hot flashes of menopause.

What Is It Good For?

While laboratory and animal studies have shown a variety of effects, dong quai has not been well studied in people. Chinese herbalists prescribe dong quai in combination with other herbs to ease menstrual cramps and symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. A six-month trial of 71 postmenopausal women in the U.S. found that, used alone, dong quai was not effective for relieving hot flashes. One clinical trial in 2000 found that a cream containing dong quai and several other herbs helped men suffering from premature ejaculation.

How Does It Work?

Dong quai contains compounds known as coumarins, which are believed responsible for some of the actions observed in laboratory and animal tests.

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