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Do you have irregular periods, short periods with cramping, or do you suffer from Premenstrual Syndrome?

It is easy to either just despair, or to focus on medical solutions to these problems which can definitely interfere with getting pregnant, especially since it can be hard to find out if and when you ovulate with irregular cycles! Some women decide to explore natural and herbal options in an attempt to cure their problems. Dong quai is a herb of Chinese origin that is said to help with these problems. 

What is Dong Quai?

Dong quai's Latin name is Angelica Sinensis. It is the Asian version of Angelica root, which is likewise said to influence female fertility positively. Dong quai grows in the mountains of China, Korea and Japan and has been used to treat female reproductive problems and a poor circulation for more than a thousand years. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, dong quai is rarely used as a stand-alone, and is instead combined with other natural treatments. There are actually a few scientific studies that indicate that dong quai could be an effective treatment. It us used to:

  • Treat painful and heavy periods.
  • Treat premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
  • Alleviate menstrual cramps.
  • Regulate irregular menstrual cycles.
  • Correct "poor uterine tone".
  • Alleviate menopause symptoms.
  • Improve circulation.

Some proponents of dong quai claim that it can be of benefit to woman who suffer from reproductive conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids as well. You can read more about the effects of dong quai in articles written by our other blogger, Robert. One such article is: Dong quai and endometriosis. Because dong quai can make the uterus contract, it is not safe for use during pregnancy. Actually, dong quai is so powerful that it is suggested as a herbal "treatment" to induce an abortion or to complete a miscarriage. It can, however, be used to help a woman recover from childbirth more quickly. Men who are trying to conceive are also said to benefit from taking dong quai. This is, again, due to its circulatory effect which can in turn normalize levels of certain hormones that are essential to sperm production.

How is Dong Quai taken?

Dong quai is very rarely used as a single-ingredient treatment. It is usually prescribed in the form of a tea, together with other herbs. Cinnamon and peony are two ingredients that are frequently combined with dong quai in a tea. I've also seen tinctures and capsules on the market. It is possible to buy dong quai on the internet in various forms, and the vendors will tell users how to take the herb. As with any natural treatment, it is good to keep in mind that herbs can have quite potent effects. Natural medicine has a reputation for quackery among many people, but nobody would question that marijuana actually has some kind of effect, would they? Natural treatments like dong quai are no different while they may well be useful for some women, they can also be dangerous. I would, therefore, suggest that any woman who is considering using dong quai for fertility-related issues goes to the source with the most experience with the herb a practitioner of TCM, Traditional Chinese Medicine (or the Korean and Japanese equivalents). Pick a practitioner who has studied at a reputable university in China, not a western herbalist or lay midwife. A good TCM practitioner is knowledgeable and will be able to guide you as you use dong quai.

Side effects of Dong Quai

Some of the adverse affects associated with dong quai are quite serious. Dong quai essential oil contains carcinogenics, and should be avoided. Oral use of dong quai can also increase the skin's sensitivity to sunlight, possibly increasing the risk of skin cancer. Because dong quai may act as an estrogen, and should therefore not be used by anyone who is at risk of developing reproductive cancers like breast cancer and ovarian cancer. There is also the possibility that dong quai could increase bleeding (despite the fact that some suggest it to treat heavy periods!). It is possible that don quai slows down blood clotting, which can be particularly problematic to anyone who is going to have surgery. Finally, dong quai is said to cause headaches and dizziness in some women, possibly because they have used too high a dose. Read more about the side effects by clicking: Dong quai side effects. Have you noticed all the "coulds" and "possibly-s"? In the age of modern medicine, we're quite used to knowing exactly what the adverse effects of medications are. Natural medicine is obviously different, due to the lack of scientific research. This doesn't necessarily mean natural treatments are unsafe, but it does mean you have to think carefully before using them.

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