Dong Quai

Dong quai has enjoyed millennia of popular use in Asian cultures, but it has only recently become well-known worldwide. Learn all about its medicinal benefits below.

Quick Facts
General Information
  • Common name(s)Dong quai, Chinese angelica, female ginseng, dang gui
  • TCM nameDāngguī (当归)
  • Scientific nameAngelica sinensis
  • Plant typeHerb
  • Native regionEast Asia
  • Main producer(s)China
  • Main Economic UseMedicinal
Dong Quai

As one of the fundamental components of Chinese medicine, dong quai is valued throughout much of the Eastern world as an everyday tonic and herbal medicine. Today, it is believed to contribute to the well-being of millions, although women are thought to reap the most advantage - the herb is accordingly often referred to as "female ginseng." Studies into its healing properties has been continuous ever since the late 19th century.

Medicinal and Nutritional Information

Quick Facts (Medicinal and Nutritional Information)
  • Medicinal actionAntithrombotic, Estrogenic
  • Key constituentsLigustilide, carvacrol, sesquiterpenes, ferulic acid, phytosterols
  • Ways to useCapsules, Hot infusions/tisanes, Tincture
  • Medicinal rating(2) Minorly useful plant
  • Safety rankingUse with caution
Dong Quai Remedies

Health Benefits of Dong Quai

The most common use of dong quai has always been as an herbal medicine, particularly valuable to women, thanks to its modest estrogenic effect. Additionally, dong quai tonic is thought to aid blood conditions like anemia and promote better circulation. Antispasmodic and analgesic qualities are also noticeable. It has been used for:

  • Regulating estrogen levels. Dong quai has been traditionally used for relieving premenstrual syndrome (PMS), as well as for reducing the severity of menopause symptoms.

  • Reducing osteoporosis. Due to its estrogenic properties, dong quai increases calcium absorption, slowing down age-related bone mass loss.

  • Improving cardiovascular health. Dong quai increases blood flow,  reducing the risk of arterial clotting that can lead to thrombosis and atherosclerosis.

How It Works

A variety of unique estrogen-mimicking compounds makes dong quai an effective herb for female use. Its volatile oil also contains ligustilide - a compound that aids hypertension - as well as carvacrol and sesquiterpenes, all which provide the herb's anti-inflammatory effects. The courmarins, phytosterols, ferulic acid, and polyacetylenes also present in the herb's makeup act as pain relievers and muscle relaxants.


Alfalfa and soy also possess estrogenic properties, whereas olive and turmeric can be used as alternative sources for cardiovascular benefits as well.

Dong Quai Side Effects

Dong quai can make the skin more sensitive to the sun, potentially resulting in inflammation and burns. To counter this, those taking dong quai should stay out of the sun or apply ample sunscreen.

Dong Quai Cautions

Pregnant women should not take dong quai, as it may induce miscarriage. Children and breastfeeding women should not take this herb. It is also contraindicated in people with chronic diarrhea and bloating and women at risk of reproductive cancers. Dong quai may interact with blood thinners and hormone medications, whether herbal or pharmaceutical.

How to Consume Dong Quai

Quick Facts (How to Consume)
  • Edible partsRoot

Though more commonly taken for medicinal purposes, dong quai rhizomes hold beneficial phytonutrientsare and are often used in Asian cooking. Dong quai dosage is not well established, so it is important that those wishing to take it first see a physician to find out what dosage would be appropriate for them.

The Singaporean pork-based dish, bak kut teh, is perhaps the most well-known dish to feature the root.

Natural Forms

  • Raw. In Asian cuisine, the herb is frequently found chopped up and added to soups, sometimes also acting as toppings for dishes like tofu.

  • Infusion. A dong quai tisane can be brewed from one teaspoon of root in one cup of water.

Herbal Remedies & Supplements

  • Tincture. A dong quai tincture can be taken for menstrual pain. It is an approximately 70% alcohol extract.

  • Capsules. Supplements provide a consistent dosage of dong quai. They are typically prepared from powdered root.

  • Injections. Injections are administered at hospitals in China and Japan, but they are not for home use.


Quick Facts (Buying)
  • Where to buySpecialized health stores, Online herb stores

Natural Forms

Fresh dong quai can be difficult to find in Western countries, but it is often possible to find dried versions of the root in some specialized health food stores and ethnic markets. Teas and herbal spice packets that include it for cooking can be found at similar locations or online.

Herbal Remedies & Supplements

Herbal supplements utilizing dong quai can be often be found internationally, alongside other common dietary aids at major wholesale retailers, or online. They will often come in several different forms, including capsules, pills, tablets, and ready-made liquid extracts. Worldwide popularity has also led to a variety of brands, concentrations, and price points becoming available.


Quick Facts (Growing)
  • Harvested partsRhizome
  • Light requirementsPartial shade
  • SoilMedium (loam)
  • Growing habitatMountain regions

Dong quai is a fairly hearty perennial, seldom grown outside of its natural habitat, but if the right conditions are met, it is possible to cultivate it in a home garden.

Growing Guidelines

  • Dong quai can survive temperatures down to 23°F (-5°C) or even lower, conditioned to harsh climatic change in its native mountainous environment.

  • Ample sunlight is not necessarily essential to its development, as it can be grown in partial shade or full sun

  • Fertile soil that is rich in organic matter however, makes all the difference in regards to proper growth and root development.

  • Seeds should be planted in the early spring and watered regularly.

  • After three years, rhizomes should be ready for harvest.

Additional Information

Plant Biology

Dong quai is a perennial plant that can reach up to six feet (2 m) tall, and has a sturdy, hollow stem that supports large green leaves. Clusters of white flowers appear in the summertime, but they have almost no medicinal value compared to the plant's deep, spreading rhizomes. These are often brown on the outside but lighter within.

  • Classification

    Dong quai belongs to the Apiaceae family, a group of over 3,700 different species best known in the West as the family that houses staples such as carrots (Daucus carota), fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), celery (Apium graveolens), and dill (Anethum graveolens).

  • Related Species

    While there are approximately 50 species in the Angelica genus, A. sinensis - Chinese angelica - is the only true version of dong quai. It is, however, sometimes mistaken for closely related species native to other continents. A. atropurpurea, or American angelica, is similar in structure but less aromatic; and A. archangelica, or European angelica, is beneficial for overall health but is significantly less potent.

Historical Information

Hailing from the swampy, mountainous regions of China, Korea, and Japan, dong quai has been in human use for well over 2,000 years, dating back in Chinese medical texts to 400 BCE. It was not until late in the 19th century, however, that the herb made its way to Europe in the form of a proprietary preparation for treating gynecological disorders.

Economic Data

Statistics demonstrate that 70 - 80% of the Asian population uses herbal medicines on a regular basis, and, as one of the most popular remedies of all, dong quai is among the top tier of products used. Its native countries of China, Korea, and Japan both produce and consume the greatest quantity of the herb, though supplements have become a popular export: in 2011, over $102,000 USD worth of the root were sold in the United States alone.

Popular Beliefs

In ancient Chinese tradition, dong quai is described as a tonic that rebalances qi: an abstract concept that connects energy to the immune system.