Chinese herbalists have used dong quai for thousands of years to strengthen heart, lung and liver meridians and today it is widely used by Chinese families as a tonic and spice.
Dong quai is often called “female ginseng” and it is as highly regarded as Panax ginseng.
It is a very popular herb in China and the only other herb in Chinese herbal medicine that is more used is Chinese licorice (Glycyrrhiza uralensis).
The herb is thought to contain natural hormones (phytoestrogens) and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes.
The root of Angelica sinensis contains active compounds that increase the cardiac rest period between heartbeats and relax blood pressure inside the arteries which in turn helps to increase blood flow.
Dong quai may reduce spasms in the smooth muscles around the arteries which could help improve blood flow to the veins.
Animal testing indicates that dong quai reduces the formation of plaque in the blood vessel walls and the herb could, therefore, be relevant as a preventive agent against atherosclerosis, angina pectoris, myocardial infarction (heart attack) and hypertension.
Preliminary results from research conducted on animals suggest that dong quai may have strong tumor inhibitory and immune-enhancing effects.
The polysaccharides found in the root might be able to increase the ability of the natural killer cells and other immune cells to destroy tumors. (7)
Researchers continue to study the potential of the herb as a treatment for cancer and HIV (AIDS). (8)
There are indications that dong quai may also have an anti-allergic effect. Studies show that the herb could inhibit allergy-related antibodies (IgE) production. (9)
It can hold back the development of fungi, viruses, and bacteria. Pulverized roots for example been used treaditonally to treat shingles (herpes zoster).
The herb has an antibacterial effect and may be helpful to suppress the growth of various bacteria like hemolytic Streptococcus, Bacillus typhi, Bacillus dysentricae, and Bacillus choleraei. (10)
There is some research on the use of dong quai for nerve pain. (11)