First thing’s first: not all ginsengs are the same. And that’s a good thing, because each ginseng has specific actions and are suited for targeted issues. Dong quai (Angelica sinensis) is often known as the “women’s ginseng” because it helps nourish the feminine system for several benefits.
As with numerous botanicals you find in modern supplements, the roots of dong quai (DQ) have been used traditionally as a tonic and medicine in Asia, notably in China, where it’s also used as a spice. The ancient Chinese who practiced Traditional Chinese Medicine – and those millions of doctors today who follow these principles – still like to recommend dong quai to women for specific feminine issues, such as supporting reproductive health, and for painful menstruation, improving blood flow, as well as for several symptoms of PMS and perimenopause.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, dong quai contains phytochemicals that allows blood vessels to relax and open more, help reduce discomfort, and relax the uterus (a smooth muscle). In so doing, it may help with amenorrhea (interruption of the menses cycle when pregnancy does not exist). It may also help regulate the female hormone, lowering when too much, raising when too little, which appears to benefit adult women of almost all ages.
Meanwhile, there are also some reports that DQ has other emotional benefits – such as acting as a libido booster (aphrodisiac), and can improve and/or regulate mood. Both of these actions are attractive for otherwise vibrant women going through peri-menopause. And speaking of that time in a woman’s life, dong quai has been reported by women to relieve hot flashes yet researchers are conflicted as to how that may work – if the herb blocks estrogen or is phytoestrogenic (acts like estrogen).
Also, as with many other botanicals, there are a couple of cautions. Women who are pregnant should not take dong quai – and if you are a woman who believes you may be pregnant, don’t take it until you know you aren’t. Also, consistent use may cause sensitivity to sunlight in some people.
TCM practitioners – then and now – dry the root to make tinctures, tonics and powders. Now you can see why DQ is mostly for women only!