Orally, dong quai has been traditionally used in combination with other herbs for gynaecological ailments including menstrual cramps, irregularity, retarded flow, weakness during the menstrual period, and symptoms of menopause. Very little clinical research has been conducted to determine its effectiveness as sole treatment in these indications.
In a 12-week randomised, placebo-controlled trial in 55 postmenopausal women, a combination of dong quai and chamomile was found to significantly reduce hot flushes and improve sleep disturbances and fatigue. Another double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trial of 71 women using dong quai as a single agent (4.5 g/day) found no differences between groups in the number of vasomotor flushes, endometrial thickness, or vaginal cells over a 24-week period.
It is suggested that dong quai may have some efficacy for premenstrual syndrome when used in traditional Chinese multi-herbal formulas, and an uncontrolled trial has suggested the possible benefit of uterine irrigation with dong quai extract for infertility due to tubal occlusion.
In TCM, dong quai is used to strengthen the heart, lung and liver meridians and harmonise the blood. It is used to regulate menstruation, treat amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea, headache, constipation, abdominal pain and palpitations.
Traditionally, dong quai is considered a ‘hot’ herb and is not used in conditions associated with ‘heat’, according to these prescribing systems.
• Decoction of dried root: 4.5-9 g/day.
• Liquid extract (1:2): 4.5-8.5 mL/day.