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(Angelica atropurpurea)[American]
(Angelica archangelica) [European]
(Angelica sinensis) [Chinese] ~ Dong Quai, Dang Gui, Tang Kuei

Chinese, American and European Angelica are three different plants of the same variety, each are slightly different, but for the most part their actions are similar. The Chinese variety, Dong Quai, is the most scientifically researched of the group. American and European varieties while not as well researched both have reputations for having similar effects, being used historically and by modern herbalists.

[In this article, Chinese Angelica (Angelica sinensis) is referred to as Dong Quai; while Angelica refers to both European Angelica (Angelica archangelica), and American Angelica (Angelica atropurpurea)]

Angelica has a powerful action over a woman's reproductive system. American and European Angelica were used by colonial women to promote menstruation and to terminate pregnancy. Susun Weed, a noted herbalist, says that Angelica will bring on delayed
Photo by Herbal Nexus
Angelica - curtosy of the Herbal Nexus
menstruation 60% of the time, if menstruation is no more than two weeks over due. A decoction of the roots is probably the most effective method for these purposes. Midwives have used decoctions and a syrup made from Angelica roots after childbirth to stimulate the release of a retained placenta. Some midwives claim the placenta arrives 10 minutes later!

Perhaps the most talked about member of the Angelica species is the Chinese variety commonly known as Dong Quai. There has been a great deal of research done on Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis) and its various effects on the body and the female reproductive system. Dong Quai has two very different effects on the uterus, it has the ability to stimulate contractions and also to relax the uterus thus inhibiting contractions. Which effect you get depends on how you prepare the herb.

Dong Quai's relaxing effect on the uterus comes from the volatile oils contained in the root. Volatile means that the oils are easily destroyed. When the desire is to capture them, brew a medicinal tea or infusion. "Studies indicate that dang gui hot water extract regulates uterine and intestine contractions, relaxes the uterus and even inhibits spasms."1 The relaxing effect of Dong Quai is useful for dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation).

When the desire is to stimulate strong, coordinated, regular contractions, for aiding in childbirth, stimulating delayed menstruation, and causing miscarriage/abortion, then a decoction, tincture or capsules are used. In these preparations the volatile oils are destroyed or not captured in the process; the simmering of the herb while making a decoction destroys the oils, leaving just the uterine stimulating properties, in a tincture the oils are not extracted into the alcohol, and capsules also seem to have the uterine stimulating properties as well, it is possible that the volatile oils are damaged or destroyed when grinding the root into powder for placement within the capsule.

When contractions are fast, irregular and weak, the non-volatile components of Dong Quai root causes them to become slow, regular and stronger. One of my sources claims that a decoction is the best, where another source claims that a tincture causes stronger more coordinated contractions. The capsules seem to work as well (be sure to use a high quality product), and one advantage with capsules the dosage is most easily monitored. Most women tend to use capsules as these are easiest to obtain.

    A couple of ladies who have been kind enough to share with us their experience of ending pregnancy in Sharing our Wisdom switched to Dong Quai after using the vitamin C. Trumary who's pregnancy had been confirmed with a pregnancy test, started taking vitamin C when menstruation was two weeks late. She took the vitamin c for 5 days then switched to Black Cohosh and a day later added a tincture of Dong Quai. After medicating day and night for about 7 days bleeding began 12 hours after she took her first dose of Dong Quai.

    Annie used Dong Quai exclusively, first as a decoction, then switched to capsules. She had a positive pregnancy test, bleeding began in 5 Days. Brynna didn't have a pregnancy test, but had unprotected intercourse during the peak of her fertility. She took vitamin c for 10 days before menstruation was due. Stopped, taking nothing for the next six days. Menstruation now 1 week late, she started taking Dong Quai, 1000 mg for her first dose then reduced to 800 mg every 4 hours. After the first dose (1000 mg) - cramps; after the 2nd dose (800 mg) - spotting; after the 4th dose - bleeding like a regular period. Autumn used the vitamin C for 3 days and then switched to Dong Quai (2 capsules every 4 hours) and had bleeding begin with in 10 hours of starting the Dong Quai. Autumn's pregnancy was not confirmed, she says she observed fibrous tissue with chorionic villi. Bleeding began in 3 1/2 - 4 days.

    Other women using Dong Quai have reported noticing a reductions in pregnancy symptoms, especially with breast symptoms, such as swelling, tenderness and pain.

  • Note: I would like to add, that I put the details from these ladies experiences here for informational purposes, not as guidelines for what you could or should do. Every woman is different, and it is important to take that into consideration as you are coming up with your plan of how to deal with your current situation, doses etc. Just because it worked this way for these ladies doesn't mean it will happen this way for you.

Who shouldn't use this herb:
Contradictions - Do Not use Angelica or Dong Quai if:

  • Women who bleed heavily during a normal menstrual period or who's blood does not clot easily should avoid using Angelica species, including Dong Quai. If you take blood thinning agents like aspirin or other pharmaceutics, using Dong Quai maybe dangerous, clotting may be impaired and hemorrhage may result.
  • If you are experiencing abdominal congestion and bloating, you should avoid using Dong Quai.
  • If you have endometriosis or fibroids, you should avoid Angelica and Dong Quai.
  • Women who are pregnant and wish to remain so should avoid using Dong Quai or other Angelica species.
  • I also found a website cautioning people who have diabetes to avoid dong quai because it can elevate blood sugar levels. I'm not sure if this is true, as I have not see this caution elsewhere, and some of the claims made on the website I question the validity of - so investigate further if you are diabetic.
  • It can cause an increase in sugar in the urine.2
  • People with a history of cancer or who have had or are at risk for a heart attack. People who use blood thinning medications, or if your blood has difficultly clotting. If you are 6 weeks or more pregnant.

    Possible Side Effects The one I'm most concerned with is the tendency to increase bleeding. For women who normally have heavy menstrual periods Dong Quai and Angelica can make bleeding even heavier. This raises concern when this herb is used to end pregnancy as it can increase the risk for hemorrhage. If you decide to use this herb, pay attention to how much you are bleeding. When ending pregnancy it is normal for bleeding to be heavier than a normal menstrual period, and for it to be more crampy, and clottier than normal. But profuse bleeding is not part of herbal abortion, it is the sign of a problem. If you need to seek medical help, tell them you think you are miscarrying, and they will take care of it from there. To decrease the risk of hemorrhage, discontinue use of Dong Quai or Angelica once bleeding has been established. Other noted side effects for Angelica include, frequent urination, irritation, allergic reaction.

  • Symptoms of toxicity have been reported when dosage is too high. These are usually headaches and dizziness, sometimes strong cramping. If you experience any of these, discontinue the dong quai, and or resume at a lower dosage that your body tolerates better. The idea is not to poison yourself, just to make conditions unsuitable for a fertilized egg.

    The Herb's Qualities, Properties & Traditional Uses
    Dong Quai - sweet, acrid, bitter and warming properties.1 carminative, stimulant, diaphoretic, stomachic, tonic, expectorant.2

    Some Traditional Uses: In Traditional Chinese Medicine Dong Quai is "used more or less as a blood tonifier and nourisher and to regulate the reproductive system, particularly in women. Inappropriate in cases of acute illness, even a simple cold; rather, it is prescribed for chronic conditions in a manner that, in western terms, strengthens the body and improves nutritional status. Asian women commonly use dang gui to support and maintain normal reproductive function, lessen pelvic congestion and stop pain caused by congealed blood, such as bruises, menstrual clots and even uterine fibroids. Using it supportively before, during and after pregnancy."1 The Chinese herbalists always use Dong Quai in combination with other plants.

    Dosages & How to use the herb:

    Note: I'm not a Dr, and can't tell anyone how much to take. Dosage information has been gathered from various herbal sources, and reports of what other women have done. Please use caution when working with a new herb, give your body a chance to show you how its going to react to it.

    Part Used: - The Root is what is used and discussed here. Look for quality products that contain only the root. Cross reference the botanical name to make sure you are getting the plant you think you are. Don't use the fresh root; The dried root is ok.

    Dosages: are from various sources -

    These dosages have been pulled from Uni Tiamat's book Herbal Abortion & from what other women have reported using as documented in the Sharing our Wisdom section.

      Standard Decoction: Simmer the chopped dried root in a covered pot for 15-30 minutes drinking a cup every 4-5 hours.
      Tincture: 5-15 drops in a cup of warm water every 4 hours.4
      Powdered (root): 2-5 #0 capsules or follow the recommendations on the label. Each product varies between companies. 4
      Capsules: From my experience here on the website, an effective dose seems to be 1000 mg every 4 hours. When dosage levels are higher than this there have been reports of symptoms of toxicity. The advantage of using capsules with the milligrams listed on the bottle, is that dosage is most easily controlled. At this time, I can't say if one method of taking Dong Quai is more effective than another. Capsules are frequently used due to their availability and convenience.

    The American Botanical Council writes in Herb Reference Guide about Dong Quai Root (Angelica sinensis):

    • Average Daily Dose: Generally 9-12 g; Tablets (0.5 g of extract) twice daily, in the treatment of dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation).
    • Modern Use: Various menstrual disorders.
    • Contradictions: None known. Dong quai should not be used during pregnancy and lactation.
    • Side Effects: Hypersensitivity to the herb which may lead to excessive bleeding and occasional fever. May be photosensitizing. Can cause a slight laxative effect.
    • Drug Interactions: Potential drug interaction with blood-thinning agents.

  • There have been several reports of spotting that stops, and does not restart. To combat this problem, taking an extra dose of dong quai when spotting starts may help to get the flow going. Once bleeding is like a regular period Dong Quai should be discontinued.
    Vitamin C and Black Cohosh seem to combine well with Dong Quai. Negative reports have come from a few women who have combined Blue Cohosh and Dong Quai.

    When using these herbs to end pregnancy, always discontinue them once bleeding begins. Bleeding should be like a normal period or heavier, if just spotting continue with the herbs until the flow begins in earnest.

    If you use herbs to end pregnancy and they don't work, it is very important to follow up with an abortion. The effects of any herb used to end pregnancy on the developing fetus is unknown. Birth defects are a definite possibility, and practitioners have reported complications with pregnancies that are continued, such as the placenta attaching dangerously low in the uterus which greatly increases the risks of harm to the mother and developing child. Risks include premature detachment of the placenta before and during birth and severe hemorrhage, which is not easily stopped, and the possibility of other complications during pregnancy.

    Helpful Links:
    Abortifacient Herbs what you need to know before you start
    What the risks are of using herbs to end pregnancy
    Toxicity - What to watch for

    Purchase Herbs Online:
    Dong Quai

    1 Noe, Jody E. Angelica Sinensis: a Monograph. Journal of Naturopathic Medicine. June 17, 1998. HerbClip. accessed Aug, 2007.
    2 A Modern Herbal Angelica. accessed Oct 2007.

    If you or anyone you know has attempted herbal abortion, I am currently collecting data for a herbal abortion database, I have created a questionnaire to assist me in collecting data, and any and all herbal abortion or emergency contraceptive experiences are welcome, pregnancies confirmed with a pregnancy test are most useful, but as stated, all experiences are welcome, even if pregnancy was not confirmed or menstruation was simply late. I have posted some of the database findings on the website. You can read about other women's experiences in the Sharing our Wisdom section, all of these women have helped to add to our body of knowledge.

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