Dong Quai is known after many names: Angelica Sinensis, Dong Quoi or "Dang Gui" in Chinese pinyin.
What is Dong Quai?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Dong Quai is without a doubt the most famous herb of all for women issues. Sometimes called the "female ginseng", it is a staple in herbal formulas targeted at women.
In TCM its main function is to supply and invigorate Blood. As such it is used to treat diseases related to what TCM calls Blood Deficiency or Blood Stagnation. This includes diseases such as scanty, painful or irregular menstruation, menopausal syndrome or anemia.
It's become more famous as of late outside of China as more and more women recognize the plant's amazing health benefits. Scientific studies are starting to confirm this. For instance it's already been proven beneficial for diseases as diverse as renal diseases1, ulcerative colitis2 or cerebral infarction3.
Dong Quai's benefits after giving birth
Postpartum use of Dong Quai is highly recommended in TCM and a long-standing tradition in most Asian countries.
Most women who recently gave birth will suffer from what TCM calls "Qi and Blood Deficiency", a mix of Blood Deficiency and Qi Deficiency. This is due to the sheer amount of energy used during birth-giving and the massive blood loss suffered.
Symptoms of Qi and Blood Deficiency include: Fatigue, Hair loss, Watery and pale milk, Soft breasts, Pale face & lips, Spontaneous flow of breastmilk, No desire to move or speak.
As much as 70% of postpartum women will experience a more or less severe form of Qi and Blood Deficiency.
It makes sense that Dong Quai would be used to treat Qi and Blood Deficiency since it is TCM's premier Blood-supplying herb. As such, it helps resolve the "Blood deficiency" part of Qi and Blood Deficiency.
In fact for centuries tradition in many Asian countries calls for feeding postpartum mothers with dishes made with Dong Quai, such as Dong Quai Chicken soup with Red dates, a postpartum classic.
Is Dong Quai safe while breastfeeding?
Not only is Dong Quai safe while breastfeeding, Dong Quai can be of tremendous help to many nursing mothers.
China is probably the country who knows most about Dong Quai since they have eaten it and used it as a herbal ingredient for millennia. The Chinese Ministry of Health has classified Dong Quai as safe as food, the safest possible classification.
It is however advised, like with many other roots with medicinal properties, not to consume too much of it on a daily basis; no more than 15g a day being the general advice. As such it is ideal to use it as a small ingredient in soups, dishes or in herbal blends.
Why is Dong Quai recommended while breastfeeding? Because, as mentioned above, Dong Quai helps treat Qi and Blood Deficiency, a pattern that affects most postpartum women. Women suffering from Qi and Blood Deficiency will notably have many breastfeeding-related symptoms such as not enough breast milk or a breast milk of poor quality, watery and pale.
A perfect formula to treat Qi and Blood Deficiency is Milk Boost Tea. Of course it contains Dong Quai, which is one of its main ingredients, among 12 other herbs. Milk Boost Tea isn't only designed to help boost milk supply, it does so through resolving the underlying Qi and Blood Deficiency. As such it helps with general postpartum recovery.
Another Dong Quai-containing formula that's commonly used to treat Qi and Blood Deficiency is Tong Ru Dan.
1. Song JY, Meng LQ, Li XM. (2008). Therapeutic application and prospect of Astragalus membranaceus and Angelica sinensis in treating renal microvascular lesions. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. , 28(9):859-61.
2. Dong WG, Liu SP, Zhu HH, Luo HS, Yu JP. (2004). Abnormal function of platelets and role of angelica sinensis in patients with ulcerative colitis. World J Gastroenterol. , 15;10(4):606-9.
3. Liu YM, Zhang JJ, Jiang J. (2004). Observation on clinical effect of Angelica injection in treating acute cerebral infarction. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. , 24(3):205-8.