Dong quai, which is also known as tang-kuei and Chinese angelica, is the dried root of an herb used since the twelfth century for treating various conditions of "poor circulation," including irregularities of menstruation and ovulation, but also pernicious anemia, vitiligo (white patches on the skin), and even headaches. The original use of dong quai in Traditional Chinese Medicine was for treating men's fertility issues. Scientists now know that the antioxidant ferulic acid in dong quai helps protect sperm against hostile cervical mucus, enabling more sperm to reach the womb.
Dong quai also increases circulation, aiding men's fertility when the primary problem is damage from scar tissue in the testes, the sperm-producing tissues of the testicles. When practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine use dong quai to treat women's fertility issues, they look for symptom patterns that include blurred vision, headache, and ringing in the ears. The ideas about the energy called chi in Traditional Chinese Medicine teach that this herb is most useful for treating disturbances of energy that include not just the uterus but also sensory organs, as well as hairiness or hair loss. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, women are almost never prescribed dong quai to be taken by itself.
A herbal formula called Dong Quai and Peony "Soup" (referring to the boiling of the herbs, with several other ingredients, to make a healing tea) is the most common prescription. This herbal formula is used to treat conditions that benefit from lowering estrogen levels, especially when there are problems during the first half of the menstrual cycle. Dong quai formulas have a special role in PCOS. They reduce both testosterone and estrogen but help keep the two hormones in the right balance. The herbs in Dong Quai and Peony "Soup" stop the formation of inflammatory hormones that aggravate endometriosis, and they also are useful in a variety of other inflammatory conditions that affect many women, allergies, asthma, indigestion, eczema, and psoriasis among them.
Scientists at the University of Texas at San Antonio have even found that this simple herbal formula helps prevent the onset of Alzheimer's. There is a potential for allergies in people who are allergic to angelica, yarrow, or ragweed, but dong quai benefits are outstanding for almost no risk for both men and women. Just be sure to obtain the right formula from an experienced practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine the first time you use the herb.