Dong quai is an herb used in traditional Chinese medicine. The herb is known by several names, including Angelica sinensis, Chinese Angelica root, tang kuei and danggui. Chinese medicine practitioners often prescribe dong quai for the treatment of menstrual disorders, menopausal symptoms, uterine fibroids, high blood pressure and various other disorders. Dong quai extract may cause side effects, ranging from mild to severe. Patients considering herbal therapy should talk with their physician about possible side effects and interactions with other medications and supplements before taking any new herb.
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Increased or Prolonged Bleeding
Dong quai has blood-thinning, or anticoagulant, properties. Increased or prolonged bleeding may occur among patients taking dong quai extract. The "PDR for Herbal Medicine" states that use of dong quai is contraindicated for patients with a bleeding disorder, women with heavy menstrual bleeding and patients taking anticoagulant medications, such as warfarin or heparin. MayoClinic.com recommends that patients taking dong quai discontinue the herb before surgery or procedures that may involve bleeding.
Psoralens, one of the active chemicals in dong quai extract, may cause increased skin sensitivity to ultraviolet radiation, reports Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Skin areas exposed to the sun or ultraviolet tanning equipment may develop a red, itchy rash. Regular use of sunscreen and avoiding use of commercial or private tanning equipment reduces the risk for the development of photodermatitis associated with dong quai.
Possible Risk of Birth Defects
Taking dong quai during pregnancy may increase the risk for birth defects, reports the National Library of Medicine encyclopedia MedlinePlus. The "PDR for Herbal Medicine" states that pregnant women should not take dong quai.
Possible Worsening of Estrogen-Dependent Conditions
Dong quai may have estrogen-like effects in the human body. Such activity might potentially prove harmful to patients with estrogen-sensitive medical conditions and cancers, including uterine fibroids, endometriosis, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and uterine cancer. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center urges caution in the use of dong quai among patients with estrogen-sensitive cancers.
Stomach and Intestinal Upset
Dong quai may cause stomach or intestinal upset, reports the website MayoClinic.com. Possible side effects may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal bloating and decreased appetite. The "PDR for Herbal Medicines" states that patients with chronic diarrhea should not take dong quai.
Increased Cancer Risk
Dong quai extract contains the chemical safrole, a substance listed as a "reasonably anticipated" human cancer-causing agent in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program's "Report on Carcinogens." Safrole causes liver, bile system and lung cancers in experimental animal models. MayoClinic.com states that patients should avoid long-term use of dong quai.
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