If you are looking to boost brain function, you may wonder if Dong Quai should be in your diet. This plant root is often used as a remedy in homeopathy. Dong Quai is an herb that has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for more than 2,000 years. Its official name is “Angelica Sinensis,” and it is part of the Umbelliferae botanical family.
This makes it a cousin to vegetables and herbs such as parsley, dill, celery, and carrots.
Dong Quai is not known for its brain-boosting properties. That is not to say that it can’t help with
brain function, but that is not its primary purpose as an herb. Let’s take a look at what Dong Quai
can and cannot do for you.
Dong Quai (or Chinese Angelica): The ‘Female Ginseng’
Both men and women use Dong Quai, but it is popularly known as the “female
What does that mean? Well, what is ginseng renowned for?
Ginseng (or specifically, the root of Panax ginseng) is known for its potential rejuvenating
effects. It has been called a “superior tonic.”
Ginseng, in tea form, is often recommended to improve digestion. But ginseng’s more colorful
reputation has to do with its possibly being an herbal Viagra for men. (It’s also one of the ‘7 Most Useful Herbal Supplements to Try Today‘)
Dong Quai, then, is known for its rejuvenating qualities for women, and in China, it is popularly
used to treat symptoms of menopause. It is also used to treat PMS (premenstrual syndrome),
dysmenorrhea (menstrual pain), and irregular menstrual cycles.
Clinical evidence for Dong Quai’s efficacy in helping alleviate common women’s issues is scant,
however, the herb is used extensively by women in China, sometimes daily.
How Dong Quai May Help the Brain
The reality is that, if you are reading this in hopes of finding a super herb to help you ace your
next exam, Dong Quai is probably not for you.
What this supplemental herb may do is help improve blood circulation to the brain. Increased blood flow to
the brain (provided it is not too much!) can, of course, help support brain function.
One study examined people with acute cerebral infarction. Acute cerebral infarction is a type of brain damage
caused by a stroke that happens when blood vessels that are transporting blood to the brain
A 78.7% improvement in brain function was measured in people given the Dong Quai herb,
based on neuro-function deficit scoring.
Dong Quai may also protect the brain from Alzheimer’s, due to its ability to alleviate oxidative
It may also be helpful in reducing tumors and tumor cells involved in brain cancer.
The herb also has potential mood-enhancing effects, as research from the University of Illinois
found that Dong Quai can have an impact like serotonin.
How Safe is Dong Quai as a Supplement?
The idea that herbs are “safe” simply because they are more “natural” than pharmaceutical
drugs is a bit of a myth. Herbs may be less concentrated and potent than medicinal drugs, but
they can still have side effects.
While this root is used to make medicine, it is still important to be aware of any risks. (It is especially known to have hormonal and estrogen effects on animals)
A full list of potential issues with this supplement is quite comprehensive, and you should do your
research before consuming this herb. Here are just a few of the reasons why you should be
cautious with Dong Quai consumption.
1. It May Can Mimic Estrogen
First, Dong Quai may act as a phytoestrogen, much in the way soy does. If you are avoiding
products such as soy due to their estrogen-mimicking qualities, you will probably want to avoid
this female ginseng as well.
2. This Herb May Increase the Risk of Bleeding
You should not take Dong Quai with any blood thinner or medicine that acts as a blood
thinner. People who take Coumadin (warfarin) should stay away from this ancient Chinese remedy. Even
aspirin and ibuprofen may be bad news when combined with Dong Quai. In other words, this can slow blood clotting.
3. Pregnant Women Should Never Take DQ
While this herb is called the “female ginseng,” it should never be taken by pregnant women.
This is because the herb can increase the risk of miscarriage and stimulate uterine contractions.
Likewise, new mothers should not take Dong Quai while breastfeeding as its effects on a baby
have not been studied.
Another negative effect includes sensitivity to the sun, but there are also positive effects seen from this root as well. Some main ones include:
- Detoxes the body
- Can be used as an aphrodisiac
- Stress and anxiety relief
- Helps with skin care
…and many more.
Dong Quai: Use with Caution
Given that Dong Quai does not have a lot of documented positive effects for brain-boosting in
healthy people, it is not recommended for daily brain boost use. When it is used safely, it is usually taken by mouth or in a skin cream.
The herb has a lot of potential side effects and can negatively interact with drugs and other herbs. Before taking Dong Quai, you
should consult with your doctor and work with a qualified herbalist or practitioner of TCM
(Traditional Chinese Medicine) such as a certified acupuncturist.