Favorite Female Herbs - Angelica Sinensis


Best for: Stress induced menstrual problems, menopause

Don Quai, also known as Chinese Angelica could easily be one of the top female herbs in the Eastern plant pharmacy. Unlike Vitex or Black Cohosh which act on the brain in order to exert their hormonal effects Don Quai is a true phytoestrogen. A phytoestrogen is a plant compound that has the ability to bind to estrogen receptors in the body. Hormones like estrogen work by traveling to specific organs and then binding receptors on the target tissue. The effect that estrogen has will depend on the tissue type. For example, estrogen made in the ovaries may travel to the bone, where it binds receptors that stimulate cells to increase bone density. Similarly if there is a tumor which expresses estrogen receptors, the binding of estrogen to those receptors may initiate more growth.

Phytoestrogens act as a very weak form of estrogen. Unlike stronger human estrogens (there are actually 3 main forms), phytoestrogens have a modulating effects at receptor sites. What this means is that if there is TOO much estrogen in the body (in conditions such as fibroids, excessive menstrual bleeding, some cancer etc), phytoestrogens will BLOCK receptor sites so that “real” estrogen cannot bind. On the other hand if there is too little estrogen in the body (for example during menopause) phytoestrogens stimulate receptors and help mitigate the side effects of low estrogen states.

I have personally found Don Quai to be very useful at treating menopausal complains, such as hot flashes and night sweats, as well as memory trouble in menopausal women. It is also beneficial for helping to ease menstrual cramps, and has mild sedative and analgesic (pain relieving) effects.

Don Quai also helps dilate blood vessels leading to an anti-hypertensive, or blood pressure lowering effect, while promoting circulation and helping to thin the blood. Those on anti-coagulation therapy, bleeding disorders, or who are pregnant should speak to their doctor before taking Don Quai.

Don Quai has the added benefit of protecting the liver and modulating inflammation - important for womens health as our hormones are broken down by the same detoxification pathways as environmental chemcials. The volatile oils present in Don Quai have been shown in animal studies to inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (chemical messangers produced by cells) in response to bacterial toxins. 

Finally Don Quai is also used as an aphrodisiac and adaptogen for women. Adaptogens are substances that help the body deal with stress. As women age, ovarian production of hormones wane and the adrenal glands must take over. Adaptogens support and recharge the adrenal glands, which produce not only sex hormones but also adrenalin, cortisol and aldosterone. When the body is under chronic stress the adrenal glands may become depleted; adaptogens essentially help rebuild and support them.

A usual dose is 200mg of a standardized extract per day. It should not be taken by anyone with bleeding disorders or excessive menstrual bleeding, and may decrease  blood pressure.

In Health,

Dr V.