Dong quai has been used for centuries as a spice and medicine in traditional Asian cultures. It’s sometimes called the “female ginseng” due to its reported benefits in treating menstrual and menopausal symptoms. Modern research is finding that dong quai may also contain compounds that can help fight obesity and diseases associated with it such as Type 2 diabetes.
Dong quai is a fragrant plant and member of the celery family that grows at high altitudes in the mountains of China, Korea and Japan. It takes up to three years for the plant to reach maturity, and then the roots are harvested and made into tablets, powders and other medicinal formulas. In the late 1800s in Europe, a dong quai product called Eumenol was popular for treating gynecological disorders. It wasn’t until after the year 2000 that researchers began studying dong quai for its effects on weight loss.
In 2009, research published in the journal “Chinese Medicine” demonstrated that dong quai extracts were able to stimulate a protein called APOA4 that helps regulate appetite and satiety in laboratory rats and plays a role in the metabolism of lipid fats. In a Taiwan study published in June 2011 in “Phythotherapy Research,” a research team treated obese rats with 300 mg dong quai extracts per kilogram of body weight once daily for eight weeks. The rats had significantly decreased amounts of intra-abdominal fat, the type packed in between organs that leads to weight gain and increases your risk for coronary artery disease.
Insulin resistance is a condition where your body produces insulin but your cells don’t respond normally to its effects. This causes a buildup of blood sugar and insulin in your blood, which in turn leads to a cluster of symptoms that includes obesity. A study reported in “Phytotherapy Research” in February 2011 investigated dong quai and its effects on insulin resistance. The scientists found that 300 mg of dong quai per kg of body weight daily for eight weeks was as effective as the prescription drug pioglitazone, used for Type 2 diabetes, in helping to prevent and reduce insulin resistance.
There is no recommended dose for dong quai because it hasn’t been studied in humans long enough in scientific trials. Avoid the essential oil of dong quai because it contains a small amount of cancer-causing substances. High doses of dong quai may increase your sensitivity to sunlight and cause skin inflammation and rashes. Dong quai may increase your risk of bleeding if you are taking blood thinners. There is also a risk of miscarriage in pregnant women taking dong quai, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.