One of the major herbs used in traditional Chinese herbal medicine, Angelica sinensis is closely related to European Angelica archangelica, a common garden herb and the flavoring in Benedictine and Chartreuse liqueurs. The carrot-like roots of this fragrant plant are harvested in the fall after about 3 years of cultivation and stored in airtight containers prior to processing.

Traditionally, dong quai is said to be one of the most important herbs for strengthening the xue. The Chinese term xue is often translated as "blood," but it actually refers to a complex concept in traditional Chinese medicine, of which the Western notion of blood is only a part. In the late 1800s, an extract of dong quai known as Eumenol became popular in Europe as a "female tonic," and this is how most people consider it in the West.

Dong quai is often recommended as a treatment for menstrual cramps, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and other problems related to menstruation, as well as hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. However, the scientific evidence supporting these uses is very weak, consisting primarily of test tube and animal studies, as well as a few open studiesof people.1-5 Only double-blind, placebo-controlledstudies can actually show a treatment effective, and a 24-week study that compared the effects of dong quai against a placebo in 71 postmenopausal women found no benefit.6 (For more information on why double-blind studies are so important, see Why Does This Database Rely on Double-blind Studies?)