The Chinese herb dong quai, also known as Chinese angelica, has been used for centuries as a holistic treatment for many common ailments, particularly problems affecting the female reproductive system. Dong quai can be safe and effective when it is used cautiously by healthy adults, but there are some dong quai contraindications. If you are in any of the following high-risk groups, do not take dong quai. Its potential benefits do not outweigh its risks for people in these categories.
Dong quai can trigger contractions in the uterus, leading to miscarriage and preterm labor. In the first trimester, it may also cause birth defects in the unborn baby. Because of these risks, pregnancy is generally regarded as a dong quai contraindication. An exception exists if you are using dong quai to induce labor under the guidance of a qualified obstetrician or midwife.
Dong quai can affect levels of reproductive hormones such as prolactin, progesterone and estrogen. It’s possible that dong quai can impair the production of breast milk because of its hormonal effects. Additionally, compounds in dong quai may cross breast milk and harm the nursing child. Until more is known, do not take dong quai while nursing a child.
Women with Hormone-Sensitive Conditions
Several medical conditions, including endometrosis, uterine fibroids, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and uterine cancer, are sensitive to changes caused by the hormone estrogen. Because dong quai may increase estrogen levels, it is considered to be unsafe for women with these conditions. Many other herbs have estrogen-boosting effects. Consult your health care provider about other conditions that may respond negatively to treatment with hormone-affecting herbs.
People Scheduled to have Surgery
Dong quai can slow blood clotting, possibly increasing the risk of hemorrhage in suceptible individuals. If you are scheduled to have surgery any time in the next two weeks, do not use dong quai. If you need emergency surgery, including an unscheduled tooth extraction, tell your health care provider that you have used dong quai. Your practitioner can take extra precautions to prevent excessive bleeding.
People Taking Anticoagulant Drugs
If you are taking a medication with anticoagulant (blood-thinning) effects, do not use dong quai. The herb could increae your risk of a life-threatening bleeding episode. Drugs with anticoagulant effects include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, and warfarin (Coumadin). Many other herbs and supplements also interact with these drugs, so check with your healht care provider before using any product if you take medication.
The National Institutes of Health offers more information about dong quai contraindications.