During your pregnancy, it is often confusing determining which herbal supplements are safe to use. Angelica sinensis, or dong quai, is a root used by herbalists for centuries to improve circulation, alleviate menstrual pain and help with reproductive problems. Dong quai is an abortifacient, meaning that it may induce a miscarriage in some women. Never use dong quai in early pregnancy and always consult your physician before using this or any herbal supplement.
Dong quai grows high in the cold, damp, mountains of Japan, Korea and China. It is a perennial plant, belonging to the celery family. Smooth purple-colored stems and umbrella-shaped white flowers characterize dong quai. Herbalists frequently use dong quai for many reasons such as a muscle relaxant and blood purifier. The American Academy of Family Physicians explains that midwives use dong quai to induce labor and ready the cervix for birth in term pregnancies.
The National Institutes of Health defines miscarriage as the spontaneous loss of a pregnancy before the 20th week. Dong quai stimulates the uterus and helps strengthen and coordinate contractions, which is why many midwives use it during childbirth. However, in early pregnancy this can cause the uterus to expel the products of conception. Therefore, avoid dong quai during pregnancy. Symptoms of miscarriage include abdominal or back pain, passing clots or tissue vaginally and vaginal bleeding. If you have any of these symptoms, call your physician immediately.
Some women use dong quai, along with black and blue cohosh, to induce a miscarriage or an herbal abortion. Using herbs to end a pregnancy can leave a woman susceptible to numerous complications. To effectively induce a miscarriage, women must be precise about the amount of herbs they use and when they use them to avoid an incomplete miscarriage. Even then, a woman may not entirely expel the products of conception, leaving her susceptible to complications. Never attempt to induce a miscarriage without a physician’s supervision.
If a miscarriage is incomplete, a woman may end up with a serious systemic infection known as sepsis. Symptoms of sepsis, caused by an incomplete miscarriage, include foul smelling vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding, painful abdominal cramping, fever, nausea, vomiting and sweating. Sepsis can cause death if left untreated.
Angelica sinensis is known by many common names including dong quai, angelica polymorpha, tang-kuei, dang-gui and Chinese angelica. Read all labels carefully to avoid using the herb under a different name.
Always check with your doctor or a certified herbalist if unsure about the safety of an herbal product while pregnant. Most commercially manufactured products will have a warning regarding use during pregnancy.
Based in Florida, Martina McAtee has been writing health and fitness articles since 2003. She attended Keiser University, graduating with an Associate of Science in nursing. McAtee is currently working toward a master's degree in nursing from Florida Atlantic University.