1. Strengthens Bones
Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by weak, brittle bones and an increased risk of breaks and fractures. Though this condition can affect anyone, older women are the most susceptible.
This is because menopause causes a decline in levels of estrogen, an important hormone for regulating both bone formation and the breakdown of bone cells. (1)
In addition to treating some of the most obvious symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, dong quai may also be useful in preventing bone loss as a result of menopause.
Some research shows that it could help prevent osteoporosis by building up and strengthening bones. One study found that treating bone cells with dong quai extract increased bone cell formation. (2)
Another animal study from Korea showed that treating rats with dong quai extract helped preserve bone mineral density. (3)
In addition to dong quai, eating plenty of calcium-rich foods, getting regular physical activity and spending a few minutes outside each day to get your fix of vitamin D can all help build up your bones.
2. May Reduce Blood Sugar
High blood sugar can lead to symptoms like frequent urination, trouble concentrating, increased thirst and weight loss.
Studies have found that dong quai has a blood sugar-lowering effect and can help promote normal blood sugar levels to prevent adverse side effects.
A study in the journal Food & Function showed that giving mice dong quai for four weeks decreased both blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. (4)
Insulin is a hormone responsible for the transport of sugar from the bloodstream to the cells. When insulin levels stay elevated for long periods of time, it can lead to insulin resistance. This causes your body to stop responding normally to insulin, resulting in a buildup of sugar in the blood.
Another 2016 study also confirmed these benefits on blood sugar, showing that administering dong quai extract to rats on a high-fat diet helped reduce blood sugar levels. (5)
Eating plenty of fiber, staying well-hydrated and keeping your carb intake under control are just a few other ways to keep blood sugar levels in check.
3. May Promote Heart Health
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease and is usually caused by the buildup of plaque and cholesterol in the arteries, causing them to become narrow and hardened. (6)
Decreasing your cholesterol levels is an effective way to reduce your risk of heart disease and support better heart health.
One animal study showed that treating mice with dong quai for four weeks decreased levels of total cholesterol as well as triglycerides. (7)
Another study found that combining dong quai with huang qi, another medicinal plant, reduced triglycerides, total cholesterol and bad LDL cholesterol levels in rats. (8)
Other research has even shown that dong quai may be beneficial for those with high blood pressure, another risk factor for heart disease. (9)
To boost the heart-healthy benefits of dong quai even more, remember to eat a balanced diet and incorporate regular exercise into your daily routine.