If you know us, you know it’s all about the ingredients! And lately, there’s been a trend towards using nature-based ingredients in skincare, since they are comparatively safer to chemically produced products and have great benefits. Chances are, you’ve replaced a few bottles in your own cabinet with more “natural” alternatives.
Modern research has been on the lookout for different sources of ingredients and traditional Eastern medicine is a treasure trove for local knowledge of these ingredients. One of these sources is Chinese traditional medicine, which has a legacy of 2,500 years and has contributed several ingredients to skincare. A relatively less known, yet highly interesting ingredient is “Dong Quai,” or the female ginseng.
What is Dong Quai?
Dong Quai, Dang gui, female ginseng and Angelica are all names for this plant, which is scientifically known as Angelica sinensis and local to China. The root of the plant has a forked appearance, similar to ginseng, and is traditionally used to treat women’s problems. This is how it developed the name “female ginseng.” However, using dong quai is beneficial for men and women, so if you’re a guy this is for you too!
What is it traditionally used for?
Angelica is a medicinal herb and part of many traditional schools of medicine, especially Chinese and Indian. In Chinese medicine, it is considered a Yin tonic, which balances energy levels, and (when taken with ginseng) balances the Yang. It is used to help balance hormones and reduce symptoms of menopause.
Many of the health-promoting properties of this angelica herb come from the presence of coumarin, a naturally occurring compound that helps blood circulation and prevents blood clots. Did you know that Dong Quai also contains beneficial plant compounds like ferulic acid and phytosterols? If you’re not familiar with these don’t worry! They are responsible for Dong Quai’s anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, meaning you can use it to treat wounds and swelling.
Is Dong Quai good for the skin?
If you use Dong Quai, you’re in good company: it’s one of the most popular medicinal herbs in Chinese medicine. In fact, there are several studies that test its efficacy. One study conducted on the anti-inflammatory properties of Dong Quai found that repeated application reduced inflammation.
Another study tested the potential of Dong Quai to treat eczema. The study found that application of Dong Quai for 11 days reduced skin thickness, swelling and the production of cytokines. Cytokines add to skin inflammation, and the researchers found that this mechanism could be used to treat eczema successfully.
Dong Quai also has skin-lightening properties, as shown by a study from 2016. Dong Quai extracts reduced the formation of melanin through interfering with the genetic pathway that is responsible for it. Best of all, there were no signs of cytotoxicity. The extract also downregulates tyrosinase expression. Tyrosinase is a key molecule for melanin production, the decrease of which leads to lighter skin. No, we’re not talking about skin bleaching–we love the skin you’re in and hope you do too! These findings mean that Dong Quai may be a safer alternative to hydroquinone for reducing the appearance of dark patches and spots on the skin.
Tests have also been conducted on the wound healing capacities of Dong Quai. A study on human fibroblast cells reported that the application of Dong Quai increases the production of collagen, improves the growth of cells and heals wounds faster. Researchers suggest this is due to the presence of ferulic acid in Dong Quai extracts.
Ferulic acid is known to have high antioxidant properties that help heal wounds. Ferulic acid also activates proteins that respond to environmental stress, thereby making wound healing more efficient. These are just some of the studies that provide evidence of the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties of Dong Quai.
Summing it up:
Dong Quai has been a staple of Chinese medicines for centuries and is now being recognized for its potential in skincare. It can help lighten skin, reduce inflammation and help heal wounds faster as clinical studies have shown.
- Na L Jeung-Hyun Koo Ha-Yong Yoon Jiahua Yu Kyung-Ah Kim Il-Whan Choi Kang-Beom Kwon Keun-Sang Kwon Han-Uk Kim Jin-Woo Park Byung-Hyun Park, International Journal of Molecular Medicine. Effect of Angelica gigas extract on melanogenesis in B16 melanoma cells. November 2007, pages 763-767.
- Lee J, Choi YY, Kim MH, Han JM, Lee JE, Kim EH, Hong J, Kim J, Yang WM. Journal of Medicinal Food. 2016 Jan;19(1):98-105. Topical Application of Angelica sinensis Improves Pruritus and Skin Inflammation in Mice with Atopic Dermatitis-Like Symptoms.
- Chia-Yen Hsiao, Ching-Yi Hung, Tung-Hu Tsai, and Kin-Fu Chak. Volume 2012, Article ID 467531, 14 pages. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. A Study of the Wound Healing Mechanism of a Traditional Chinese Medicine, Angelica sinensis, Using a Proteomic Approach.
- X.Kuang, Y. Yao, J.R. Dua, Y.X. Liu, C.Y. Wang, Z.M. Qian. Brain Research Volume 1102, Issue 1, 2 August 2006, Pages 145-153. Neuroprotective role of Z-ligustilide against forebrain ischemic injury in ICR mice.
- Yeung-LeungCheng, Wen-LiangChang, Shih-ChunLee, Yau-GyeLiu, Cheng-Jueng Chen, Shinn-Zong Line, Nu-Man Tsai, Dah-Shyong Yu, Chung-YangYen, Horng-Jy Harn. Life Sciences, Volume 75, Issue 13, 13 August 2004, Pages 1579-1594. Acetone extract of Angelica sinensis inhibits proliferation of human cancer cells via inducing cell cycle arrest and apoptosis.