Hot Flashes: Dong Quai Unsuccessful

January 1999; Volume 1: 16

Source: Hirata JD, et al. Does dong quai have estrogenic effects in postmenopausal women? A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Fertil Steril 1997;68:981-986.

Design and Setting: Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study conducted at a large health maintenance organization in northern California.

Subjects: 71 symptomatic postmeno-pausal women with FSH levels in the postmenopausal range.

Treatment: Dong quai (Angelica sinensis)

Dose/Route/Duration: 4.5 g po qd x six months.

Outcome Measures: Number of hot flashes, estrogenization of vaginal epi-thelial cells, or endometrial thickness measured by sonogram.

Results: There was no significant effect on any of the outcome measures.

Funding: Northern California Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, Inc. Community Service Program

Comments: This was a well-designed study with appropriate outcome measures for an estrogenic herb. According to the Chinese Herbal Medicines Materia Medica and other sources, dong quai is not considered estrogenic. It is unclear why investigators chose a non-estrogenic herb and measured estrogenic outcomes. Dong quai is a Chinese herb commonly prescribed to women for various conditions. Chinese herbs are seldom used alone but are used in individually tailored mixtures. In North America, dong quai is often used alone by consumers who consider it a panacea for "women’s problems." At least for hot flashes, the herb used on its own is clearly ineffective.