California Hospital Study of Dong Quai

A study at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco, headed by endocrinologist Bruce Ettinger, M.D., is investigating the effects of dong quai (Angelica sinensis) on 72 post-menopausal women troubled by hot flashes.

"Kaiser's Division of Research has studied various kinds of estrogens for years looking to promote women's health," said Dr. Ettinger, "but this is the first time that Kaiser has looked at an herbal remedy with the same seriousness."

Of the 72 Kaiser members participating in the study in a staggered-entry process, half receive 4.5 grams a day of dong quai in capsule form and the rest are given a placebo. To assess the herb's potential estrogenic effects over a six-month period, participants are monitored for hot flashes and other symptoms such as insomnia as well as any changes in the uterine and vaginal lining.

The study is not intended to find a replacement for estrogen, whose life-preserving benefits have been confirmed by studies, or to determine the herb's effect on the cardiovascular system or mortality rates, but to verify the centuries-old anecdotal evidence of the efficacy of dong quai. The study ends in November 1996 with tabulation of final results after a six-month follow-up.

According to Dr. Ettinger, the interest in dong quai reflects profound changes in social and medical attitudes toward menopause.

"Menopause isn't a disease," he says. "It's a natural process in a woman's life -- a normal condition of wellness that, like menstruation or even childbirth, can have some decidedly unpleasant side effects."

American Botanical Council.

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By Barbara Johnston

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