Hormone Modulation And Uterine Effects

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Studies on the uterine effects of dong quai have produced variable results. A uterine relaxant effect has been attributed to the volatile oil, whereas a uterine stimulant effect has been attributed to an aqueous extract (Mills & Bone 2000). Animal experiments report that dong quai produces increased uterine excitability, with initial irregular, fast contractions, later slowing and becoming more regular (Zhu 1987).

Studies of dong quai's oestrogenic activity have also produced contradictory results. In vitro reports suggest that dong quai has weak oestrogen-receptor-binding activity, producing up-regulation of progesterone-receptor mRNA(Liu etal 2001), and stimulating oestrogen-dependent breast cancer cells independent of oestrogenic activity (Amato et al 2002). An aqueous extract of dong quai was found to stimulate the growth of both oestrogen-receptor-positive and -negative breast cancer cells in vitro, suggesting both a weak oestrogen-agonistic activity and activity independent of oestrogen-receptor-mediated pathways (Lau et al 2005). This is contrasted by a study using several different in vitro bioassays that found that dong quai did not have oestrogenic activity (Klein et al 2003), oestrogen-receptor-binding activity or stimulate the growth of oestrogen-positive breast cancer cells and that it had neutral progestin activity (Zava & Blen 1998). Dong quai has also been reported to have anti-oestrogenic activity and anti-androgenic activity in vitro (Rosenberg et al 2001).

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