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Astragalus as an Herb

Astragalus plant

Astragalus membranaceus

Astragalus is also known as Huang-Qi in Chinese.

Astragalus is a member of the pea family native to northeast China, where astragalus is commercially grown. In China, the root is called huang-qi. The Chinese name huang-qi means "yellow leader" because it is one of the superior tonic roots in traditional Chinese medicine. Herbalists say it is a mild stimulant.

Astragalus as an Herb for Medicinal Uses

The primary medicinal parts of the herb are the roots. Astragalus has been used to invigorate vital energy (qi) and in prescriptions for shortness of breath, general weakness, and lack of appetite. Also used as a diuretic, and for the treatment of colds, flu, stomach ulcers, and diabetes. Astragalus is widely used in modern herbal practice in China.

Since 1975, astragalus has also been used in China in cancer patients undergoing radiation treatment and chemotherapy. Conventional cancer treatments reduce the function of the immune system, so astragalus helps return it to normal function.

In the early 1980s, researchers in Houston, Texas, studied the effects of astragalus on nineteen cancer patients and fifteen healthy individuals. A chemical fraction extract of astragalus was found to restore T-cell function in 90 percent of the cancer patients to levels observed in the healthy subjects.

Numerous studies confirm Astragalus as an immunostimulant, and for antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, adaptogenic, and diuretic effects. It is also known to improve stamina.

The herb has therapeutic effects on sodium and water retention in aortocaval fistula-induced heart failure, improving cardiac and renal functions in heart failure.

Using Astragalus

Most authorities on traditional Chinese medicine recommend taking 9 to 15 grams (3 to 5 tablespoons) of the whole herb per day as a decoction, made by boiling the ground, dried root in water for a few minutes and then brewing the tea. May also be taken in capsules or extract form.

The dried sliced root, which looks like a tongue depressor, is the usual form of the crude herb supplied from Chinese sources. Tinctures, tablets, capsules, powdered herb, extracts, and combination products are found in the American herb market. Astragalus is often combined with ginseng.

Tea Bag: The dried root is administered as 2 to 6 grams daily, and the fluid extract as 4 to 12 milliliters daily. The powdered root capsule (250mg to 500mg) has been administered as two capsules three times daily.

Culinary Uses of Astragalus

You can cook astragalus root into immune building soups with shiitake mushrooms onions, garlic, miso and carrots.


Caution should be taken with patients receiving immunosuppressive therapy, such as transplant patients, or patients with autoimmune diseases.

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