Astragalus — Astragalus membranaceus

astragalus-plantFamily: Fabaceae 

Part Used: Root

Herbal action: adaptogen, Qi tonic, Immune-modulator, Cardio-tonic, diuretic, hypotensive, alterative

Medical action: As an immune tonic, Astragalus is considered to be an adaptogen, providing deeper immune system support than Echinacea. From a Chinese point of view, it is considered a superior qi (energy) tonic, enhancing energy, especially if a person is recovering from an illness, or has been exhausted by fatigue. Astragalus’ Chinese (Mandarin) name is huang qi. First written about in China, over 5,000 years ago, it was consider a superior herb with ‘qi’ meaning ‘leader’ and ‘huang’ meaning ‘yellow’. It has been considered one of the most important tonic herbs, thus the name ‘yellow leader’.  Another common name for this herb is ‘sweet root’ due to its very sweet, delicious taste.

Current Western applications of Astragalus are primarily for restoring and strengthening the immune response, enhancing cardiovascular function, and increasing vitality. Indications supported by clinical trials include impaired immunity, adjunctive cancer treatment, and viral infections, including the common cold and cervical erosion associated with Herpes simplex. Western preparations include dried root for decoction (boiled tea), liquid extract, tablets, and powdered root.

Astragalus has been shown to have a diuretic and tonifying effect on the kidneys and is thus specific for nephritis. As a cardio-tonic, it increases the contraction of normal hearts. Several studies also show Astragalus offers heart-protecting effects, including protection against free radical oxidative damage.

Astragalus is hypotensive, lowering blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessels. Astragalus protects the liver from toxic exposure (carbon tetrachloride).

From a Chinese energetic point of view it tonifies spleen and augments qi, and is appropriate for cases where there is lack of appetite, fatigue and diarrhea, prolapsed rectum, and abdominal bleeding. It is used to tonify the lung and therefore used for frequent colds or shortness of breath. It is also recommended to tonify qi and blood for postpartum fever and blood deficiency.