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Astragalus: A Great Adaptogen Herb

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Latin Name: Astragalus, Astragalus propinquus, Astragalus membranaceus

Common name(s): Milk Vetch, Astragalus, Huang Qi

Family: Fabaceae

Botany: Astragalus membranaceus is a perennial, native to Northern and Eastern China, as well as Mongolia and Korea.

Habitat: Astragalus does well in deep, sandy, well drained, and somewhat alkaline soils, but is fairly adaptable to other conditions.

History/Folklore: Astragalus has been a staple of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practice for thousands of years. As an adaptogen, it’s been used either alone or in formulas as a general Qi (or life force energy) tonic, promoting overall health and wellbeing. Astragalus membranaceus was introduced to the United States in 1925 through the USDA’s Plant introduction Office.

Parts used: root

Constituents: Polysaccharides (astragalosides I-IV and trigonosides I-III), isoflavonoids, saponins, triterpenoids

Energetics: Warming

Actions: Antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, adaptogen, anti-tumor, cardiotonic, diuretic

Medicinal use: Astragalus has the general effect of increasing the body’s resistance to disease. In terms of how it works, herbalist Christopher Hobbs offers the following: “Astragalus increases the 'bone marrow reserve', enabling the body to produce more immune effector cells {such as t-cells}, aiding the immune system in its fight against pathogens.” In addition to its adaptogen qualities, Astragalus has been used to treat or as an adjunct therapy for a variety of conditions, including anemia, heart disease, hayfever, fatigue and lack of appetite during chemotherapy, and kidney disease. It also has strong anti-diabetes properties, lowering blood sugar levels. It may also have anti-tumor effects, specifically against melanoma and leukemia.

Common preparation: tincture, tea, capsules, and tablets

Contraindications: May interfere with drugs that suppress the immune system.







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