The Healing Plant
by Katrina Thompson
membranaceus grows in China
from the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, south to
the Shandong peninsula, west to the mountains of Sichuan,
and north to the westernmost province of Xinjiang. It is
found along forest margins, in shrub thickets, thin open
woods, and grasslands near the edge of forests. The Chinese
harvest its roots when plants are four to five years old.
Before completely dry, the roots are sliced into thin diagonals
or sliced lengthwise, producing a dried product that looks
like a tongue depressor.
is the common English name for huang-qi, a beautiful, herbaceous,
perennial herb. Two characters make up the written Chinese word
for astragalus. The first character, "huang," means
yellow; the second, "qi," means venerable, referring
to this herb's place as a superior tonic in Chinese medicine.
Calligrapher and professor of foreign
languages and Asian Studies
Colorado State University
The astragalus genus is
one of the largest groups of flowering plants in the pea family
(leguminosae of Fabaceae), with more than 1,750
documented species and members. Some are merely ornamental; some
are medicinal; some are poisonous; and some are considered safe
and used in foods, cosmetics, and coffee or tea substitutes.
Gum tragacanth, a common colloidal ingredient in lotions, pharmaceutical
suspensions, resinous tinctures, creams, jellies, and ice cream,
is derived from several astragalus species.
|Around 5000 years ago, the Chinese
Emperor Shen Nung reported on his proving of astragalus.
The emperor was said to have eaten 365 medicinal plants
over the course of his lifetime, until he turned green
and died from toxic overdose. Emperor Shen Nung is remembered
today as having a green complexion, long hair, long beard
and a rather strong face with large eyes and hairy eyebrows.
He is dressed completely in leaves and vines although he
sits on the majestic throne of China. His court preserved
his knowledge and findings, enabling hundreds of generations
of Chinese doctors to learn and expand upon investigations.
This is one of the reasons medicinal knowledge and powers
are so advanced in China.
Westerners began to realize the medicinal importance
of A. membranaceus during the 1800s. Dr. Alexander van
Bunge, a Russian physician who studied East Asian plants, first
described the species for the West in 1868. Astragalus is slowly
becoming one of the better-known Chinese herbs. Some of its popularity
may be attributed to extensive scientific study that began in
the 1970s confirming the herb's ability to stimulate the immune
system, fight bacteria, viruses, and inflammation, protect the
liver, and act as a diuretic and adaptogen.
Adaptogens are substances that have nonspecific
actions and cause minimal disruption to the
body while normalizing body functions, no matter the condition
Health practitioners have prescribed astragalus
for treating shortness of breath, general weakness, and lack of
appetite. It is a diuretic and can also be used to treat
colds, flu, stomach ulcers, and diabetes. Astragalus strengthens
the body's resistance and invigorates and promotes tissue regeneration
via phytochemicals in the plant such as polysaccharides, especially
astragalan I, II, and III, and saponins and triterpenes. In studies
performed at the National Cancer Institute and other leading
American Cancer Institutes over recent years, it has been positively
shown that while astragalus does not directly attack cancers,
it does strengthen a cancer patient's immune system, allowing
them to recover significantly faster and live longer. Researchers
believe on the basis of cell studies that astragalus augments
those white blood cells that fight disease and removes some of
those that make the body more vulnerable to disease. In these
same studies, both in the laboratory and with 572 patients, it
also has been found that astragalus promotes adrenal cortical
function, which is usually critically diminished in cancer patients.
Astragalus also ameliorates bone marrow pression and gastointestinal
toxicity caused by chemotherapy and radiation. Astragalus is
presently being looked upon as a possible treatment for people
living with AIDS and other viral conditions as it also increases
interferon production and enhances NK and T-cell function. Astragalus
shows support for peripheral vascular diseases and peripheral
It's astonishing that we are only now documenting
something that the Chinese have known for centuries - that astragalus
is a superior class of herb; but we are just beginning to understand
how it works, and its acceptance by practitioners of allopathic
medicine will likely depend on the outcome of additional well-designed,
controlled clinical trials. Westerner scientists are learning
that the lessons of ancient cultures are not to be dismissed.
Stimulates the immune system. Used for common colds and
sore throats, to raise immune function, for infections,
in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, and as an adjunctive
support for persons undergoing chemotherapy.
Astragalus contains numerous components, including flavonoids,
polysaccharides, triterpene glycosides (e.g. astragalosides
IVII), amino acids, and trace minerals. Research conducted
by the M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston, Texas, confirms
this herb's immune-potentiating actions. Astragalus appears
to restore T-cell (a specific type of white blood cell that
is part of the lymphocyte family) counts to relatively normal
ranges in some cancer patients.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, astragalus is often used
in daily doses of 9 g to 15 g of the dried sliced root, simmered
for several hours in a quart of water (the decoction is ready
when the water is reduced down to a pint).
& Capsules: Typically combined with ginseng in
doses of up to 500mg taken 3 times a day.
astragalus has no known side effects
when used as recommended
Copyright by Katrina Thompson
2 oz. (60 ml.)
membranaceus in distilled water and organic grain alcohol. Approximately
ml. per day
Goji Berry Tonic,
4 oz. liquid tonic
Mongolian goji berries,
hawthorn berries, milk thistle seeds, astragalus root,
galangal root, cinnamon bark in alcohol extract with glycerite.
of Maryland Medical Center
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