Astragalus root comes from a perennial plant that is found across much of northern China and Mongolia. The herb is a staple of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine)
, where it has been used for centuries as a superior
(Fisch. Ex Link) Bunge
Common name: Astragalus
Synonyms: Membranous milkvetch, Huang qi
The Plant: Astagalus is one of the largest genus of flowering plants, containing over 2,000 species. These members of the legume family are found all over the world (400 of them in the United States) in many sizes and shapes. Astragalus herb is a sprawling perennial that grows 1 1/2 feet tall and has small, yellow, pea-like flowers. The plants are generally four years old before the long, woody root is dug and dried in the sun.
"Huang qi," the pinyin name for astragalus is derived from Huang, meaning yellow (taken from the internal color of the root) and qi, meaning leader, which refers to the importance of astragalus root as a leading Chinese herbal tonic. This leading, or superior, tonic herb has been known and valued in China for more than 2,000 years. Astragalus grows naturally across a wide swatch of China, but the Chinese consider the cultivated root superior to the wild. When planted in a well-drained soil, the plants are easy to grow once the seeds germinate.
Constituents of Note: The polysaccharides in astragalus are important in the protecting qualities of the herb. Flavonoids and triterpene saponins are also significant classes of constituents.
Quality: Large, straight roots with a yellowish core are considered the highest quality. Astragalus from China is usually prepared in long slices of root and it is seen in many grades with each successive, lower grade composed of slightly shorter, narrower or less straight slices. Astragalus has a faint aroma and a woody, sweet, mild flavor.
Regulatory Status: Dietary supplement
Directions: To make an astragalus tea, simmer roots for 30 minutes. Use one teaspoon of herb per each cup of water. (When using slices break them into pieces to estimate quantity, it is not important to be exact with this herb). Drink one to three cups a day.
Add a slice or two of astragalus along with ginger root to a warming winter soup, such as chicken noodle, or hot and sour or spicy coconut Thai dishes.
Suggested Uses: Astragalus is a traditional Chinese tonic and adaptogen and is considered one of the most valued of the tonic herbs. In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), it is sometimes recommended for young adults while ginseng is recommended for older persons. The protective energy of the body, Qi is composed of outer energy (Wei Qi) and inner energy (Ying Qi) Astragalus is believed to strengthen Wei Qi while ginseng strengthens Ying Qi. A good all encompassing strengthening blend would include both astragalus and ginseng.
Caution/Safety: The Botanical Safety Handbook* classifies Astragalus Root as:
Class:1 herbs which can be safely consumed when used appropriately
*Michael McGuffin, ed., American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook, (New York: CRC Press, 1997)
Origins: Our astragalus root is cultivated in China where it is processed in the traditional manner into root slices. Our organic astragalus comes from the United States and is cut and sifted.