Astragalus, or Milk Vetch (Astragalus membranaceus, Astragalus mongholicus)
Also known as Huang qi, astragalus has been a part of Chinese medicine for centuries. Studies have shown that this herb may stimulate the immune system and that it may be useful in fighting cancer. This perennial grows between 20 and 30 inches tall and has leaf fronds that grow about six inches in length. The roots are harvested from plants that are about 4 or 5 years old.
Key Medicinal Uses
Internally In Chinese medicine, this herb is used to treat diabetes and facilitate healing. It is also eaten in soups or taken as tea to aid the metabolism and enhance digestion. It may also strengthen the immune system. Some herbalists use it to improve lung function as well as help the adrenal glands and the gastrointestinal tract. It has also been used for respiratory troubles like hay fever and asthma. It has been helpful in curing edema, nephritis, anemia, fibromyalgia, pneumonia and colds. With its effects on the immune system, astragalus is a good herbal remedy to build up the immune system after chemotherapy.
Herbs to Combine/Supplement
It is most commonly used mixed with other herbs like ginseng, jujube, ginger, angelica, glossy privet or licorice.
Root The root of the plant may be used in soup, tea, capsules or extracts.
While most people do not have any problem with astragalus, it may interact with prescription medications that suppress the immune system or thin the blood, so always inform your physician of what you are taking.
Preparation and Dosage
Most people find it easiest to get commercial preparations. They are available as capsules, tinctures, dried herb and extracts. When using these preparations, follow the directions carefully. If you are preparing the medicine yourself, please do so under the supervision of a certified herbalist. A normal dose of astragalus is 9 to 15 grams of the herb in a decoction. If using the fresh root, you should use 2 to 4 tablespoons. With the dried root you need 3 to 6 grams.
An extract is usually made from 4.5 grams of the dried root in 22 ml of alcohol and 23 ml of water. One to three capsules can be taken daily. For tea, use 1 to 2 teaspoons of herb steeped in hot water. A decoction should be made with 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried root and can be drunk up to three times a day.