A medicinal herb derived from the root of a plant (Astragalus Membranaceus) in the pea family. It is also known as milk vetch root (referring to astragalus species that grow in the United States) and huang-qi in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Astragalus is used primarily to stimulate and support the immune system. A secondary use is as a diuretic in kidney inflammation formulas.
Astragalus is an adaptogen, that is, it has a balancing effect on bodily functions. Astragalus is used by practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine to strengthen or tone the body's overall vitality, improve digestion, and support the spleen. Studies confirm it contains medicinally active compounds, including a polysaccharide (astragalan B) that stimulates the immune system. Research has also shown that subjects with advanced cancer showed a two to three fold increase in the strength of their immune response after being given astragalus. Another study showed that astragalus boosted immune response, even in animals that were treated with an immunosuppressive drug, cyclophosphamide. It is also one of the herbs known to stimulate the body's natural production of interferon and Natural Killer (NK) cells. Astragalus is taken in China by cancer patients to boost immunity after drug or radiation treatment. It may protect body cells against heavy metals and chemical toxins. Astragalus is a good source of the essential trace mineral selenium. It is often combined in formulas with ginseng (either panax or Siberian and other Chinese herbs.
Astragalus is available from herbal companies in fresh or dried and in capsules, concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts.