Astragalus membranaceus

Astragalus, Astragalus membranaceus

Common Name:  Astragalus, Huang qi, milk vetch, Yellow leader, Yellow emperor, Yellow vetch

Botanical Name:  Astragalus membranaceus

Family:  Fabaceae

Class:  Adaptagen

Composition:  Root, cut and sifted

Origin:  native to northern China, Mongolia and Korea

Method of Extraction:  dried root, cut and sifted

Cultivation / Harvesting:  Organic and Kosher

Plant Description:  a perennial plant, 16-36 inches tall with hairy stems and leaves made up of 12-18 pairs of leaflets.  Sweet smelling yellow blossom.  Grows best in sandy, well-drained soil in full sun

Plant Part:  root (harvested from 4-year old plants)

Color:  pale, yellowish root

Consistency:  root is hard, cut and sifted or powdered for ease of use

Available Forms:  capsules, compress, dry powder, fomentation (hot compress), injectible (mostly in Asian countries), tea, tablets, tincture (liquid alcohol extract), tisanes (herbal infusion), topical creams, ointments, rinses, salves, and washes

How does it work?  Astragalus stimulates interferon, IgA, IgG, and increases the immune system

Properties:  adaptogen, antioxidant, antiviral, diuretic (mild), flavonoids, polysaccharides, tonic, and saponins (astragaloside)

Chakras Affected:  Third eye, color: violet, gender: masculine, planet: Mercury, element: fire

Traditional Chinese Medicine Notes:  Strengthen and replenish qi, the body’s life force and protective energy

Constituents

1-dodecanol, 3-menthyl, 6,10,14-trimethyl, acetophenone, amino acids, benzaldehyde, betaine, biter compounds (increase the flow of urine), choline, copper, crude fiber, dietary fiber, iron, flavonoids, gluconic acid, magnesium, manganese, myristicin, pentadecanone, phytol, polysaccharides, potassium, saponins, selenium, sodium, trace elements, zinc

Historical Uses

Astragalus is an adaptogen, meaning that it helps the body adapt to stressful environments.  These environments can be emotional, mental and physical stressors.  In the US, astragalus is primarily used to strengthen the immune system.  Because of it’s antiviral properties, astragalus is used for common illnesses such as colds.  People with weakened immune systems from chemotherapy, radiation and viral infections including AIDS may benefit from using astragalus as studies show astragalus helps people recover faster than compared to traditional treatments.  

Astragalus is used for allergies, anemia, anti-clotting (used in cornary heart disease), bloating, cancer, cervical cancer, chest pain (angina), chronic fatigue (FCS), colds, diabetes, digestion (weak), fatigue, firbomyalgia, heart disease, heart failure, hepatitis, high blood pressure, increases white cell count, kidney disease (nephritis), lack of appetite, low adrenal energy, low immunity, lung cancer, night sweats, ulcers, upper respiratory infections (URI), urinary tract infections (UTI), shortness of breath, stimulates production of antibodies.  Studies show blood counts may be improved in people with aplastic anemia.  Astragalus can be rubbed on the skin to increase blood flow to the area and to speed wound healing.  It has been known to enhance liver and kidney function and assists in increasing the body’s resistance to viruses and bactera

Astragalus causes the body to increase telomere production, thus protecting chromosomes from degradation.  It is used to increase creativity and to manifest desires.

Safety & Side effects 

Although astragalus is regarded as having no serious effects and can generally be used safely, caution should be used with diabetics as astragalus has been known to lower blood sugar

High doses of astragalus may supress the immune system, so one should pay attention and monitor how they feel while taking astragalus

Do not give astragalus to a child with a fever as it may cause the fever to linger in the body, causing it to become stronger

Interactions with Drugs or Medical Conditions

Use with caution if you take drugs that supress the immune system, have an autoimmune disorder (rheumatoid arthritis (RA), multiple sclerosis (MS), systemic lupis erythematosus (SLE) or lupis), or take cyclophsphamide (a medication prescribed for organ transplant), or corticosteroids as astragalus might make the immune system more active, possibly worsening the symptoms of autoimmune diseases.  It is best to avoid astragalus if you have any of these conditions.  If you choose to take astragalus, work with your physician and an herbalist as close monitoring is necessary

The following drugs posess a MODERATE INTERACTION with astragalus.  Please use with caution if you are prescribed one of these drugs:

Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan, Neosar) – this medication is used to decrease the immune system.  Astragalus increases the immune system.  Taking astragalus may decrease the effectiveness of this medication

Lithium – astragalus can make it harder for the body to eliminate lithium due to the diuretic effect (increased urination) of astragalus, leading to potentially serious side effects.  If you choose to take astragalus while taking lithium, your physician may lower your dose of lithium to a safe level.  It is recommended that you work with your physician and an herbalist before starting astragalus

Immunosuppressants – astragalus increases the immune system and may decrease the effectiveness of immunosuppressants, which lower the immune system.  Some common immunesuppressants include:  azathioprine (Imuran), basiliximab (Simulect), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), daclizumab (Zenapax), muromonab-CD3 (OKT3, Orthoclone OKT3), mycophenolate (CellCept), tacrolimus (FK506, Prograf), sirolimus (Rapamune), prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone), corticosteroids (glucocorticoids), among others.  Please speak to your phyisican if you are concerned that a medication you are taking might be immunosuppressant

Recommended Dosage

  • Tea/herbal decoction:  Use 3-6 grams of dried root per 12 ounces of water up to 3 times per day
  • Powdered root:  250-500 mg, 3-4 times per day
  • Capsule:  2-3 capsules of 500 mg per day
  • Ointment:  10% astragalus applied to the surface of the wound, not directly into the wound
  • Doses of up to 30 grams/day by mouth for 3 months, 40 grams/day for up to 2 months or 80 grams/day IV for one month have been used safely

Notes

As with most plants, there are multiple species of astragalus.  Some species contain swainsonine, a toxin that has been linked to livestock poisonings.  The species that contain swainsonine are:  Astragalus lentiginosus and Astragalus mollissimus

Blends well with:  The dried herb is commonly combined with Ligustrum lucidum (glossy privet)

Create your own infusion at home!

Here’s a simple recipe to make your own medicine

Required Materials

  • Astragalus root – 1/4 ounce per 1 cup of carrier oil
  • Carrier Oil (sweet almond, coconut or olive oil) – 1 cup per 1/4 ounce of plant material
  • Double boiler (can be made with two pots) or a crockpot.  Double boilers allow the plant material and carrier oil to be heated without actually coming into contact with the pan that is sitting directly on the heat source.  This reduces the possibility of burning the oil or plant material.  If you are using a double boiler, you must add water between the pots; don’t forget this!
  • Wooden spoon
  • Straining material (funnel and unbleached cheesecloth or coffee filters, or muslin)
  • Glass jar for storage

3-Step Procedure

  • Combine the herb(s) and carrier oil and place in the double boiler
  • Heat slowly over low heat for 6-10 hours, stirring occassionally with your wooden spoon.  This step allows the medicine to be extracted from the root
  • Strain the plant material and oil into your glass jar using a funnel lined with an unbleached coffee filter (my personal favorite!), cheesecloth or muslin

Note!  If you are making a cream or salve, add organic beeswax near the end to increase consistency.  Don’t add too much beeswax or it will harden and not be easy to use.  You’re looking for a medium consistency that will easily drip off the wooden spoon but not harden until it is cool.  Play around with a small batch – but keep in mind that you can always add the mixture back to the pot to reheat and add more beeswax, if you find it is too thin.  Making medicine at home is a lot of fun, but I’ve learned to make small batches until I get the consistency I’m looking for so I don’t find myself wasting time, energy and money!

Purchase Astragalus

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