Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous)
By Art Presser, PharmD - President, Huntington College of Health Sciences
Astragalus comes to us from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), where it is first mentioned in Shen Nung Ben Cao Jing, a 2000- year-old classic as Huang Qi. Huang Qi means “yellow leader,” and astragalus is considered a most important tonic. Traditional uses include lethargy, colds, flu, appetite (lack of), stomach ulcers, and deficiencies of chi (namely, general weakness and fatigue). Other Chinese uses include diabetes, lowering blood pressure, and water retention.
The plant is native to northern China where the 4-7 year old roots are harvested in the spring to make medicine preparations. There are over 2000 types of Astragalus worldwide, but it seems that the Chinese variety has been the most studied. Astragalus gummifera, also known as tragacangth, is an old friend of the pharmaceutical industry, long used as a thickening agent.