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Astragalus

Astragalus membranaceus

Herbs gallery - Astragalus



Common names

  • Astragalus
  • Huang Qi

The beneficial herb known as the astragalus is a twining leguminous perennial plant, which can reach 11 and a half to 39 inches high when fully grown. This plant has a multi branching stem, which slants slightly upward and which is also slightly hairy in appearance. The herb possesses pinnate leaves which grow alternately and each has 9 to 21 leaflets, which are elliptical in shape, each being about a quarter to three fourths of an inch long and about one thirds of an inch wide across. The racemes on the plant are axillary in position and the peduncle of the plant is very slender, bearing anything from three to nine flowers, which arise at the very top of the plant. The plant also possesses a spindle shaped pod, which is slightly inflated, is a little over an inch long and is beaked at the tip. The astragalus herb produces about twenty to thirty seeds.

All the medicinal properties of the astragalus lie in its root-which is highly valued by herbalist. The root of the astragalus is long and flexible, it can be as large as the human forefinger, and is covered by a tough and wrinkled, yellowish to brown colored skin, this skin on the root often tends to break out into many woolly fibers which can become very noticeable during close observation. The body of the root possesses a woody interior, which is yellowish to white in color. The root pulp has a faint and slightly sweet taste, which often reminds one of the herbal licorice roots.

Extreme physical exhaustion can result from certain energy draining disorders affecting the victim's body, these disorders can include conditions such as the chronic fatigue syndrome, infections such as candidiasis, infection from the herpes simplex virus, cases of mononucleosis, and low sugar or hypoglycemia-these disorders can all cause extreme fatigue to the individual they affect. Individuals affected in this way, often search and try out a number of different therapeutic measures, which can include dietary changes, the use of herbal remedies, and the consumption of nutritional supplements and different medications-all these are taken in a bid to reduce the symptoms induced by the disorders in the body.

The astragalus root stands out as a unique remedy in the treatment of physical exhaustion, and the Oriental medicine considers the astragalus root to be an extremely useful remedy for physical weaknesses. Chinese herbalist have constantly applied remedies made from the astragalus root for centuries-they used this remedy to treat "every sort of wasting or exhausting disease", and to this day, the Chinese medical system still makes use of this remedy. The remedy made from the roots of the astragalus seems to work best, when they are used together with the Korean ginseng root remedy. The best benefits and the most potency from these herbs can be derived when they are taken as herbal teas - even though both these herbs are widely available in capsule form.
A combination herbal tea can be prepared by using a pint of boiling water, adding a teaspoon each of dried and cut astragalus roots and the ginseng roots. Once the roots have been added, the pan or pot can be covered and gently simmered on low heat for about five minutes, following which the pot can be removed from the fire and the herbs must be allowed to steep into the water for a further twenty minutes. The resulting herbal tea can then be strained and the patient must drink one to two cups of this herbal tea, before each meal at least two times daily to boost the energy whenever he or she feels weak-these boosts of energy often persists over five hours following each dose.

The astragalus root has been portrayed in the traditional Oriental medicine as a wonderful tonic for the spleen “and” lung chis." Eastern concept of the chi is a sort of vital energy in the human body and organs. There are supposed to be many chis in the body, and these different kinds of chi are commonly determined in terms of where their "sphere of influence" lies and on which part of the body it controls or regulates. At the same time, the scientific concept of the organs does not necessarily relate to the oriental medicine names for various chi's in the body's organs. The correlation of chi to an organ is not always direct and thus, when, Oriental herbal doctors suggest that the root of the astragalus "tonifies the spleen," he or she does not necessarily mean that the beneficial effect is directly on the physical organ, or that the effect results in the removal of foreign bodies and damaged cells from the blood in the spleen. The reference instead, is to the concept of holistic health and to the restoration of the body energy in a more balanced manner.

The belief in the Chinese system of medicine is that this "spleen chi" is something like a "middle burner," affecting an area of the human body where energy builds up over time. The belief is that, the root of the astragalus increases or supplements the level of energy in the body especially when the "life energy" in the human body becomes deficient. The exterior of the body is also said to be stabilized by the remedial actions of this herb, thus not only thus the root "stabilize the exterior" of the human body, it also boosts energy. This stabilization of the exterior is seen by all oriental herbalists as a beneficial and protective action of the herb given to the body, against all diseases and conditions. The end result is that resistance to infection and disease is increased in the body, this equates to our own scientific concept of prevention by stronger resistance to disease.

Parts used

Dried root.

Uses

The main use of the astragalus is in the form of a classic energy tonic. Some even consider it superior to the ginseng for use with younger patients. The herbal medical system in China link the herbal remedy to an ability for warming and toning the wei qi - which is the concept of a protective energy, circulating in the human body immediately beneath the skin. This energy is supposed to help the human body to adapt rapidly to external influences and changes in temperature, particularly to cold weather and climates. The resistance of the immune system is also raised by the astragalus and the herbal remedy is also acknowledged for its ability to improve the physical endurance of all users.

While its property as a vasodilator - a substance which encourages blood to flow to the skin surface - is acknowledged, the herbal remedies made from the astragalus is also used to rectify cases of excessive sweating, including disorders like sudden night sweats in many individuals. Persistent thirst is also reduced by remedies made from the astragalus and the herbal remedy is also very helpful in bringing relief from fluid retention disorders affecting different individuals. The correcting functioning of the human system is also encouraged by the holistic nature of herbal remedies based on the astragalus herb.

The herbal remedy is not meant for the treatment of acute illnesses, though the astragalus is believed to be very useful as a herbal medicine in treating viral infections, including those that cause the common cold and flu.

Other medical uses

Habitat and cultivation

The grassy hills and the thickets along hillsides in areas such as the northwestern region of China, the province of Manchuria and the country of Mongolia are places where astragalus grows in the wild. If cultivated, the astragalus herb is grown by sowing the seeds during the spring or in the autumn. This herb thrives well in sandy and well-drained soil, which is exposed to plenty of sunlight throughout the year. Autumn is the usual time when the roots of four year old plants are harvested.

Research

The various researches conducted on the astragalus in China have suggested that the astragalus herb also possesses a diuretic action and an ability to lower the blood pressure, aside from its acknowledged ability in increasing physical fitness and endurance in the human body.

The ability of the astragalus to restore immune system to normal levels was the subject of recently conducted research in America, the study focused on the ability of the herb to promote immune system function in patients suffering from cancer. When patients are given astragalus along with the other chemotherapeutic drugs or with the radioactive treatment-they seemed to recover faster, these results were suggested by the clinical evidence during the study. Similar results were also obtained when a number of other herbs were utilized in the treatment of cancer patients-herbal supplements such as the astragalus when combined with the drugs enabled patients to recover rapidly and such patients were also likely to live longer lives.

Constituents

Astragalus contains asparagine, calcyosin, formononetin, astragalosides, kumatakenin, sterols.

Usual dosage

The doses recommended in the textbooks of Chinese herbs are about 9-15 grams of the crude herb in decoction form every day of the treatment period. Boiling the astragalus root in some water for a few minutes, followed by brewing the tea is the way to prepare this decoction form of the herb. The usual supplements of the astragalus contain about 500 mg of the herb. The suggested doses of such supplemental forms are about two to three tablets or capsules or if preferred 3-5 ml of the herbal tincture taken thrice every day.

The prevention of disease by the invigoration of the immune system functioning is the best effect of the herbal root. The herbal remedy of the astragalus is not very effective in the therapeutic role once sickness already affects the patient. To prevent the occurrence of illness, the astragalus capsules, 3 capsules per day or the herbal tea, a cup every day, can be taken on a regular basis for as long as necessary.

How it works in the body

The stimulation of the human immune system remains one of the most important properties of the astragalus as a herbal remedy. Its ability to restore energy in the body has been confirmed by the American and Chinese researchers, this ability to restore energy is especially beneficial in the treatment of conditions that induce long term debilitation as a distinct feature on the body. The herbal remedies made from the astragalus are also extensively used in improving the resistance of the body to various colds and flues. The energizing effect of the herb is similar to that induced by the much more famous, ginseng herbal. Improved recovery times are noted in many cancer patients, who were given astragalus-furthermore the ability of such individuals to withstand the side effects induced by conventional drug treatments was also much better when they took astragalus as a supplemental measure. The diuretic function of the astragalus is another of its major functions; this simply means that the action of this herbal remedy is very strongly seen along the urinary tract. The diuretic action also lowers blood pressure and as a consequence the herbal remedy, can be said to play a major role with respect to the cardiovascular system as well. The use of this herbal remedy is also every beneficial when dealing with physical conditions such as water retention or edema-which is swelling in the tissues because of accumulating excess body water. Cases of anemia can also be treated using astragalus remedies in conjunction with other beneficial herbal remedies. All cases of excessive bleeding connected to the female reproductive system can be acted upon by the remedial properties of the astragalus herb. This herbal remedy is given to treat excess bleeding affecting women, during the menstrual cycle, and to treat women following childbirth due to lost qi-energy and in the treatment of blood deficiency in all individuals. The astragalus remedies are also additionally, used in a beneficial manner to treat cases of prolepses in the uterus and other in the other internal organs. Wound healing is another area where the remedy finds use, particularly in all those cases, which involves ulceration or infection which leads to the giving off of discharges from the wound. The remedies made from the astragalus can also be used to treat digestive weaknesses and to treat the digestive system holistically in cases of poor appetite. According to the Chinese system of medicine, the treatment of the digestive disorder must be done using the herbal remedy which is sweet and slightly warmed.

Comments

From Dave - Feb-20-2013
Astragalus is considered by Chinese practitioners as the primary herb for diabetes. In the US the primary herb for diabetes is considered to be the cedar berry as opposed to the juniper berry. Unfortunately there is little information on both alternatives for diabetes, other than anecdotal information. However, we do know that both are sacred in their respective cultures. The Native Americans valued the cedar berry highly, and the Chinese have successfully used astragalus going back hundreds of years.
From Dee - Apr-01-2011
I too have used astragalus for myself, and my yorkie, who lived a good long life (17 years). Also the stray cat, I sprinkle about a half tsp. on his food once a day whenever he's sick. It's been very healing for him.
From Aaron - 2010
I've tried caps and tincture with good results but I just recently made strong tea with it and have a lot of energy and seem to be improving faster (I have spleen chi deficiency).
From Judith - 2010
We have had success giving cats that have Feline Leukemia; Feline HIV positive with 6 drops daily on food. They live much longer/happier. My vet was amazed!
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