Astragalus (Huang Qi, Astragalus membranaceus
or Radix astragali
) is a plant native to Asia. The part of the plant used medicinally is the root. Astragalus is one of the most important and commonly used herbs in Chinese medicine. Varieties of Traditional Chinese Medicines (TCM) formulations ranging from compositions for treating cold, cough, digestive illness, respiratory illness, to formulations for treating inflammation, uses Astragalus as one of the ingredients.
Astagalus, slightly sweet taste, has been prescribed for centuries in China for general debility, chronic illness, and to increase the overall vitality of the body. Astragalus is “warm” (i.e. “blood moving”) in nature and affects both the spleen and the lung meridians. The herb is useful in treating spleen deficiency symptoms such as diarrhea, fatigue, spontaneous sweating, and lack of appetite. Composed of more than 95% of lymphocytes, spleen is the reservoir of disease fighting immune cells and therefor the most important part of your immune system. By strengthening the spleen, Astragalus essentially boosts your immune system.
In addition, astragalus tonifies the lungs and is often used to treat cold, shortness of breath, sore throat, and respiratory inflammation. Systematically, the herb is often included in formulas for treating wasting disorders, night sweats, chronic ulcerations and sores, numbness and paralysis of the limbs, edema, and high blood sugar.
Astragalus is not only well studied and used in Chinese medicine; it is also well researched by scientists in natural product/pharmaceutical chemistry and medicine. Chemical composition wise, Astragalus contains polysaccharides, isoflavones such as formononetin, kumatakenin, astraisoflavan, astrapterocarpan, 2’-3’-dihydroxy-7,4’- imethooxyisoflavone, and isoliquiritigenin, triterpenodis such as astragaloside I,II,III,IV, and steroids such as calyxosin, cycloastragenol, daucosterol, beta-sitosterol, and soyasaponin I. In addition, the herb contains L-3-hydroxy-9-methoxpterocarpan, D-ß-asparagine, palmitic acid, choline, betaine, folic acid, and antibacterial ingredient.
According to modern pharmacological studies, astragalus polysaccharides are shown to boost immune system by increasing the amount of B cells, serum IgG level, and conversion percentage of lymphocytes. The isoflavones and flavonoids are important classes of anti-oxidants and have been shown to improve cardiovascular activity. In addition, the herb extracts have demonstrated antibacterial activity against various common bacteria.
What about side effects, you may ask. Astragalus has been used for thousands of years in China at a recommended dosage of 8-15 grams of dried herb (in its extract equivalence) per day. The herb is not only one of the most used herbs in medical compositions; it is also a common ingredient in Chinese diet. Go to any Chinese grocery store, you will see dried Astragalus slices sitting next to beans and grains on the shelf. Lots of restaurants in China offer soups and teas using Astragalus as an ingredient. Thousands years of use on billions of people has not shown any side effect from the use of the herb within the recommended herbal dosage.
Now, let’s recount the great things that Astragalus can do for you: it tonifies your body, boosts the immune system by strengthening the spleen, strengthens cardiovascular system, kills bacteria, and contains strong anti-oxidant. That’s right—if you don’t feel quite well or just want to maintain general wellness, you can’t go wrong with using Astragalus.
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