Also called Huang Chi, Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous) is one of Asia’s most revered immune tonics.
Shen-nong, one of the earliest rulers of China, considered astragalus to be a “superior” herb, alongside ginseng, over 4,000 years ago in the herbal reference book, Shen’nong Bencaojing.
Astragalus comes from the root of a legume found in Korea, Northern China. and Mongolia.
In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), it’s considered similar to licorice, but without the blood pressure stimulating effect. Astragalus is believed to tonify Qi (vital energy), the blood, and the spleen.
As an immune stimulant, it’s regularly used in Chinese formulas to support Wei Qi (Chi), the body’s natural defense shield against sickness.
Astragalus is one of the only herbs known to promote the production of interferon, a natural immune protector against viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens.
Astragalus supports deep immune function, and works especially well when the immune system is weakened or compromised by changes in the environment or body.
In the U.S., herbalists use astragalus to increase system strength and recovery time from cancer, chemotherapy, or radiation treatments.
Preliminary research from the University of Texas Medical Center shows it can enhance the function of T-cells to even greater activity than found in normal cells from healthy individuals.
Other research shows astragalus encourages the bone marrow to produce more white blood cells, and improves the white blood cell’s ability to fight off infection.
Saponins in astragalus have even been found to have anti-cancer activity, too.
In Asia, astragalus is widely used therapies for hepatitis, leukemia, and AIDS, particularly in combination with medicinal mushrooms like shiitake or reishi.
Astragalus is a strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory herb, making it useful in any situation where there is excessive free radical activity (all degenerative conditions).
It’s a good herb for respiratory system health, and can decrease the symptoms of colds and bronchitis.
As an antioxidant, astragalus helps prevent DNA damage to cells, and complements natural therapies for heart, liver, and kidney health. Research finds it can also reduce high triglycerides and blood pressure.
One study shows astragalus improves the success of conventional treatments for viral myocarditis (inflammation of the heart wall).
Furthermore, in vitro studies find it increases sperm count and male fertility.
Because it can stimulate circulation, astragalus can speed healing of wounds. Because it improves cellular metabolism, it can encourage sugar balance for people with diabetes.
In addition, astragalus can relieve allergy symptoms like a runny nose, sneezing and itching, and may prevent colds.
Astragalus is an herbal adaptogen, which supports the adrenal glands and balances cortisol levels for stress reduction. In animal research, it’s been found to improve exercise performance and reduce fatigue.
Astragalus provides benefits for both mental and physical stress. For symptoms of burnout, it combines well with other tonics like ginseng and schisandra.
For the best results, only use astragalus roots that have been harvested from four year old plants.
Astragalus can be purchased in thin slices or small pieces that look like tongue depressors. It’s safe for general use, and can be taken in many ways.
Astragalus is excellent as a warming tea (add a 1 tbsp. piece to 2 cups of water). Astragalus is also effective in an immune tonic soup with a miso base and shiitake mushrooms.
You can also take astragalus in high quality extract or capsule preparations.
I find astragalus is an amazing immune system stimulant and regulator. It’s a great choice for people under stress, who travel a lot, or whose systems have been weakened by illness or overwork.
You can use astragalus regularly in high risk seasons or to build your immune system if you’re prone to allergies, colds, or flu.
Consider a 1-2 month cycle with astragalus if you’ve been feeling rundown, stressed, or seem to catch every minor illness that comes around.
My Immune Daily Tonic combines astragalus with reishi, schisandra, and black elderberry.
Immune Daily can be used long-term to help promote a stronger immune system, and reduce the frequency of colds.
You will find you feel stronger and more vital with astragalus. It’s a true King of Tonics for a healthy immune system.
Note: Astragalus is not recommended if you’re using drugs that suppress the immune system or if you take lithium.