A family of annual and perennial flowering herbs, astragalus is also known as huang qi (or huangqi) in China and milk vetch.1-2 Primarily native to China, some of the 2000 species of astragalus grow naturally in Europe. Astragalus is widely cultivated for its roots, and has been used for medicinal purposes in both humans and animals for thousands of years.1-2 The two species which have been tested the most for pharmacological significance are Astragalus membranaceus and Astragalus mongholicus.1 Used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to support Qi (life force) and lung health, now Western medicine is investigating astragalus and its constituents for its effects on a variety of health conditions.3-4
Natural Life Extension?
In fact, results of an animal study published in 2011 suggest that its reputation in TCM may be well-deserved. It seems that a constituent in roots of A. membranaceus can actually increase the length of chromosome tips.5 Called telomeres, these segments of DNA help protect the rest of the genetic material on the strands of DNA that make up each cell’s chromosomes, and telomere length is linked to lifespan.6 This is just one of the ways that astragalus can help with healthy aging. Astragalus has many properties that can help improve your health—including hair and skin.
Biologically Active Components
The gum compound extracted from astragalus has been used in the U.S and European pharmaceutical industries for decades as a stabilizer and emulsifying agent.2 Various components of astragalus have thus far been isolated and have been shown to have physiological properties (e.g., anti-tumor, antiviral, antibiotic, and immune boosting). They include:1