Also known as milk vetch, huang qi (or huangqi)

What Is Astragalus?

Astragalus is commonly known as milk vetch.

Astragalus is a large family of annual and perennial flowering herbs. It is also known as milk vetch and in China as huang qi (or huangqi). Although primarily native to China, some of the 2000 species of astragalus grow naturally in Europe. 12

Biologically Active Compounds in Astragalus

In the west, extracts from astragalus have been used in industries for decades for non-medicinal purposes. Now modern research is beginning to support how astragalus is used in traditional herbal medicine. Studies show that many of the over 200 compounds in astragalus have useful properties, including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. 1-4

These beneficial compounds include: 1, 24-7

  • Amino acids (including arginine and GABA)
  • Astragalosides (immune regulating and anti-aging compounds, mainly from the roots)
  • Heart-healthy flavonoids (including quercetin and beta-sitosterol)
  • Cancer-fighting isoflavones
  • Antioxidant polysaccharides
  • TA-65 (a compound from astragalus root extract with anti-aging and glucose-regulating effects)
  • Trace minerals (including magnesium, iron, zinc, and chromium)

Potential Health Benefits of Astragalus

Astragalus is widely cultivated for its roots and has been used for medicinal purposes in both humans and animals for thousands of years. It is considered an adaptogenic herb, and in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is prescribed to support: 1-48

  • Qi (life force, or immune system in western terminology)
  • Lung function
  • Metabolism
  • Removal of waste and toxins

Astragalus is also used in traditional Palestinian medicine. Of the 4 species of astragalus most frequently used in Palestinian folk medicine, Astragalus boeticus has the most potent antioxidant, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. 9

Species of Astragalus Used

The two species which have been tested the most for pharmacological significance are Astragalus membranaceus and Astragalus mongholicus. Recent studies suggest that other species of astragalus may also have beneficial properties, particularly in cardiovascular disease, protecting liver health, and treating psoriasis210-13

Diseases & Conditions Researched Using Astragalus

Modern research on astragalus suggests that the ancient medicinal herb (and/or its compounds) could help prevent or treat many health conditions and disease complications. These include: 

  • Acne 14
  • Aging skin 15
  • Allergies (seasonal, including hay fever) 16, 17
  • Aplastic anemia 18
  • Arthritis 19
  • Asthma 20
  • Atherosclerosis 21-22
  • Cancer (various types using astragalus by itself or with conventional treatments) 623-32
  • Cardiac (myocardial) ischemia 33
  • Chronic fatigue 34
  • Chronic kidney disease 35
  • Colitis 36
  • Coma from severe brain injury 37
  • Common cold 38
  • Congestive heart failure 39
  • Depression 40
  • Dermatitis 41, 42
  • Diabetes and gestational diabetes 43
  • Diabetic nephropathy 44, 45
  • Diabetic retinopathy 46
  • Eczema 48
  • Fibrotic disorders (such as scleroderma) 47
  • Flu 49
  • Fungal infections 9
  • Hair loss 50
  • Hepatitis B 51
  • Herpes simplex keratitis 52
  • HIV and AIDS 53
  • Hyperpigmentation of skin 15
  • Hypertension 10, 54
  • Infertility (male) 55
  • Keloid and hypertrophic scars 56, 57
  • Liver disease (combined with other herbal extracts, including turmeric) 58
  • Lung injury caused by heat inhalation due to fire 59
  • Lupus 60
  • Memory loss 61
  • Metabolic syndrome 62
  • Nephritis 63
  • Parkinson's disease 64
  • Prostatitis (chronic) 65
  • Psychological stress (harmful effects in brain from) 66
  • Psoriasis 13
  • Rosacea 14
  • Skin rashes 67
  • Stroke (recovery) 68
  • Toxoplasmosis 69
  • Tuberculosis 70
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs) 71
  • Viral myocarditis 72
  • Wound healing 73

Astragalus in herbal formulas or combined with conventional treatment drugs may also help improve survival rates and/or lifespans in people with chronic disease. It may even help keep your pets healthy. 335

Natural Life Extension?

Astragalus appears to have real anti-aging properties. In fact, one compound in the roots of A. membranaceus can actually increase the length of chromosome tips. Called telomeres, these segments of DNA help protect DNA, and telomere length is linked to lifespan. 47475

Stabilizers and emulsifying agents. 12
Astragalus aleppicus, Astragalus angustifolius, Astragalus annularis, and Astragalus boeticus9
Astragalus complanatus and Astragalus corniculatus10-1111
Astragalus gummifer12
Astragalus sinicus13
Ranging from lab, animal, and population studies to randomized, controlled clinical trials.
Topical 1% astragalus extract prompted hair regrowth in animal studies. 50
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